How Does the VA Compensate for Veteran Suicide?
Veteran suicide is a huge problem. Around 7,500 soldiers have sustained fatal combat injuries during the Global War on Terror, which began on 9/11. However, four times as many Veterans, over 30,000, have taken their own lives during this period.
Moreover, adding to the tragic nature of these deaths, veterans who die in this manner may have been financial providers for their families. As a result, the sudden loss of life impacts survivors’ emotional, mental, and financial well-being.
It must be shown that the veteran was mentally unsound at the time of death and that the VA connected the mental unsoundness to the veteran’s service. In fact, the act of suicide or a “bona fide attempt” is itself considered evidence of mental unsoundness. Unfortunately, however, the governing statute allows an outside motive for suicide to act as opposing evidence for service connection. In other words, the VA may bring in evidence of an outside issue such as non-service-related legal troubles, non-service-related depression, or another “reasonable adequate motive” that shows the VA did not connect the suicide to the veteran’s service. As always, the VA will resolve reasonable doubt in the veteran’s favor.
Indeed, almost any condition could lead to mental unsoundness and suicidal thoughts or ideations. Chronic pain or a forced sedentary lifestyle can trigger depression and thoughts of suicide.
The VA disability process sometimes contributes to these issues. The process is long and often
frustrating, and often grants informal presumptions of entitlement to some types of injuries over
others, such as combat injuries over non-combat injuries. All Veterans and their sacrifices should
be treated equally. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, which is why all disabled Veterans
need strong advocates.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD are the most common MUS triggering conditions. Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans suffer from these conditions at an alarming rate.
Many practitioners call TBIs the signature wound of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. A
significant number of Southwest Asia Veterans with head injuries sustained no other serious
trauma injuries. The sudden loud noise of an exploding IED or other such blast triggers shockwaves that disrupt brain functions.
Like a TBI, PTSD is a physical brain injury and not a processing disorder. Witnessing stressful
events changes the chemical balance in the brain. The resulting imbalance causes depression,
anger, hypervigilance, and other symptoms that are difficult to diagnose and treat.
The claimant does not have to establish a service connection for a mental disorder prior to death for a service connection to be found for mental unsoundness.
However, the claimant should prove the condition of mental unsoundness or any condition linked to or causing mental unsoundness to be connected to service before the VA makes the determination whether the mental unsoundness statute applies.
Veteran Suicide And MUS Service-Related Condition
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, suicide itself is almost always an indication of
mental unsoundness. Occasionally, authorities link suicide to another problem, perhaps as established in a suicide note. But such instances are quite rare.
To establish whether you can relate MUS to service, the Code of Federal Regulations contains a two-part test:
● Extent of Unsoundness: At the time of suicide, the Veteran must have been so far gone
that he or she did not understand the consequences of his or her act, or he or she was
unable to resist an overwhelming suicidal impulse. This test is similar to the criminal insanity test that the authorities used before John Hinkley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan.
● Lack of Reasonable Motive: To deny benefits, a VA lawyer must prove that an outside
motive existed and this motive, rather than mental unsoundness related to service,
prompted the Veteran’s suicide. Unfortunately, VA lawyers may make such arguments to
support a denial of benefits, especially in light of the aforementioned presumptions.
The VA’s burden of proof is very high if it challenges benefits availability. If successful in their
claims, survivor benefits usually include monthly payments and free medical care at a VA
Rely on Dedicated Attorneys
Veteran suicide is a serious and tragic problem that is, unfortunately, ongoing. Accordingly, if you are a veteran contemplating suicide, call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat online here.
For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262. Also, for this purpose, you may fill out the contact box on our website. Undoubtedly, we are proud to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Therefore. it does not create an attorney-client relationship.