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World War II veteran awarded veterans' benefits for PTSD

Houston residents may associate post-traumatic stress disorder with the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan because of the well-publicized effects of those conflicts on those who served in them. But the combat conditions that produce it were no less present in prior wars even though PTSD and World War II are not immediately linked in many people's minds. In those days, the condition went by the name of battle fatigue or shell shock.

Although that war is over 60 years old, some soldiers with PTSD still suffer from gruesome memories and nightmares that transport them to the vivid battlefields of their youth. Many World War II veterans receive veterans' benefits for their PTSD, but in one unusual case, a 92-year-old man, who served in the Army Air Corps, received his first benefits check in 2012 after suffering from PTSD for years.

The man has recurring nightmares and visceral flashbacks about two particularly traumatic experiences during this service. He was stationed in North Africa for two years during the war, but on his way there, his ship came under a savage attack, during which it was hit by enemy bombs and torpedoes. He survived, but during a later battle in Tunisia, a number of his fellow soldiers died when enemy troops attacked their vehicle.

The man did not keep his service records, which made substantiating his benefits claims difficult when he received his PTSD diagnosis in 2001. But with the help of lawyers working pro bono, he was able to find the required documentation in military archives, proving his claim.

While veterans' benefits are welcome and deserved compensation for those who suffered serving our nation's military, they can have unintended consequences on the estate plans of recipients. Depending on the amount of benefits a person receives from the VA, it could diminish or eliminate payments from other sources of state and federal aid. Therefore, it can be important to engage in thoughtful planning about the sources of one's benefits and income, especially as a person reaches retirement.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Veteran, 92, wins disability pay," David Zucchino, June 17, 2012.

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