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Analysis Reveals State-To-State Variance In Mental Disability Payments To Veterans

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Mental Disability Payments To Veterans

Troopsreturning home from the wars in Iraqand Afghanistanwith mental illness are receiving different levels of disability payments fromthe Department of Veterans Affairs depending on where they live,according to a McClatchy news analysis, McClatchy/MiamiHeraldreports. There are 43,000 recent veterans receiving monthly mental disabilitypayments, which are worth up to $2,257 for a single person with no children. Thevariance in monthly payments revealed by the report could deprive some mentallyill veterans of "tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefitsover their lifetime," McClatchy/Herald reports.

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McClatchy's analysis -- the first to compare mental disabilitypayments to veterans by location -- examined three million disabilitycompensation claims records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, aswell as separate documents provided by VA. About 31,000 recent veterans arereceiving payments for post-traumatic stress disorder, which has emerged as oneof the "signature issues of the war on terrorism," as well as one ofthe most severe, McClatchy/Herald reports.

McClatchy found that PTSD ratings -- which range from 0 to 100 --are far more likely to be higher at certain regional offices. The analysisshowed that among recent veterans processed at a mental disability office in Albuquerque, N.M.,56% were scored with the high ratings for PTSD. Among those processed in Fort Harrison, Mont.,18% were given such high ratings for PTSD. According to the analysis, a recentveteran in Albuquerque is likely to receivelarger payments than one in Fort Harrison.

When a number of variables are factored in, average disability payments rangefrom a high of $734 per month in Little Rock, Ark., to a low of $435 per month in Honolulu, according to McClatchy/Herald.Ohio veteranswith mental illness were found to receive some of the smallest payments. "There'sno reason in the world that a veteran from Ohioshould be shortchanged on benefits simply because he is from Ohio," Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) said. Headded, "And there's no reason a veteran from New Mexico should be gettingmore benefits simply because he lives in New Mexico" (Adams, McClatchy/MiamiHerald, 12/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.