A qualitative study of U.S. veterans' reasons for seeking Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits for posttraumatic stress disorder

J Trauma Stress. 2011 Dec;24(6):699-707. doi: 10.1002/jts.20693. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most prevalent compensable mental disorder within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability system and the number of veterans with PTSD service-connected disability has increased steadily over the past decade. An understanding of the reasons veterans apply for PTSD disability status may inform interpretation of this increase and policies and interventions to assist veterans with military-related PTSD. The authors conducted an exploratory qualitative study to describe the reasons veterans seek PTSD disability benefits and explored differences between those who served in different military service eras. They gathered data through in-depth interviews with 44 purposefully selected U.S. veterans, and conducted content analysis of transcribed interviews using inductive and deductive analysis with constant comparison. Participants described 5 interrelated categories of reasons for seeking PTSD disability benefits, including 3 internal factors (tangible need, need for problem identification or clarification, beliefs that justify/legitimize PTSD disability status) and 2 external factors (encouragement from trusted others and professional assistance). There were no major differences by service era. Findings may help policy makers, providers, and researchers understand what veterans hope to achieve through PTSD disability and the instrumental role of social networks and government systems in promoting the pursuit of PTSD disability status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / economics*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs*
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans Disability Claims / economics*
  • Young Adult