LAYTON -- New Department of Veterans Affairs rules will make it easier for veterans to get benefits after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The new regulations aim to simplify the process for veterans to claim service in connection with the symptoms of PTSD.
On Monday, the department published the final set of regulations in the Federal Register.
"This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
Common among war veterans, PTSD is a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror.
The VA will now reduce the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran's service.
VA officials say the new system is science-based and relies on evidence that a veteran's deployment to a war zone is linked to an increased risk of PTSD.
Under the new system, the VA would not require substantiation of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Formerly, veterans were required to provide an actual physical stressor, like being shot or seeing a fellow soldier killed.
"(The new system) is a great thing, especially for the current conflicts," said Terry Schow, director of the Utah Division of Veterans Affairs.
"They've gotten rid of the stressor requirement, which is really appropriate considering what's going on right now in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Schow said with no clear battle lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, even soldiers not directly involved in combat still face constant danger and the mental anguish that comes from it.
"It used to be that only an infantry man would be exposed to the kinds of things that led to PTSD," Schow said.
"In the old days, you had to have a stressor like your tank being shot, or your chopper going down, or you getting shot yourself. But now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, if you leave a certain area, you're in danger, no matter what your job is.
"There is always a fear present that something could happen."
The VA expects the new rule to decrease the time it takes to provide access to care and claims. More than 400,000 veterans are currently receiving compensation benefits connected to PTSD.
For more information, visit www.veterans.utah.gov, or call 800-827-1000.