Congressman Joaquin Castro made an appeal to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday, asking him to look into possible links between post-traumatic stress disorder and dementia.
Should those links be substantiated, implications could arise for veterans’ disability benefits. PTSD is considered a service-connected condition, meaning veterans who suffer from it can seek VA compensation. Dementia does not fall into that category.
Studies have shown that PTSD may increase a person’s chances of getting dementia, though a causal link has not yet been found. Other research indicates that PTSD may complicate treatment of dementia because the two conditions can be present with similar behavioral and psychological symptoms.
According to Castro, veterans groups in Congressional District 21 had “expressed concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize dementia developed later in life as being a secondary condition of service-connected PTSD.”
Castro said it’s time for the VA to evaluate its case records and weigh in on the matter.
“I've written a letter to Secretary Wilkie, asking the VA to look into this issue and to give me their understanding of how they treat this relationship — what their position is on the relationship.”
The number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era. The VA estimates that the condition affects 11 to 20 percent of post-9/11 veterans and 12 percent of Gulf War veterans in a given year. An estimated 30 percent of Vietnam-era veterans will experience the condition in their lifetime.
“We don't know how many, then, may be affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Castro said, “but it's something that we need to find out. So I'm going to keep pressing this issue.”
Castro added he awaits Wilkie’s response, and that he may pursue legislation down the road.
Carson Frame can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @carson_frame