PTSD Update 243 ► Sample Disability Claim “Pointman” Stressor Letter
Most VSOs will tell that a well-crafted Stressor Letter will help immensely in providing empirical evidence needed to bolster your disability claim. So, what exactly is a Stressor Letter. A Stressor Letter is used by Veterans Affairs (VA) raters to identify potential traumatic events that may have invoked Posttraumatic Stressor Disorder(PTSD) symptoms in combat veterans. The Stressor Letter consist of three vital parts: 1. Life before military service; 2. Life during military service (to include traumatic event(s); and 3. Life after traumatic event(s). The Pointman Sample Stressor Letter below has been used by numerous veterans as supportive evidence for their PTSD claim. Use it for yours (modify as needed).
(LIFE BEFORE MILITARY SERVICE Section)
Growing up on the South side of Chicago was pretty tough. Crime was rampant, drugs were on every street corner, illiteracy seemed a way of life, and mother nature was a constant reminder of just how brutal life could be. Along with eight brothers and sisters, even getting basic essentials was an everyday challenge. My mother worked four jobs just to keep a roof over our heads. Since my mother worked so much, I hardly ever saw her. My oldest sister assumed the duties of parent for me and my brothers and sisters.
When I was having problems in junior high school, I remember it was my oldest sister who attended the parent-teacher conferences. When I got my report cards, I always showed it to my oldest sister. She never gave me any positive feedback, the report card for her was a way to verify that I was going to school.
Getting good grades was never a problem. I never studied much, but I had a very good memory. In high school, I was able to memorize all of the words and definitions of the entire school dictionary. I was very proud of that. By the time I was in the eleventh grade, my mother’s health started to fade. She was unable to work due to severe arthritis. Years of cleaning toilet seats and mopping floors took their toll. To help the family, I started working in a nearby diner. I got a job washing dishes. My oldest sister always told me to work hard. I guess it sunk in, because I worked at the diner every chance I got, and I worked until the place closed regardless of the time I got there.
I was not earning enough money washing dishes to really support my family. I started consoling in friends for help. A friend of a friend informed me that I could make a lot of money by doing business on the street. I knew what that meant. Out of desperation I thought I would give it a try. My plan was to “work on the street” and wash dishes. If my friend was right, I could soon give up washing dishes and make a lot of money on the street. I was hoping I would make a lot of money quickly, put the money in the bank, then move on to a legitimate job.
My friend was right. I made lots of money, quickly and easily. As a teenager, when you are making $10,000 – $15,000 per month, you want more. The money I was earning helped my family and helped me live a lifestyle I only saw in the movies. I had a brand new Cadillac, fine clothes, expensive jewelry, and moved my family away from the South side of Chicago. My oldest sister knew I was making “dirty money,” but she never said a word to me about it. My brothers and sisters saw me as a hero. They never asked where I got the money either.
I was good at selling and manipulating people for my own personal gain. I soon dropped out of high school to pursue the dream of making more money.
Then it all ended. I’ll never forget that day. On May 30, 1966, the mail came early that day. Typically, I did not get mail, but that day I had a letter from the U.S. Government. Instinctively I knew what it was – my draft notice.
(LIFE DURING MILITARY SERVICE Section)
In July 1966, I reported to the local MEPS station and enlisted in the U.S. Army. I was in conflict from the moment I signed my name. On one hand I saw the Army as a way of living a clean lifestyle. On the other hand, I missed the excitement and money of the streets.
Basic training was harder than what my friends told me. The physical training was a piece of cake. Following directives from angry drill sergeants was hard. For the most part, I was being yelled at on a daily basis. I had trouble waking up in the morning. I had trouble cleaning. I had trouble with the drill sergeants telling me what to eat and how much. All my life I had been my own drill sergeant, now I had these army grunts telling what to do and how to do it. That was a huge adjustment for me. To keep from getting in trouble I made it a game. I recruited a couple of guys I knew from the streets to look after my things. I hired them as my personal assistances. Because of my reputation in South Chicago I had no problem getting them to do what I wanted.
After basic training I was sent to Vietnam immediately. Assigned to a forward base unit in Da Nang, I quickly learned the ropes. Vietnam was a lot different from what I had been briefed on. All the military protocol was out the window. It was a free-for-all existence. I was sure I could adapt to that lifestyle very quickly, and I was right. In no time at all I was running a gambling hall behind the scenes. All of the guys knew to come see me if they wanted a chance a making some extra loot. I liked Da Nang. I was making money, I had girls, and I was popular with the guys. It was like a vacation until I got called to the field.
My first impulse was to get someone to take my place, I had a gambling hall to run. At the same time, I figured I would increase my reputation and respect by going out on search and destroy missions.
On November 3, 1966, my unit commander asked me to lead a group of 17 guys on a mission North of Da Nang. I was glad he asked me. I knew I could lead, but I informed the commander that I had to handpick who I wanted. He agreed. I selected a good combination of city kids and country boys. These were the survivors. I didn’t want any privileged punks going out in the jungle with me.
That night, while digging in to rest we got ambushed. All day my instincts told me we were being followed. That was the last time I ignored my intuition.
The NVA had us surrounded. We were being bombarded with small arms fire, rockets, and grenades. However, my guys were armed, ready, and willing to fight. Just as I hoped, most seemed to enjoy the experience. Not sure how many enemy soldiers had us surrounded, but I can say that my guys killed 36 enemy troops that night. It was a blood bath. The kills came so easy it was like my guys were shooting cans at an arcade.
At sunrise we ran across a few dead NVA troops. Most were young boys. We were young, but these were little kids. One kid, probably about 13 or 14 was missing the top half of his skull. His brain was bulging and swollen out of his skull. It was a horrible sight. Another NVA kid was lying face up with his entrails exposed. There were a few more bodies lying around. We left them there and moved on. Luckily, none of my guys were hurt.
Two days later while heading back to the base my guys and I entered a small village. Hungry, thirsty, and tired, we decided to camp out there for the night. The local villagers did not want us to stay. Even though we could not communicate with them, I could sense some degree of urgency from the villagers. My instincts told me they were trying to warn us. My instincts were right.
Around dusk, I noticed that all of the villagers were disappearing. I wasn’t sure where they were going, but I had my guys take cover. Even though it seemed like an eternity, about two hours after taking cover a small band of NVA troops entered the village. One of my country boys, who had sniper training picked off three NVA troops right away. The rest of the NVA troops scattered in the jungle. We never did see them again.
After the shootings lots of villagers came from out of hiding. They unclothed the three dead NVA troops, tied ropes around their necks and hoisted them up a tree. The scene was gruesome.
The remainder of my tour in Vietnam involved briefing troops about the dangers of search and destroy missions and running my gambling hall. All of the brass knew what I was doing was wrong, but they seemed to condone it because it helped with morale.
(LIFE AFTER TRAUMATIC EVENT Section)
I didn’t realize it right away, however, after a year or two from discharging from the Army, it became apparent that my time in uniform and in Vietnam changed how I saw the world. When I was in Vietnam my senses operated at maximum capacity and effectiveness. I was always on guard. My family and friends tell me that I still act like I am in Vietnam. When we go out to eat I only sit in restaurants with my back to the wall. If I can’t see everything in front of me, then I don’t eat there. If a restaurant is crowded, I will not eat there. I can’t stand the crowds, they make me want to fight somebody.
Also, every now and then I will have nightmares about Vietnam crap. Not the firefight I was involved in, but general war scenes. Especially the faces of NVA soldiers.
My family and friends tell me that I seem cold and distant. They tell me all the time that I act like I’m afraid to get close to people. My three ex-wives used to tell me all the time that I was incapable of deep feelings toward them.
Every boss I ever had reminded me of those drill sergeants in basic training. They all yelled at me, treated with disrespect, tried to boss me around, and most seemed incompetent. When I worked as a butcher at a local supermarket, one boss fired me because I ran a football parlay. I made lots of money running that parlay and morale was never higher at the supermarket. But he didn’t see it that way. For whatever reason, I have never been able to hold down a legitimate job for more than a year. Since discharging from the army I have had over 50 jobs.
Lastly, my life after Vietnam has been so screwed up that I get really down sometimes. I have been known to stay in bed for weeks. Too tired to move and too angry to try. I look like I have anorexia nervosa because I have lost close to a hundred pounds. I don’t eat much anymore. I just don’t seem to be hungry anymore. I am not entirely sure what happened to me in Vietnam, but I am sure something affected me that altered my potential.
[Source: U.S. Veteran Compensation Programs | February 23 , 2018 ++]