OBJECTIVE: The goal was to assess the impact of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on veterans’ odds of poverty. Women and African American veterans were of special interest, because they are less likely than other groups to receive PTSD disability benefits.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of 4,918 veterans who applied for VA disability benefits for PTSD between 1994 and 1998 was performed. Responses were linked to administrative data.
RESULTS: Overall, 42% reported low income (defined as household income less than or equal to 20,000 dollars per year). Men’s and women’s odds of reporting poverty were similar, but receipt of PTSD disability benefits mediated African American veterans’ odds of poverty. Veterans’ odds of impoverishment were reduced considerably if they received VA PTSD disability benefits and identified themselves as disabled.
CONCLUSIONS: VA disability benefits for PTSD reduced odds of impoverishment for psychiatrically ill veterans. This effect appeared to be especially important for African American veterans and for veterans self-identifying as disabled.