Every year, thousands of veterans file disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to receive benefits for medical conditions related to their service. For veterans filing a claim based on mental health issues – also known as an acquired psychiatric disorder — understanding how the VA rates mental health conditions is essential for ensuring that their claim is accurately assessed and that they receive the proper rating, which provides them the total amount of financial support and care they are entitled to.
Let's take a closer look at the process for assessing mental health ratings and the impact these ratings have on VA disability benefits.
The Mental Health Ratings System
Many Veterans have experienced in-service stressors or events that caused ongoing mental health issues. This could have been through combat, training exercises, or any other in-service duties. Further, many Veterans have mental health conditions that are caused secondary to their currently service-connected conditions. For example, a person with a back disorder can have chronic pain, which causes depression. If that person's back condition is service-connected, they can try to prove that their depression should also be service–connected as a secondary condition.
Veterans with mental health illnesses related to or worsened by their military services, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, schizoaffective disorder, and insomnia, are eligible for VA disability benefits. However, they must use a specialized rating system for mental health conditions. This system determines the severity of their condition and whether they qualify for disability benefits.
The rating system uses various degrees to classify mental health conditions. The ratings are in increments from 0% to 100%, including 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. A higher percentage indicates a more severe mental health illness associated with greater disability benefits.
Proving Service-Connection To Achieve the Rating You Deserve
Documenting your mental health symptoms is essential to obtaining the proper rating you deserve.
A Veteran will need to provide evidence that they have a mental illness and its relation to their military service. This can include doctor's reports, test results, hospitalization records, and other relevant documentation demonstrating that the mental health condition originated or worsened during military service.
If you are preparing a VA disability claim, an experienced VA disability attorney can help you compile and prepare your medical documents and other evidence you might have for your claim. You will need a medical diagnosis for your mental health condition, as the VA will not approve a claim based on self-diagnosis. You also will need to link your mental health condition directly to your military service through either an event or injury that would have worsened or caused the mental health condition.
What Mental Health Conditions Can I Obtain A Rating For?
Veterans can obtain a VA disability rating for a variety of mental health conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
- Depression or Major Depressive Disorder,
- Anxiety or Panic Disorder,
- Bipolar disorder,
- Schizoaffective disorder,
- Alzheimer's disease,
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),
- And more, such as eating disorders.
Can I Claim Multiple Mental Health Conditions?
While veterans might suffer from multiple mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, the VA will only rate the condition they feel is most relevant. However, if you claim a specific mental health condition, and the VA finds that another mental health condition most appropriately describes your condition, then they will rate whichever condition is most appropriate.
Impact of the Mental Health Ratings on Benefits
The amount of VA disability benefits an individual receives is based on their rating percentage and can range from no compensation to 100% compensation for severe mental health illness. A veteran with a 0% rating will not receive any regular income under the program; however, they can still possibly receive other services, such as counseling from the VA.
The VA will provide monthly compensation for veterans with ratings of 10% or higher. Veterans with a rating of 100% are also possibly eligible for additional special monthly compensation due to various factors, including a limited ability to complete daily activities without significant assistance.
How Can I Obtain VA Benefits For My Mental Illness?
Veterans can obtain a rating for their mental illness by beginning the rating process.
Evaluation of The Claim
The VA then evaluates the evidence and assigns a rating to the condition based on criteria. This rating will determine the value of disability benefits they receive. If you believe your assigned rating is incorrect, an experienced VA disability attorney can help you appeal your claim and request a reconsideration of the rating.
Lawyers Serving Georgia's Disabled
If you or a loved one is a veteran with a mental health illness and are looking to receive disability benefits through the VA, we can help. Our experienced advocates at Affleck & Gordon are passionate about helping veterans obtain the financial compensation and stability they deserve.
You served our country; let us serve you. Call our offices at (404) 990-3945 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team and get started on your VA Disability case.