VA Rating for Acquired Psychiatric Disorder

VA Rating for Acquired Psychiatric Disorder

If you acquired a psychiatric disorder during your time in America’s military, you could be entitled to disability benefits from the VA. However, it helps to understand how the VA rates acquired psychiatric disorders and how your disorder’s symptoms may impact your overall disability benefits.

Read on to learn more about acquired psychiatric disorder VA disability ratings and how to apply for Veterans benefits with experienced attorneys.

What Is an Acquired Psychiatric Disorder?

An acquired psychiatric disorder is any negative long-term psychological condition caused or aggravated by a life event, including an event you may have experienced in the military. As opposed to an inborn psychiatric disorder, you aren’t born with the condition in question.

For example, if you develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to your time in the military, it’s an acquired psychiatric disorder. You only acquired PTSD because you entered the military and did your duty.

In contrast, if you were born with bipolar disorder, that’s not an acquired psychiatric disorder. Joining the military did not have any effect on the condition. 

The VA may provide disability benefits for acquired psychiatric disorders if you can prove that you acquired your disorder because of your time in the military.

Mental health disorders are recognized as in-service conditions by the Department of Veterans Affairs and can affect your quality of life, unemployability, and more. 

Even if your disorder doesn’t appear on your initial medical records or active duty records, a later diagnosis (such as a diagnosis of PTSD) can still be eligible for disability compensation.

What Are Examples of Acquired Psychiatric Disorders?

Acquired psychiatric disorders can vary heavily, and symptoms can manifest differently in each person. However, some common acquired psychiatric disorders include:

  • PTSD
  • Depression, sometimes called major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Anorexia or bulimia and related eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Any residual effects of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) like concussions or brain damage

Many of these conditions affect your individual unemployability since they act as stressors in social or work situations. Claimants can claim each of these DSM-IV-recognized conditions to get an initial or higher rating from the VA.

Does the VA Award Disability Benefits for Acquired Psychiatric Disorders?

The VA does award disability benefits for acquired psychiatric disorders, but only if you receive a service connection from the VA for the psychiatric disorder in question.

Just like all other disabilities and conditions, the VA requires you to prove that you acquired or aggravated the condition because of your military service. If it were, you would be eligible for disability benefits up to a certain limit, depending on the disability rating you receive.

The VA assigns disability ratings based on symptoms and how much a given condition or injury affects a Veteran’s life.

However, if you cannot prove that you acquired your condition because of your military service, you will not receive VA disability benefits. Furthermore, you won’t receive disability benefits if you were dishonorably discharged, no matter the circumstances that led to your psychiatric disorder.

Establishing a Service Connection to Your Acquired Psychiatric Disorder

Establishing a service connection to your acquired psychiatric disorder involves:

  • Recovering and supplying your military records, which prove when you were enlisted and where you served
  • Providing evidence to the VA showing when and how your psychiatric disorder appeared, such as the first manifestation of symptoms. You will also need to provide evidence of the inciting incident that led to the development of your psychiatric disorder (to the best of your understanding or estimation)
  • Providing medical evidence showing that you currently experience symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. This can include an official diagnosis from a medical professional, like a VA psychiatrist, your doctor, or your therapist
  • Supporting evidence from friends, family members, service members, and yourself that proves the severity of your symptoms

If the VA receives all this information, it may award you a service connection and make you eligible for VA disability benefits for your mental health condition and other related medical conditions or illnesses.

Determining Functionality

To determine your disability rating and how much you receive each month and benefits, the VA looks at scores from the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale tool (GAF). The GAF helps to determine your overall functionality or how severe your disability is. 

In broad terms, the GAF measures how well you can function at work and the level of social and emotional impairment you experience. It ranges from 0 to 100.

The higher your score on the GAF, the better your ability to function is, and vice versa for low scores. If you have a lower score, you may receive a higher disability rating from the VA. The GAF score is used with your Compensation and Pension exam.

Which Psychiatric Disorders Are Not Eligible for VA Benefits?

While the VA does provide benefits to the majority of acquired psychiatric conditions, it does not consider certain psychiatric conditions to be related to your military service at all. That’s due to the nature of those disorders.

The below disorders are not eligible for VA disability benefits:

  • Personality disorders, which are usually marked by lifelong patterns in your behavior
  • Substance use disorders. The VA doesn’t grant service connections for substance use disorders, but substance use disorders might be secondarily connected or receive a secondary service connection if your use of the substances is because of a service-connected disability
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Cognitive and/or developmental delays or disabilities

VA Ratings for Acquired Psychiatric Disorders

The VA rates psychiatric disorders using its Schedule of Ratings, assigning them Diagnostic Codes 9201 to 9440. Here are some examples of psychiatric disorder diagnostic codes:

  • 9300, delirium
  • 9400, generalized anxiety disorder
  • 9413, unspecified anxiety disorder
  • 9432, bipolar disorder
  • 9434, major depressive disorder

A Breakdown of Each VA Rating

If you receive a service connection for one or more psychiatric disorders, you will receive a disability rating from 0% to 100% based on its symptoms and severity. Here’s a breakdown of how the VA rates acquired psychiatric disorders:

  • 0% rating if your mental illness is diagnosed, but your symptoms are very mild and don’t require continuous medication/don’t interfere with your work or social functioning
  • 10% rating if your mental illness has mild symptoms that create work or social impairment when under stress
  • 30% rating if your mental illness causes you trouble functioning at work or socially or makes you occasionally inefficient with work. Common symptoms include chronic difficulty sleeping, memory loss, depression, etc.
  • 50% rating if you experience some impairment in your ability to function at work or socially or if you can’t function productively and reliably due to symptoms like memory loss, poor judgment, mood disturbances, etc.
  • 70% rating if your mental illness makes you unable to function in most work and social areas. Symptoms include obsessive behaviors, depression and panic, suicidal thinking, inability to control your impulses, and inability to handle stress
  • 100% rating if your mental illness makes you unable to function at work or socially. Common symptoms include inappropriate behavior, ongoing delusions or hallucinations, unable to remember information, and inability to care for oneself

Note that while a 100% rating will result in the maximum disability benefit award, getting any rating from the VA is important if you want to maximize your benefits overall. 

Even a 0% rating is important. For example, suppose your mental illness causes worse symptoms in the future. In that case, you’ll have an easier time increasing your rating if the VA already has a diagnosis of the condition in question.

How Can I Maximize VA Disability Benefits for an Acquired Psychiatric Disorder?

The best way to maximize your VA disability benefits for an acquired psychiatric disorder is to work with knowledgeable attorneys. The right attorneys can help you gather additional evidence to strengthen your disability claim and increase your entitlement to benefits, like:

  • Lay statements from friends and family members, as well as fellow servicemembers
  • Additional medical evidence proving the severity of your symptoms
  • And more

Furthermore, the right attorneys can help you appeal an initial decision if you were denied disability benefits based on your acquired psychiatric disorder’s symptoms.

Contact Berry Law Today

Acquired psychiatric disorders can be just as debilitating and disabling as physical conditions or injuries. If you develop or aggravate a psychiatric disorder because of your service in the military, you should receive compensation from the VA.

Berry Law can help you get that compensation and more. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you file an initial claim for VA disability benefits and help you understand the claims process. 

If you’ve already filed a claim, our lawyers can help you appeal the VA’s decision and get the compensation you deserve. Contact our law firm today to learn more.


Psychiatric disorders associated with acquired brain pathology | NCBI

38 CFR § 4.130 – Schedule of ratings – Mental disorders. |

How the VA Rates a Service-Connected Mental Disability | Nolo

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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