Adjustment Disorder and VA Disability Benefits

Adjustment Disorder and VA Disability Benefits

What Is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is an umbrella term that can describe a range of symptoms that can arise from a big, stressful change in someone’s life. 

The symptoms of adjustment disorder often closely resemble depression and manifest when someone’s circumstances make them feel hopeless, discouraged, anxious, and stressed. 

These symptoms can arise in the wake of many different types of situations. Common causes of adjustment disorder include witnessing the death of someone close to you, a major move, experiencing a natural disaster or another type of emergency, or returning from military service. 

Many Veterans experience symptoms of adjustment disorder when they reenter civilian life because military service is a life-altering experience that can be hard to come back from. Because adjustment disorder symptoms related to military service can be debilitating, the VA is often willing to give disability benefits to Veterans diagnosed with the disorder.

How Is Adjustment Disorder Treated?

Treatment for adjustment disorder often looks similar to treatment for general depression—for example, symptoms of adjustment disorder can be managed with medication and therapy. A specific class of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can benefit sufferers of adjustment disorder. In addition, consistent counseling can help a person process the life-altering transition they’ve experienced. Therapy can help a sufferer of adjustment disorder get used to their new situation and recover from the feelings of depression and hopelessness caused by the change. With the right treatment, symptoms of adjustment disorder can improve in less than a year. 

However, for some Veterans, adjustment disorder can be accompanied by other mental health effects that could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is common among veterans and is often caused by experiencing traumatic events while serving on the frontlines. When adjustment disorder is accompanied by PTSD, the recovery process may be longer. The bigger the change, the more it may take for a person to recover from its effects on their life. Reentering into civilian life for a soldier can be an adjustment that takes years, and the symptoms of severe adjustment disorder make it tough for many veterans to carry on with life normally. 

Getting a Diagnosis

In order to receive disability benefits from the VA for adjustment disorder, you’ll need to be diagnosed by a mental health professional. The VA will need to see that your symptoms connect directly to your military service and that they are negatively impacting your life in a major way. A diagnosis serves as a verification to the VA that you are suffering from a real disorder and that its symptoms are severe enough to be life-altering.

When you apply for disability benefits from the VA, they will conduct their own assessment of your condition. The VA looks carefully to make sure that you are not exaggerating your symptoms because your condition’s severity will directly affect the disability rating you receive.

How the VA Rates Disabilities

When a veteran applies to receive disability benefits from the VA, the VA evaluates their condition and gives them a disability score between 0 and 100. A 100% disability rating is reserved for when a disability is completely debilitating, and therefore is more typically given to veterans suffering from multiple disabilities. If you are only experiencing adjustment disorder symptoms, you will likely get a rating below 100 from the VA despite the often severe nature of this condition. 

VA disability benefits are tax-free and are given to Veterans to support those struggling with physical and mental conditions that significantly impact their quality of life. Over time, the VA may re-evaluate a Veteran’s condition and change their disability rating. Some veterans receive ratings that are more likely to be modified by the VA later. These are called unprotected ratings and are less than 100% and active for less than five years. 

After a disability rating has remained the same for over five years, it can be labeled a stabilized rating. Disability ratings of 100% can also be marked as stabilized and are harder for the VA to modify or decrease. 

When the VA changes a Veteran’s disability rating, they typically believe that the Veteran’s condition has improved over time. If you are receiving disability benefits for a mental health issue like adjustment disorder, the VA may re-evaluate your case and decrease your condition after a while. To maintain your disability score, you will need to prove to the VA that you are still experiencing symptoms of adjustment disorder that severely affect your life and that you are still getting treatment for the disorder.

Does the VA Rule Accurately On Adjustment Disorder Cases?

The VA’s judgement on Veterans’ disabilities is not always accurate or predictable. In fact, mental health issues like adjustment disorder are some of the easiest conditions for the VA to misassess, leaving Veterans with a lower rating than they deserve. If you receive a rating from the VA that you believe is too low, you can do a few things to pursue a higher rating. 

One way you can dispute the disability rating the VA gives you for adjustment disorder is by getting an independent medical examination (IME). The VA cannot stop you from seeking a second opinion from your physician, who can evaluate your symptoms and help you make a case to the VA that they have judged your condition inaccurately. 

In addition to getting an IME, you can also get testimonials from people you trust to present to the VA. “Buddy statements” can show the VA that you have people in your life who have witnessed the impact that your adjustment order symptoms have had on your life. These testimonials can be especially helpful when they come from people who can confirm that your symptoms have a significant connection to your military service.

Can You Increase Your Disability Rating?

Symptoms arising from conditions like adjustment disorder can end up getting worse over time. If you are experiencing symptoms of adjustment disorder alongside symptoms of PTSD, you may end up seeing significant fluctuations in their severity over months and years. If you end up experiencing your condition changing and getting worse, you can apply to have your disability rating reevaluated to receive greater benefits. 

Many Veterans are short-changed by the VA because they don’t seek reevaluations when their disabilities become more severe.This is compounded by the frequency with which the VA’s ruling on mental health issues are inaccurate. Someone can continue to struggle with adjustment disorder and other issues for years while receiving much too low of a rating from the VA simply because they have not gotten their condition reevaluated.

How to Get the Highest Possible Rating for Adjustment Disorder

We are passionate about helping Veterans get the compensation they need to treat their service related issues. We know firsthand that many Veterans struggle to receive accurate ratings from the VA and have trouble disputing inaccurate ratings. As a team of Veterans and patriots seeking to help fellow Veterans, we’re here to provide additional firepower to help you fight back. We know the rules and regulations and have helped thousands of Veterans receive greater benefits by holding the VA accountable.

If you feel that you have a disability rating that is too low from the VA, you are able to seek assistance in appealing with no upfront cost to you.. By going through the appeal process with a dedicated VA disability attorney, we can help you raise your disability rating so that you can receive compensation that accurately reflects your condition.

In the meantime, there are a few good habits to make that can help you maintain and your disability rating. If you are suffering from symptoms of adjustment disorder, keep going through your treatment. Pursuing consistent and continual treatment indicates to the VA not only that you are getting help but that you still need help. You can also keep an eye on any indication from the VA that they may change your rating and get help from an attorney to make an appeal and prevent a decrease in your benefits.

Recovery from service-related adjustment disorder takes time, and it would be unjust of the VA to reduce or withhold benefits from a Veteran who is still struggling to recover from the condition. We’re here to make sure that you don’t get short-changed by the VA and can continue receiving benefits as you move forward in the recovery process.


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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