Service Connection for Depression

The rate at which veterans suffer from depression can be up to twice as high as the national average. According to the VA’s National Registry for Depression, 11% of veterans 65 and older have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. This is most likely a low number, as not all veterans with depression receive a diagnosis.

Recognizing depression can be difficult, especially later in life. Older adults don’t necessarily feel “sad” when they’re depressed. They instead will have memory problems or unexplained pain or fatigue.

Veterans suffering from depression know how overwhelming it can be. While the unafflicted may think of it as a general feeling of sadness, in reality it can cause disturbances in concentration, sleep, interests, and appetite. Commonly, it can make sufferers feel as if there’s no reason to get out of bed in the morning or engage in activities usually enjoyed.

Depression and the VA

Veterans suffering from depression caused or aggravated by service may be eligible for disability benefits. In the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities, it is listed under “Mood Disorders.” Two diagnoses are listed: dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder.

Dysthymic Disorder

Also known as persistent depressive disorder (PDD), this kind of depression lasts at least two years at a mild or moderate level. Its symptoms can prevent everyday functioning, create low self-esteem, cause feelings of hopelessness, and make it hard for sufferers to concentrate or make decisions.

PDD can begin without notice, as its symptoms can be mistaken for fatigue. It’s not commonly diagnosed, as many people might not realize they have it and family members might not notice small changes in personality or personal habits.

Major Depressive Disorder

This kind of depression doesn’t last as long, but it is much more severe.

Those who suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD, also known as clinical depression) has many of the same symptoms as PDD, but with added intensity and for briefer periods of time. MDD can completely incapacitate people, making them feel worthless or guilty about things that wouldn’t normally make them feel that way. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.

PTSD and Depression

It is important to remember that PTSD and depression are two different diagnoses. Veterans who suffer from PTSD don’t necessarily experience PDD or MDD, and veterans who are depressed don’t necessarily suffer from PTSD.

Depression is commonly paired with PTSD, however. A 2015 study of 2,077 U.S. soldiers found that 72% of those who screened positive for PTSD also screened positive for MDD. Veterans with both depression and PTSD are more prone to anger or violence than those who suffer from either alone.

Depression Aggravated by Military Service

Many veterans suffered from depression before deployment and came home with intensified symptoms. A veteran could have experienced many things during service that made depression worse.

Aggravated service connection for a pre-existing diagnosis of depression requires a current diagnosis of PDD or MDD, evidence of an incident (or incidents) in service that worsened the depression, and medical evidence of a link, or nexus, between the worsening and an incident (or incidents) in service.

Of course, depression can also be caused by service. Veterans who developed depression during their time in the military can qualify for benefits by showing a current diagnosis, evidence of an inciting incident, and a nexus linking the two.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Berry Law Firm was founded by Vietnam War veteran and legendary trial lawyer John Stevens Berry Sr. We are proud to have many military veterans among our attorneys and staff who understand what it means to serve and know firsthand the struggles many of our clients face every day.

If you suffer from depression and need to appeal a VA decision, Berry Law Firm may be able to help. We have been successfully representing veterans before the VA, the BVA, and the CAVC for decades. Contact us today for a free evaluation.