The transition out of the military back into civilian life can be jarring for many Veterans. The intense and often traumatic experiences that many soldiers have can leave them permanently affected, both physically and mentally. The long-term effects of military service can often include mental health issues like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.
If you are a Veteran who struggles daily with a mental health disorder, you may be eligible to receive monthly VA disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA provides tax-free VA disability for mental health conditions that are service-connected. To qualify for this VA disability benefits program, you typically only need a mental health diagnosis from a mental health services provider, an in-service event or occurrence that led to your disability, and sufficient evidence that your condition is directly military service-connected.
There are multiple mental health conditions linked to a Veteran’s time in service. Sadly, it is not always as simple as it should be for Veterans struggling with mental health conditions to get the support they need and deserve from the VA. We’ll walk you through the key parts of getting approved for mental health-related VA disability compensation, as well as some of the critical conditions that the VA recognizes as service-related conditions.
One of the most common forms of mental illness that many Veterans suffer from is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is extremely common in Veterans due to the many traumatic experiences that can come with service. Whether a Veteran experiences something traumatic on the frontlines, in the form of assault or abuse, or from other circumstances, they may end up suffering from the long-term effects of their trauma.
PTSD can arise years after a traumatic event, with the condition often catching Veterans by surprise. A Veteran may suppress memories of their trauma for years, sometimes experiencing debilitating physical symptoms as a result. When the trauma finally surfaces, it can come back in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, and other extremely troubling symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder in Veterans can be easy to trace back to a specific experience or set of events during a Veteran’s time in the military. This connection to certain trauma is often described as a “nexus,” a link between a specific trigger and the symptoms of PTSD that a Veteran experiences. Finding the nexus that connects a Veteran’s PTSD symptoms to their military service can play a major role in a Veteran’s ability to qualify to receive VA compensation benefits.
In order to approve a Veteran for monthly benefits, the VA needs sufficient medical evidence — a diagnosis — to support a Veteran’s application for support. In addition, a Veteran applying to receive VA benefits will need to verify with medical evidence that they have a service-connected disability. When it comes to PTSD, getting approved for monthly VA mental health benefits typically involves getting a diagnosis from a mental health professional who examines your military medical records and finds a verifiable connection between your time in service and the symptoms you are suffering from.
In addition to an evaluation by a mental health professional, the VA will also have you undergo an examination with a VA health care provider before you can be approved for benefits. Known as a compensation and pension exam (C&P for short), this exam helps the VA get a sense of your symptoms and how they affect your life. Then, they will be able to determine your VA mental health rating. In short, VA mental health ratings determine how much monthly support Veterans get.
Many Veterans re-enter civilian life suffering from some form of service-related anxiety or depression. Transitioning back to “normal” life can be jarring for any Veteran and can often cause some debilitating emotional weight to set in. Often referred to as adjustment disorder, the anxiety, depression, frustration, and numbness often experienced during a major transition is often experienced by Veterans in the years after they leave the service.
Veterans can suffer from anxiety or depression for a number of reasons. One common long-term effect of military service is chronic stress and a feeling of always being “on.” The high-stress environment that many soldiers live in, sometimes for years, can have a lasting effect on a Veteran’s mental health. Whether the long-term effect of the many stressors of military service is anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, or other symptoms, a Veteran can struggle long after they have left the military.
The VA recognizes these service-related mental disorders as disabilities, making a Veteran eligible to receive monthly benefits. However, the severity of these mental health conditions can have a big impact on the VA disability rating that the Veteran receives. The VA gives each Veteran who applies for disability benefits a rating between 0 and 100. This disability score represents how much a Veteran’s service-related disability affects their ability to live. The more severe a Veteran’s disability is, the higher their rating from the VA will be.
Because anxiety and depression can vary in severity from person to person, the VA’s disability ratings for these conditions can vary as well. For example, if a Veteran suffers from a more severe form of depression, such as a major depressive disorder that impacts their occupational and social functioning, the VA is much more likely to give that Veteran a higher VA disability rating, potentially even the highest possible rating. If your mental health disorder is making it extremely hard for you to work and live a life that you love, you deserve to receive the disability compensation you need from the VA to take care of yourself and your loved ones as you recover.
If you are a Veteran with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the Veterans Affairs will likely give you a higher VA disability rating. These mental illnesses can be debilitating, often making it difficult for a Veteran to maintain a job. In situations where a disability makes a Veteran unemployable, they can qualify for a status called Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). TDIU can help to verify to the VA that you should qualify for a 100% disability rating because your condition is so severe that it makes you unable to work.
In a situation where you need support from the VA in order to take care of yourself, it is worth it to do everything you can to get the disability rating you deserve. When you need your disability rating raised, there are some key steps you can take to contest the VA’s ruling on your claim.
If the VA gives you a rating that is too low, you have the right to enlist the support of an attorney to appeal the decision or request a decision review. If you appeal, the VA will revisit your case and may come to a different conclusion that leads to a better outcome for you. Decision reviews sometimes involve the VA asking you to present further evidence to support your VA disability claim, such as testimonials from fellow soldiers or a statement from your doctor. A decision review can also involve having a senior VA official look at your claim, leading to a different ruling.
If a decision review does not leave you with the rating you deserve, you can continue to contest the VA’s ruling by making another appeal. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can successfully make a case in court to the VA that you deserve to have a higher disability rating. An attorney can help you compile evidence and navigate the appeals process in order to get the best possible outcome.
In some cases, the VA does not give an accurate rating to a Veteran suffering from a mental health condition. Mental illness is often especially difficult for the VA to assess, and you can end up getting fewer benefits than you deserve based on an inaccurate rating. You shouldn’t have to fight with the VA to receive disability compensation that you need and deserve. But when you do, one of our team of skilled attorneys is here to help.
Berry Law exists to provide Veterans with all of the help and support they need in appealing VA decisions and getting the benefits they deserve. If you are a Veteran suffering from a mental illness and need help making an appeal, we’re here to team up with you. We can help walk you through the appeals process no matter how far it goes, representing you at any level — from your regional VA office to higher courts. Appeals can go through multiple stages, and we want to stick with you all the way through, helping you to compile the evidence you need to support your claim and get the outcome that you deserve. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
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