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VA Memory Loss Test: What To Know Before You Go

VA Memory Loss Test: What To Know Before You Go

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability benefits to Veterans who experience various mental health conditions, including PTSD, dementia, and more. For certain conditions, like dementia, Veterans must submit to memory loss tests to acquire disability benefits or increase their disability ratings.

Read on if you’re unsure what to expect from a VA memory loss test. We’ll explain what a VA memory loss test includes, why it’s important, and what you should expect when you attend one.

What is VA Memory Loss Testing?

To provide Veterans with the most accurate disability rating possible for their condition(s), the VA often orders tests from partnered physicians or mental health care practitioners. VA memory loss testing isn’t a specific test. It’s a visit to a licensed clinician in your area to test your memory capabilities and other cognitive functionalities.

For example, suppose you sustained a head injury in the military. At first, you don’t appear to have any long-term complications. But as time passes, you and your loved ones notice that you tend to forget things more easily.

Because of this, you file for disability benefits for memory loss. The VA then requires you to submit to a memory loss test with a local clinician or psychiatrist to understand better:

  • The depth and severity of your memory loss
  • Whether your memory loss is likely to be temporary or permanent
  • Whether your memory loss came from an event that occurred in the military (and is thus service-connected)

What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Cognitive Impairment?

The VA sometimes orders memory loss tests because it defines dementia and cognitive impairment differently.

According to the VA, dementia is a “significant decline in one or more cognitive domains.” These domains include executive function, learning and memory, language, and social cognition.

Mild cognitive impairment is any memory or mental functionality loss that isn’t severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day life or ability to act independently. Meanwhile, cognitive impairment is a broader condition, including dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

To summarize, you can experience mild cognitive impairment without experiencing dementia. However, you can’t necessarily experience dementia without experiencing cognitive impairment. Whether you experience one or the other (or both) will determine your disability rating and your overall disability benefits.

Why Is the VA Memory Loss Test Necessary?

The VA memory loss test is sometimes needed to determine the level of your memory loss symptoms.

Memory loss is temporary for some Veterans, such as those who have sustained head injuries like concussions. Because it doesn’t last long, it does not necessarily qualify for VA disability benefits.

Memory loss can be severe, long-lasting, and even permanent for other Veterans. If a Veteran develops dementia because of their time in the military, for example, the VA may need to pay that Veteran regular benefits for the rest of their life.

A memory loss test is the only way to convince the VA that you have memory loss to the extent you say you do. It’s vital evidence for your disability benefits claim, alongside other evidence like lay statements and doctors’ notes. 

What Does VA Memory Loss Testing Include?

A practicing mental health care clinician or psychiatrist may perform VA memory loss testing at any licensed medical facility. Most memory tests are short, and you should expect your appointment to last for less than two hours from start to finish.

Depending on what the clinician or psychiatrist is looking for, your memory loss test may include:

  • A discussion of your history of symptoms
  • A discussion of your family history of memory-affecting mental conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A review of all the medicines you may be taking, which can impact your memory or cognitive functionality
  • A physical exam, including tests of your neurological functionality

Furthermore, VA memory loss testing includes objective cognitive testing. This can include a brief memory test, a test of your long-term memory against the answers from someone else (such as your spouse or a close family member), and more.

If the clinician or psychiatrist believes that more tests are needed, they may refer you to a specialist for brain imaging or scanning. If you are referred to a specialist like a neurologist, the VA will hold off on its final disability benefits decision until the results of those tests are produced.

There’s nothing to worry about during a VA memory loss test. Answer any questions honestly, as any falsified or fabricated information could compromise your ability to recover disability benefits later. 

How Will the Test Results Affect Your Disability Rating?

Depending on your VA memory loss test results, your disability rating may be higher or lower.

For example, say that you already have a service connection for PTSD. You receive VA disability benefits for PTSD and related symptoms, like anxiety or depression.

But if you develop dementia or memory loss because of your PTSD, your disability rating may increase. Pending the results of your VA memory loss test, the VA may find that your memory loss makes it harder for you to hold down a job or carry out day-to-day functions. 

If your memory loss is severe enough, you could qualify for total disability individual unemployability benefits (TDIU).

Put simply, your VA memory loss test will affect:

  • Whether you qualify for TDIU benefits
  • Your total monthly benefits you can expect
  • Whether you qualify for additional VA benefits, like medical care with specialists

How Do You Schedule a Memory Test Appointment?

If you believe you are experiencing memory loss or have experienced other symptoms caused or aggravated by dementia, it’s important to schedule an appointment with the VA immediately.

Contact the VA, and have a VA primary care provider assigned to your case. If you don’t have a VA primary care provider, you can call the nearest VA medical center. Ask for assistance, and the VA representative will connect you to a primary care provider to start ordering the appropriate tests.

Once the extent of your situation is determined, you’ll be scheduled for a memory test appointed that works for you and your schedule.

How Do You File a Claim for Memory Loss?

The VA does not have a dedicated Diagnostic Code for memory loss. Instead, it may assign you a Diagnostic Code and disability rating based on where the memory loss originated.

For instance, if your memory loss comes from PTSD, you will be assigned a Diagnostic Code for PTSD and receive a disability rating of 0% to 100% based on your symptoms. The VA will add your memory loss symptoms and their severity to the other symptoms caused or aggravated by the core condition.

For example, suppose you only have memory loss from PTSD. In that case, your disability rating will be lower than if you also have memory loss, anxiety symptoms, inability to control yourself, or other associated symptoms.

Therefore, it might be wise to contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys immediately. The right law firm can provide sound advice, such as:

  • How you should file your disability benefits claim, including for what condition, to maximize your disability benefits
  • What evidence you should gather for your disability benefits claim to maximize its chances of securing significant compensation
  • How you should react if your disability benefits claim is denied, including how you should proceed through the appeals process

This assistance can be invaluable, especially if you have not yet begun receiving disability benefits. The right law firm can help you navigate through the appeals process, ensure that you file your claim and paperwork appropriately, and much more.

Contact Berry Law

VA memory loss testing is important for Veterans seeking disability benefits for conditions like dementia or Veterans seeking an increase to their disability rating due to newly-developed symptoms of a pre-existing, service-connected condition like PTSD. 

A memory loss test will examine your short and long-term memory, which can determine the level of disability compensation you receive.

Berry Law can help you prepare for your memory loss test and more. Our knowledgeable attorneys can break down what you should expect and help you file a claim for initial disability benefits or help you upgrade your current disability rating. Contact us today to learn more.

Sources:

Memory Loss and Dementia | Women Veterans Health Care

Clinical Fact Sheet – Detection of Cognitive Impairment | VA.gov

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | NIMH 

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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