That Qualify for VA Benefits
The VA will award benefits to a Veteran who has a disabling mental condition that is service-connected. To be service-connected, a mental health condition must be a diagnosed acquired psychiatric disorder. Examples of common acquired psychiatric disorders are listed below.
Intellectual disabilities and personality disorders, on the other hand, are considered inherent conditions that cannot be related to service. If an acquired psychiatric disorder is superimposed on an intellectual disability or personality disorder, a Veteran can be service-connected for the portion of disability resulting from the acquired psychiatric disorder.
To be service-connected for a mental health disorder, a Veteran’s claim must show three things: (1) a current acquired psychiatric disorder, (2) an injury or stressor event during service, and (3) a connection between the in-service event and the current disorder.
For PTSD, however, the rules are a little more complicated. Generally, to get service connection for PTSD, the evidence must show (1) a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, (2) corroborating evidence (more than just the Veteran’s statements) of an in-service stressor event, and (3) medical evidence relating the stressor to the current PTSD diagnosis. There are some special exceptions to these requirements.
For more about PTSD claims in particular and how the dedicated attorneys at Berry Law can help with your appeal for VA disability benefits, click here.
The following are the most common acquired psychiatric disorders eligible for service connection:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, refers to psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms triggered by traumatic events. While combat-related PTSD is the most common form, many Veterans develop PTSD from non-combat trauma such as assaults or training accidents. The symptoms of PTSD affect each person differently. They range from flashbacks to anxiety attacks and nightmares to paranoia or feeling numb.
- Anxiety disorders can cause panic attacks, irrational fear, compulsion, obsession, and an increased heart or breathing rate. These symptoms may result in difficulty concentrating, difficulty with social interactions, and a need to restrict daily activities. Some individuals may be unable to function independently in any setting other than their homes. The VA recognizes generalized anxiety order, specific (simple) phobia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and agoraphobia (fear of places and situations that might cause feelings of panic, entrapment, helplessness, or embarrassment).
- Clinical depression can be triggered by a traumatic event. It can also be caused by genetic or biological factors. Symptoms last for at least two weeks and include feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, sadness, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, exhaustion, difficulty making decisions, weight changes, insomnia, and sleeping too much. Veterans suffering from depression often have a lack of energy and lose interest in things they once enjoyed. Depression may cause a person to withdraw from social interactions, shutting out even family and friends.
- Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression) causes a person to cycle between depressive states and high states (mania). Mania can cause euphoria, anger, and impaired judgment. Symptoms of mania include sleeplessness, decreased attention span, aggressive behavior, and rushed speech. In severe cases, mania may cause rage, psychotic delusions, or hallucinations. The depressive state causes the same symptoms as clinical depression. People who suffer from bipolar disorder may engage in dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse, risky sexual encounters, and compulsive spending. Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are extremely common.
- Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders can make it difficult or impossible to interact with others or to concentrate and think coherently. A person with schizophrenia may have trouble paying attention, recalling information, and making sense of information. Additional symptoms include unpredictable behavior, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and catatonia. Schizophrenia often causes a loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from others, loss of motivation, and trouble caring for oneself.
- Amnesia is an inability of a Veteran to remember events or a period of time, often due to brain injury, illness, or long-term use of drugs or alcohol. In post-traumatic amnesia, which is caused by brain injury, memory loss may range from forgetting recent events to forgetting everything before the trauma.
- Chronic adjustment disorder can occur if the Veteran has trouble coping with a stressful event. Adjustment disorders involve stress that significantly impairs the way a person functions. Disabling symptoms include trouble sleeping, chronic fatigue, and thoughts of suicide. Many symptoms of adjustment disorder are similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Cognitive disorders include dementia, amnesia, and delirium. In these disorders, patients are no longer fully oriented to time and space. Depending on the cause, the diagnosis of a cognitive disorder may be temporary or progressive.
- Mood disorders cause a Veteran’s general emotional state or mood to be distorted or inconsistent with circumstances, which interferes with his or her ability to function. An individual may be extremely sad, empty, or irritable (depressed), or have periods of depression alternating with being excessively happy (mania). Mood disorders may increase the risk of suicide.
- Somatoform disorders, sometimes called hypochondria, cause the Veteran to experience unexplained physical ailments, such as pain or gastrointestinal, neurologic, or sexual problems. The distress experienced because of the pain or other problems is real, regardless of whether a physical explanation can be found. It can significantly affect daily functioning.
- Eating disorders (e.g., anorexia and bulimia) cause Veterans to experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight and may starve themselves until incapacitated or to death. In many cases, eating disorders occur together with other psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcohol and drug abuse problems.