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Mental-Health Claims for Veterans Affairs Disability

Exposure to traumatic experiences, being wounded, separation from family, and other conditions related to military service can have an adverse effect on a Veteran’s mental health. Millions of Veterans experience depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, substance use disorder, and other psychiatric conditions as a result of their service.

A US soldier serving in Afghanistan

Veterans suffering from mental health conditions may qualify for VA disability benefits if their conditions are related to service or were made worse by service. These service-related conditions could qualify the Veteran for monthly tax-free payments as a result. More than 1.7 million Veterans received treatment in a VA mental health specialty program in one recent year.

If you are having difficulty getting the VA to acknowledge that your mental illness is related to your service, or if the VA has assigned a disability rating that is too low, Berry Law can help you. We can review your case and represent you through the VA and federal courts’ appeals process. Our firm handles appeals nationwide before VA Regional Offices, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. We are Veterans helping Veterans, and we have a strong record of delivering positive results.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Many of our attorneys at Berry Law are Veterans themselves. This includes current CEO John S. Berry, , a former Army Ranger who served as a company commander in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and, before that, deployed to Bosnia for Operation Joint Forge. Founder John S. Berry, Sr., is a Vietnam veteran who began his Veterans’ law practice by representing fellow Vietnam Veterans who suffered from PTSD.

Since 1965, Berry Law has helped thousands of former servicemen and women obtain treatment for PTSD and the disability benefits they earned through their service and sacrifice. Our representation goes beyond filing papers. We handle the complex legal issues behind Veterans’ claims that are typically decided at the court level. We have even litigated claims that have resulted in new VA laws.

Mental-Health Issues
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.

Veterans Affairs Disability Ratings
for Mental-Health Issues

Once the VA is satisfied that a Veteran’s mental health condition is service-connected, it will review the Veteran’s medical records, statements, and any VA examinations to rate the severity of the condition. A Veteran’s mental health disorder can be rated as 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 percent disabling. The rating assigned depends on the severity, frequency, and duration of your mental health symptoms, as well as the overall effect of your disorder on your ability to function normally in work and social settings.

Learn more about increasing your VA disability compensation generally.

At Berry Law, our experience has shown us that the VA often misses important evidence or doesn’t consider all of a Veteran’s symptoms. This regularly results in disability ratings for mental health disorders that are lower than a veteran deserves. In 2021, the difference between a 50 percent and 70 percent disability rating for a veteran without any dependents is $6,476.04 per year.

Contact us now if you believe the VA has not awarded you the amount of benefits to which you are entitled.

Even if the severity of your mental health disorder does not warrant a 100 percent disability rating, you may still qualify for disability benefits at the 100 rating level if you cannot maintain substantially gainful employment. This is called a total disability rating based on individual unemployability due to service-connected disabilities (TDIU).

Click here to learn more about TDIU ratings.


Here’s a summary of the possible mental-health disorder ratings and what they mean:

  • 100 percent – Completely unable to function socially and at work with symptoms such as severely inappropriate behavior, ongoing hallucinations or delusions, the consistent threat of harming self or others, unable to remember basic information such as names of close relatives, severe confusion and disorientation, and/or inability to care for self.
  • 70 percent – Unable to function in most social and work areas with symptoms such as obsessive behaviors, illogical speech, depression, and panic so persistent that it interferes with the ability to function, suicidal thinking, inability to control impulses (including becoming violent without provocation), neglecting self-care such as hygiene, inability to handle stress, and/or inability to maintain relationships.
  • 50 percent – Some impairment in the ability to function socially and at work with a lack of reliability and productivity due to symptoms such as trouble understanding, memory loss, poor judgment, mood disturbances, trouble with work and social relationships, and/or having one or more panic attacks weekly.
  • 30 percent – Some trouble functioning socially and at work, occasionally inefficient with work or unable to perform work tasks, but generally able to take care of self and speak normally. Symptoms can include depression, anxiety, chronic difficulty sleeping, mild memory loss, suspiciousness, and panic attacks (can be less than once a week).
  • 10 percent – Mild symptoms creating work and social impairment when under significant stress or mild symptoms managed successfully with continuous medication.
  • 0 percent – Diagnosis of mental illness but symptoms so mild that they don’t require continuous medication or don’t interfere with social and work functioning.

The VA must consider all symptoms of your mental health disorder when assigning a disability rating—not just the specific examples of symptoms listed above. For example, hypervigilance is a common PTSD symptom and should be considered when assigning a veteran’s disability rating even though it does not appear in any of the rating criteria.

Eating disorders are rated separately as 0, 10, 30, 60, or 100 percent disabling, primarily according to self-induced weight loss and length of periods of incapacitation or, at 100 percent with hospitalization for parenteral nutrition or tube feeding.

Contact Our
Veterans Disability Lawyers Today

If you have been denied VA disability benefits or need to appeal your disability rating, let Berry Law review your VA mental health disability claim for you at no charge to determine whether filing an appeal is in order. We can appeal your claim that does not provide proper compensation for the severity of your service-connected mental health disorder. We will not charge you a fee for legal services unless we win your appeal.

Don’t go to battle alone. For more information on how the VA disability attorneys at Berry Law can help, please call (888) 682-0786 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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