Are you a veteran who experiences physical symptoms, but the tests all come back normal? You aren’t alone.
Many veterans suffer from what is called Conversion Disorder. You may also hear this called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND).
Between 2000 and 2018, the U.S. active-duty diagnosis rate for conversion disorder was 29.5 per 100,000 person-years. This is about 2.5 to 7.4 times higher than the diagnosis rate among the general American population. Veterans with a history of depression or PTSD had a 10 times higher rate of FND.
Veterans diagnosed with conversion disorder or FND may qualify for disability compensation. Keep reading to learn about conversion disorders and Veteran’s Administration (VA) ratings.
In this article about Conversion Disorder VA disability benefits:
- What Is Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder (FND) vs Conversion Disorder?
- Symptoms of Conversion Disorder in Veterans
- Treating Conversion Disorder and Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder
- VA Disability May Be an Option for Veterans with Conversion Disorder
- Disability Compensation Rating for Conversion Disorder in Veterans
- How Much Compensation Can You Get?
- Importance of Service Connections
- The Right to an Appeal
- Are You Looking for Help to File a VA Disability Claim?
What Is Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder (FND) vs Conversion Disorder?
There are two interchangeable terms used for the same mental disorder. You may see this called functional neurological (symptom) disorder (FND) or conversion disorder.
The word “functional” focuses on abnormalities in the central nervous system (CNS). The messages sent and received by the CNS have now been altered. These individuals experience changes in their ability to perform activities.
“Conversion” expresses the belief that psychological distress causes physical symptoms. In other words, emotional stress converts into physical problems. The specific cause isn’t known.
Common triggers for conversion episodes include:
- A specific overwhelming stress event
- Emotional problems
- Mental health disorders including depression
- Physical injury
- Infectious illness
- Panic attack
This trigger is the person’s first experience with the symptoms. In normal situations, the symptoms resolve on their own. With FND, a pattern of these symptoms gets stuck in the nervous system.
The brain’s functioning changes are causing a disabling problem. The physical problems experienced by the person are very real to them. Yet, all medical and physical testing is within normal. This creates great frustration for patients and family members.
It becomes all too easy to think “It’s all in your head.”
Conversion disorders happen more often among women than men. While this may occur at any age, it’s most common between ages 20 and 50.
Researchers haven’t found what causes this disorder. Movement and mental health disorders or neurologic diseases seem to raise the risk. A family history of FND may also be a contributing factor.
Symptoms of Conversion Disorder in Veterans
Each person is different and thus, the symptoms aren’t the same. The following describes examples of conversion disorder or FND symptoms.
- Body tremors, shaking episodes, and/or seizures
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty speaking: dysphonia (whispered speech), slurring, or stuttering
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hearing problems
- Loss of sensation
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in the torso, limbs, or face often on one side of the body
- Problems walking
- Problems with memory
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble with balance
- Unresponsiveness, fainting, or blackouts
- Vision changes, double vision, blindness
- Weakness to paralysis
Symptoms often change from day to day. Some people have long periods without any symptoms and then have a relapse.
If you are a veteran with OCD and PTSD, you may be eligible for VA disability.
Treating Conversion Disorder and Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder
There is no single identified best treatment for conversion disorder. The primary goal of treatment is to “retrain the brain”.
Care plans use the theory that the brain is stuck in a dysfunctional movement pattern. Thus, interventions aim to re-establish normal patterns. The treatment plan is regularly adjusted based on the patient’s response.
Physical and occupational therapy combined with psychotherapy has been successful in improving function. The practitioners work to help the patient find the source of the stress or conflict. This can help identify and remove the trigger for their symptoms.
VA Disability May Be an Option for Veterans with Conversion Disorder
All veterans with service-related mental or physical disabilities may qualify for benefits. Those with a combat-related mental disability need to understand the GAF score.
The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score evaluates the mental disability level. You will have an evaluation conducted by a doctor. This often includes a statement from you describing your daily life.
They’ll ask about difficulties with relationships, employment, or activities of daily living. The doctor will also want to know what you do to cope with your physical problems. They also collect a complete history, including any past trauma.
It’s important to tell your doctor about events that occurred while you were serving in the military. Make sure they document all this information. The VA will need this evidence as proof that your condition is service-related.
Upon completing the assessment, the doctor will assign your GAF score. This reflects your level of disability and how it impacts your current circumstances. The VA uses this score when determining your VA rating.
Disability Compensation Rating for Conversion Disorder in Veterans
Your veteran’s disability rating impacts your number of benefits. The rating reflects the percentage of disability caused by your condition. The rating ranges from zero percent to 100 percent.
Each disability receives a code. The code then has specific definitions for the levels of disability. The code for conversion disorder or FND is 38 CFR § 4.130, 9424.
The following describes the percentage rating criteria for conversion disorder or FND.
A Zero Percent VA Rating
A zero rating indicates that the VA doesn’t feel that your disorder interferes with work or family life. As you will read later, you always have the right to appeal your VA disability rating.
Thirty Percent Rating
Mild memory loss is an example of a functional problem that gets a 30 percent rating. Trouble keeping track of appointments or current events also qualifies.
The veteran may experience problems during a long weekend but will be able to work on Monday. This pattern of symptoms can also receive a 30 percent rating.
It may be difficult to get 100% TDIU from one disability, but here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about common disabilities that add up to a 100% combined rating.
Fifty Percent Rating
A 50 percent rating describes a decreased reliability to perform daily activities. For example, if you can’t function normally for several weeks a month, you may get this rating. You may be able to function in many situations but have periods of incapacitation.
Language disorders and circumlocution receive a 50 percent rating. The term circumlocution means “talking in circles” or “talking around. The person describes the characteristics of something instead of saying its name.
Individuals may use irrelevant or confusing words. They often don’t adhere to social barriers or they repeat the same phrase.
Frequent panic attacks or trouble completing complex tasks also meet this level. The key question is, “do these problems impact your ability to work or take part in daily activities?”
70 Percent Rating for Conversion Disorder
A 70 percent rating qualifies you for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). At this point, you’ll receive the same benefit payment as a 100 percent rating. Veterans receive this if they have problems keeping a job or interacting socially.
These veterans often struggle with homelessness, broken families, and unemployment. Anyone unable to hold a typical job due to issues such as violence or rage receives this rating. This is true even if there’s some specific job the veteran can do with their disability.
One-Hundred Percent Rating
Veterans who receive a 100 percent rating have severe conditions. They may require in-patient mental healthcare.
These veterans may experience ongoing delusions or hallucinations. They can also be unresponsive to social interaction or even catatonic. The VA requires proof of total social and occupational impairment.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
How Much Compensation Can You Get?
Upon approval of VA disability benefits, payments will begin from your effective date. This is important because often the ruling may come years after the effective date.
Thus, be sure you receive all payments you’re due for a service-connected disability. The VA will give you a lump-sum payment for the time between the approval date and the effective date.
Here are the VA disability rates:
|Disability Rating||Monthly Payment (veteran only)|
The amount shown reflects the monthly benefit payment. Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list.
Importance of Service Connections
To qualify for VA benefits, you must prove a direct service connection. This causative event may have occurred at any point during your service. This includes during training, combat, or while stateside.
Some individuals enter the military with pre-existing conditions. If this disorder worsens due to active-duty service, you may qualify for benefits. It’s vital to provide evidence documenting the change in your condition.
Many veterans have more than one condition. If you have a secondary service-connected disability rating, you’ll get more compensation.
For example, conversion disorder may result in a seizure disorder. The seizure disorder may qualify as a secondary disability.
Always speak with a VA disability attorney when filing your claim. Our expertise ensures that you’ll receive all the compensation you’re entitled to.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
The Right to an Appeal
Every veteran has the right to appeal the VA disability decision. If you want to file an appeal, begin by speaking with a VA disability attorney. We’re experts in handling this process and know what evidence is needed for your appeal.
You may file an appeal for any reason. Veterans often file appeals because the VA denies benefits. Another common reason is that they believe their disability rating is too low.
It’s important to act quickly if you disagree with the decision. You must file an appeal within one year of the date you received the VA benefit notification. There are three levels of appeals.
If you have new evidence supporting your claim, complete VA Form 20-0995. A reviewer will look at your documentation and decide if the VA needs more information.
You will then receive notification of the VA’s decision. If you don’t take action on requests from the VA, they will close your case.
Higher Level Review
If you don’t agree with the first appeal decision, you may request another review of your case. This is handled by a more senior reviewer. You need to submit VA Form 20-0996 to file for a higher-level review.
A senior reviewer will examine your case and determine if he or she needs more information. This request may result from finding an error that needs correcting.
Once they reach a decision, you will receive a written notification. If you fail to provide the requested information, they will close your appeal.
Board of Veterans Appeals
The highest-level appeal is handled by a Veterans Law Judge. The judge is part of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C. Begin this process by filing a VA Form 10182.
You will receive a notice by mail telling you that a Veterans Law Judge has been assigned to your case. The VA also sends a notification when you have an appeal hearing scheduled. Be sure to have your VA disability attorney assist you with this process.
The Veteran Law Judge will review your appeal. They may ask for more evidence or seek other opinions. This can include consulting with medical, legal, or other professionals.
If you file a group of appeals, the BVA may wait for decisions from other high courts. At times, the BVA merges your appeals. Their goal is to provide a single decision on as many appeals as possible.
You will receive a letter from the BVA when they’ve made a decision. They may overturn the first decision, decide not to reopen your appeal, or dismiss the appeal.
Are You Looking for Help to File a VA Disability Claim?
Have you been diagnosed with conversion disorder or FND? This article guided the filing of service-related claims for this disorder among veterans. Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, specializes in VA disability claims. We help hundreds of veterans every month with their VA claims.
We’ve created a reliable case-management process using leading-edge technology. This ensures that all evidence is readily available and deadlines aren’t missed. Complete our contact form today and schedule a free consultation. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
The VA needs a service connection for your symptoms, not necessarily your diagnosis. If the VA rules that your condition, your pain, your mental health state, or even your diagnosis of Conversion Disorder was caused by or aggravated by your time in the service, it is service-connected. Since Conversion Disorder is hard to diagnose, you’ll want to talk to our team of VA Disability Lawyers about how to approach your application the best.
No, there are no across-the-board automatic VA ratings. There are situations where a veteran is approved for benefits starting the day he or she is discharged, but it’s too complicated to call it automatic.