When the holidays rolling around, many of us may feel we’re supposed to be in a holly jolly mood. Even though this Christmas will look a little different, there are still carols, cookies, trees to decorate, and gifts to give. But what if you just can’t seem to find that holiday cheer this year?
Seasonal affective disorder can be a very real condition that can have a severe impact on veterans living with PTSD. Read on to learn more about both of these conditions and how you can get a SAD disability rating.
What We Cover In This Article On Seasonal Affective Disorder and Veterans:
- What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
- Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Risk Factors of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- What Is PTSD?
- Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and PTSD
- Causes of PTSD
- Risk Factors of PTSD
- VA Ratings for PTSD
- SAD as a Secondary Service Connection
- How to Qualify for VA Disability
- Getting a Diagnosis
- Proving a Service Connection
- Getting a Medical Nexus
- Disability Compensation Amounts
- Get Your Seasonal Affective Disorder Disability Rating
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (sometimes called adjustment disorder or SAD) is a subset of depression that’s related to a change in the seasons. Most commonly, people experience SAD during the winter months, when days are shorter and cold weather drives us inside. But some people experience SAD in the early spring or even the summer.
Many people may be living with SAD and not realize it because they dismiss it as simply “winter blues.” This year, in particular, it may be difficult to discern whether you’re fighting SAD or you’re stressed over COVID-19 holiday season. If you find yourself feeling depressed, don’t just brush it off – talk to your doctor.
In many cases, SAD presents as a deep, constant or near-constant depression during certain seasons of the year. You may find yourself losing interest in activities you once loved, and you might notice that you lose or gain weight with no explanation. You might also feel sluggish or restless, and you might have trouble concentrating.
If you have SAD in the wintertime, you may find yourself feeling tired all the time, in spite of the fact that you may be sleeping more than usual. You may also start to put on weight and crave foods that are high in carbs. If you have SAD in the spring and summer, you may experience insomnia, weight loss, and anxiety.
Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Doctors aren’t sure precisely what causes seasonal affective disorder, though there are theories. Most of these theories relate to your body’s circadian rhythms, the biological clock which tells you when it’s time to wake up, go to sleep, eat, and more. Your body bases these rhythms on the amount and quality of light you’re exposed to each day, so in the winter months, the lack of sunlight can leave you feeling sluggish.
Doctors also theorize that we experience a drop in serotonin levels during the wintertime. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our mood and plays a role in making us feel happy. Exposure to sunlight can play a role in our serotonin production, which could explain why these levels drop off in the wintertime.
Risk Factors of Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are a few conditions that may raise your risk of experiencing SAD. For one, if you have a family history of SAD, you’re more likely to experience it yourself. SAD also seems to be more severe in people who live further from the equator and get less light exposure during the winter months.
SAD may also be worse in people with existing depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of these conditions can get worse when they’re combined with that seasonal depression. And if you’re living with PTSD, you may also be at a higher risk of experiencing SAD.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic injury of some sort. You may experience uncontrollable thoughts about the event, as well as nightmares or flashbacks. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
It’s important to note that it’s normal to have some difficulty coping after a traumatic event, and nightmares and anxiety are to be expected. But if they don’t get better with time and self-care, you could have PTSD. The effects of this condition can go on for years, especially when left untreated.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and PTSD
There are four basic classes of symptoms that define PTSD that would multiply with SAD:
- Intrusive memories
- Negative changes in thinking and mood
- Changes in physical and emotional reactions.
Intrusive memories can include unwanted thoughts about the event, nightmares, flashbacks, and severe negative response to triggers. You may even begin to avoid places, things, or activities that remind you of the traumatic event.
When you have PTSD, you may start to feel hopeless or worthless, or you may think the world is a dark and terrible place. You might have trouble remembering certain things, including pieces of the traumatic event itself. You may feel like you always have to be on guard, you might have trouble concentrating, and you may have outbursts of irrational and angry behavior.
Causes of PTSD
The cause of PTSD can be different for every person, depending on their lived experience and their personality. For some people, a severe car crash or the death of a loved one can cause PTSD. In other cases, it may be abuse, sexual trauma, or dangerous or stressful work conditions.
You won’t be surprised to learn that nearly every aspect of military life can cause PTSD. Training is extremely stressful and demanding and may start to trigger this condition. Combat, losing buddies in your unit, and injuries can all be more than enough to cause PTSD, too.
Risk Factors of PTSD
There are a few factors that may increase your risk of developing PTSD. As with SAD, having family members with mental health disorders can put you at higher risk. But in most cases, your primary risk factors come from your life experience and the sorts of traumatic events you experience.
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Experiencing abuse or trauma early in life can put you at a greater risk of developing PTSD. If you have a substance abuse problem, including excessive drinking, you may be more likely to develop this condition. Your condition may also be more severe if you don’t have a strong network of friends and family supporting you through trauma.
VA Ratings for PTSD
The VA assigns PTSD cases one of five disability ratings: 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, and 100 percent. Which rating you get will depend on what sort of symptoms you have and how severe they are. You will be assigned a rating based on the highest level of severity.
If you have a hard time maintaining a normal work or social life due to your PTSD, you’ll get a 10 percent rating. If you have panic attacks once a week or less, you’ll get a rating of 30 percent, while if you have them more than once a week, you’ll get a 50 percent rating. A 70 percent rating indicates that you have a hard time maintaining normalcy in any area of your life due to your PTSD, and a 100 percent rating is assigned in cases when you are utterly incapable of caring for yourself at all due to your condition.
SAD as a Secondary Service Connection
In order to get VA disability compensation, you have to prove that your condition has a direct connection to your military service. In the case of PTSD, this is fairly straightforward and very common. But it may be a little harder to prove that your SAD has a direct connection to your service.
Luckily, because of the connection between SAD and PTSD, you may be able to get a rating for SAD as a secondary condition. This means that, while your military service didn’t directly cause it, it caused another condition that caused you to develop SAD. You can combine these two ratings to get an overall rating that will be used to determine how much compensation you’ll get.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
How to Qualify for VA Disability
In order to qualify for VA disability, you must meet three primary criteria. First, you must have an official diagnosis of your condition from a VA-approved medical professional. In the case of PTSD, this may need to be a licensed counselor or psychiatrist.
Once you have your diagnosis, you must be able to prove a service connection. This means you must be able to point to a specific incident in your military service that could have caused your condition. And finally, you must have a medical nexus from your diagnosing medical professional connecting the two.
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Getting a Diagnosis
The first step in your VA disability claim process will be getting an official diagnosis from your medical professional. If you aren’t already seeing a licensed counselor or psychiatrist, you can talk to your family doctor for a referral. Your diagnosing doctor will likely talk to you about your symptoms and may run some tests to rule out other causes for your symptoms.
Leading up to your diagnosing appointment, it’s a good idea to keep a journal detailing your symptoms. For one thing, this can help your doctor provide you with an accurate diagnosis. And for another, it can help get you more money for your condition, since VA disability ratings for PTSD are based in part on how frequently various symptoms occur.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Proving a Service Connection
Once you get your diagnosis, you’ll need to prove a service connection for your condition. This effectively means you’ll need to point to a specific incident during your military service that could have caused your condition. There will need to be documentation of this incident in your service record in order for it to qualify.
In the case of PTSD, there are a wide variety of incidents or conditions that can be listed as a service connection. Service in an active combat zone, losing people in your unit, and an injury could all qualify. Almost any traumatic event can cause PTSD, but it’s a good idea to work with your therapist to isolate the specific incident that contributed to your condition the most.
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Getting a Medical Nexus
After you get your service connection, you’ll need to get a medical nexus connecting your diagnosis and the incident in your service record. This is effectively a statement from your doctor saying your condition was at least as likely as not caused by the listed incident. If you have your military records with you on the day of your diagnosing appointment, you may be able to get your medical nexus at that time.
A medical nexus is meant to keep veterans from filing disability claims for incidents that happened after they left the service. For instance, you can’t get into a car accident five years after you leave the military and claim disability for the concussion you sustain. However, if you had a history of concussions during your service, you may be able to get a claim for traumatic brain injury.
In this video, on of our VA compensation lawyers explains the difference between a 100% VA Rating and TDIU.
Disability Compensation Amounts
Once your claim gets approved, the VA will assign you a disability rating based on how severe your condition is. This will be the primary factor in determining how much compensation you receive each month. For instance, if you have a 10 percent disability rating, you’ll receive $152.64 per month.
If you have a disability rating of 30 or higher, the VA will also consider whether you have people depending on you financially. For instance, if you have a 50 percent rating and no dependents, you’ll get $958.44. But if you have a spouse and a child depending on you, you’ll get more.
If you have SAD as a secondary disorder, you can combine its rating with your PTSD rating to get an overall rating. You’ll get compensation based on this overall rating, rather than either of your singular conditions. You’ll need to use a specific chart from the VA to determine what your combined rating will be.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
Get Your Seasonal Affective Disorder Disability Rating
Seasonal affective disorder and PTSD can both have severe impacts on your life, especially if you have them at the same time. But if you served in the military, you may be able to get an adjustment disorder disability rating in addition to your PTSD rating. Talk to your doctor to get a diagnosis that will start your disability claim process.
If you’d like help managing your VA disability claim, get in touch with us at Woods and Woods, LLC. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to start getting the compensation you deserve.
Both terms are used interchangeably but the medical community uses “Affective.” Nobody is going to correct you if you say “Adjustment.” We know what you mean and we’ll still be happy to you get disability for it.
Depression takes many forms, for a lot of reasons. If you have a journal of missing work or how you felt during a period of time, you’ll be able to explain your condition to your doctor easier. We’ll also help you keep track of your incapacitating episodes because that is a key factor in your VA disability rating.