A lot goes into a claim for VA Disability Benefits for mental health issues. Because of the nature of the claim, a veteran looking for benefits needs all of the help he or she can get to win the highest disability rating possible from the VA. When it comes to mental health ratings, the VA has a set schedule for the various symptoms and their effects as they pertain to a veteran’s difficulty with daily living.
In this article about VA mental health disability:
- Don’t be Embarrassed about Being a Veteran with Mental Health Issues
- Explaining the Details of the VA Rulebook on Mental Health Claims
- Can Insomnia Be Considered for a Mental Health Disability Claim?
- How Do I Get VA Disability for Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD)?
- What Are Some Example VA Ratings for Mental Disorders?
- Most VA Mental Health Claims are 30%, 50%, or 70%
- How to Get More Money with a Lower Mental Health Rating
- Mental Health Benefits are Complicated
Don’t be Embarrassed about Being a Veteran with Mental Health Issues
We have experience working with many veterans from combat in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and non-combat veterans. We can walk with you through the difficulties of remembering events to help prove that various conditions are service-connected. All of our staff practice extreme confidentiality to protect our clients and their families.
Whether you are a veteran that has seen combat or if you have questions about non-combat PTSD claims, we’d love to talk and see if we can help. The call and consultation at 1-866-232-5777 are free.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
Explaining the Details of the VA Rulebook on Mental Health Claims
The VA’s complete written law on mental health issues can be found in 38 CFR, Section 4.130. There, you can see a detailed list of the diagnoses that qualify for VA disability benefits. They are based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, of the American Psychiatric Association.
- Delusional disorder
- Other specified and unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
- Schizoaffective disorder
- Major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to HIV or other infections
- Major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Major or mild vascular neurocognitive disorder
- Unspecified neurocognitive disorder
- Major or mild neurocognitive neurocognitive disorder due to Alzheimer’s disease
- Major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to another medical condition or substance/medication-induced major or mild neurocognitive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social phobia
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Other specified anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorder and/or agoraphobia
- Unspecified anxiety disorder
- Dissociative amnesia; dissociative identity disorder
- Depersonalization/derealization disorder
- Somatic symptom disorder
- Other specified somatic symptom and related disorder
- Unspecified somatic symptom and related disorder
- Conversion disorder
- Illness anxiety disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
- Major depressive disorder
- Unspecified depressive disorder
- Chronic adjustment disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
While this looks like a big list, it is not exhaustive. There are other disorders and diagnoses that may accompany your claim that are more descriptive. A doctor who is not fully informed about VA law can misdiagnose some mental health conditions or not draw the connection between such a condition and the events that happened during active duty.
Can Insomnia Be Considered for a Mental Health Disability Claim?
The answer is no if you claim insomnia all by itself. If insomnia is due to panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, then you would claim insomnia as part of your claims for one of those conditions. In that situation, you could claim insomnia. If you had trouble sleeping or going to sleep due to pain in your hip or back, then you would claim that pain and insomnia as part of that pain. So insomnia alone might not be considered, but as it aggravates other things that are service-connected, you want to make sure you get that mentioned in your claim.
How Do I Get VA Disability for Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD)?
Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD) is called Somatization disorder by the Veterans’ Administration and it is the clinical name for all of the stress, anger, depression, rage, and frustration that goes along with other injuries. It’s not just the daily frustration of not being able to get up as fast as you used to be. SSD is a deeper-level psychological state caused by other medical problems. Depression or overwhelming anxiety about an injury that keeps you from leaving your house or keeping a job is in the realm of SSD.
When you consider your VA disability appeal, make sure that you are looking at as many conditions as possible. You only have to have two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one disability rated at 40% or more with a combined rating of 70% or more to get 100% TDIU, so you want to put as many issues on your application as you deserve. Don’t hold back any conditions because they are embarrassing or because you can “tough it out.”
Anxiety and fear of large crowds or loud noises is a real condition that you earned the hard way, serving your country. The VA should recognize that.
What Are Some Example VA Ratings for Mental Disorders?
A Zero Rating for Mental Disorders?
This is rare but it sometimes comes out of the regional offices. They are basically throwing you a bone to say “Yes, you have this, but it’s no big deal.” If you get that rating, you want to appeal it by detailing the effects of your mental disorder. It’s not just that you have a condition, but it affects your work or family life in this way… That will help the VA see that it is a real issue.
A 100% VA Rating For Mental Disorders?
If you are in this camp, you are probably not reading this blog post. This is a severe condition and unfortunately, these folks were probably discharged directly into mental health care. These are extreme cases and are very obvious. On the rare occasion that these come across our desk, they are the “How is this person not already awarded 100% from their impairment?!” cases. They are easy as far as getting approved, but heart-wrenching just the same.
This person may be completely socially unresponsive or catatonic. They may have persistent delusions and hallucinations that can’t be controlled with meds. If you are the family member of such a veteran, we can work with you through all of the paperwork necessary, but it still takes some time.
These cases must prove complete occupational and social impairment. If there is any way that you are able to function or respond to anyone, you will probably not attain a 100% mental health rating. Better to combine a 40% mental health rating with another two 20% ratings to add up to TDIU.
If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.courtesy: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Most VA Mental Health Claims are 30%, 50%, or 70%
What it means to have a 70% VA Mental Health Rating
A 70% rating qualifies for TDIU, which pays the same as 100%. You don’t get any more for being 71-100% once you cross 70% for mental health. Veterans with a 70% rating in the mental health category typically have trouble keeping a job and getting along with friends. They have trouble in many walks of life, social and professional.
Many veterans that could have a 70% mental health claim may struggle with homelessness, unemployment, and broken family relationships. Their day may be full of illogical and irrelevant thoughts, making typical social interactions difficult. Lack of impulse control shows up at work in outbursts or fights. These symptoms can have a devastating effect on your job.
It becomes a TDIU consideration when it reaches that level. If you are unable to work because of your mental disability, we’ll make the case for full TDIU. It doesn’t matter if there is some specific job that a person can do in that condition. The Board of Veterans appeals would still consider TDIU disability if the veteran had fits of violence or rage that restricted them from holding a typical job.
What does a 50% Mental Health Disability Rating from the VA Look Like?
A 50% Mental Health rating is not so much that a person is incapacitated or incapable but simply has reduced reliability. As with many of these claims, economic abilities come into play. If you are out of commission for a few weeks out of every month, you might be at the 50% level. A veteran may be able to walk around and function fine in most scenarios, but have ‘flare-ups’ that periodically make him or her unable to be in a social setting.
Circumlocutory speech is one symptom of a mental disability that would warrant a 50% rating. Using big words or talking around the main topic are examples of circumlocutory speech. Rather than making a joke and using big words, regular use of confusing or irrelevant words is a sign of this behavior. Crossing social barriers or repeating the same phrase over and over again are also examples of speech patterns that could be mental conditions.
Besides stereotyped speech, frequent panic attacks and the inability to understand complex tasks are also signs of a mental health condition that should be part of your VA disability claim. These are all issues that need to be taken into your report to make a strong claim.
Can I Get a 30% Rating on Mental Health from the VA?
A 30% mental health rating is still worthy of applying for, even if it won’t get you as much monthly benefit as a 50% or 70% claim. Service members and their families may or may not recognize the conditions that earn a 30% rating.
Mild memory loss can be typical of anybody coming down with a case of “old-timers” but it can also be a sign of a mental health condition. Mild memory loss or an inability to keep track of current events could be service-connected. If a vet is typically alright at work on Monday after a long weekend of being depressed, that would put them into the 30% range.
This also comes back to whether or not their disability keeps them out of a job or not. Veterans and their families might observe behavior that seems normal or no big deal as long as they can keep a job, but should still be listed on your VA form. Rough anniversaries, occasional bad days, and depression that only shows up for a few days every month are all factors that should be listed even though they seem seldom and minor.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
How to Get More Money with a Lower Mental Health Rating
Sometimes a 30% or 50% needs a scheduler argument or a wholistic addition. This means that your disability might only earn you a 30% rating, but because of the nature of the disability, you need extra income. A panic attack that reveals itself by staying shut-in is different than a panic attack that shows in fits of screaming.
A holistic addition means the total picture might make a 30% unemployable through other physical issues. If a veteran had back pain and ankle pain, that could amplify her anxiety about moving around at work. This would create a 30% rating that would have only been a 0% rating without the back and ankle pain. That rating, paired with a 40% rating in another area, would make her eligible for TDIU benefits.
Mental Health Benefits are Complicated
You can see that there are a lot of different ways that mental health disabilities can be diagnosed and applied to your disability claim or appeal. You can call for a friend or family member to get the process started on their disability claim. There is no charge to you unless we win your case, so you have nothing to lose. Our case managers and lawyers look forward to helping you get what you need to live a normal and honorable lifestyle as a veteran.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better 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: (866) 232-5777