People diagnosed with adjustment disorder react excessively when faced with a stressor. Military members are at risk for developing adjustment disorder during their service. VA disability adjustment disorder ratings are available to veterans diagnosed with the condition as a result of their service.
The VA disability rating for adjustment disorder ranges from 0% to 100%, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Veterans with adjustment disorder may also be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU).
In This Article About Adjustment Disorder
- Adjustment Disorder in Veterans
- What is Adjustment Disorder?
- Types of Adjustment Disorders
- What is the Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and Anxiety Disorder?
- What’s the Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD?
- Adjustment Disorder and Military Service Connection
- VA Disability Adjustment Disorder
- Do Veterans with Adjustment Disorder Qualify for IU?
- Is a Discharge for Adjustment Disorder Honorable?
- Filing a Claim for Adjustment Disorder Benefits
- How Woods and Woods Can Help
Adjustment Disorder in Veterans
The most common mental health disorder diagnosed in U.S. veterans is adjustment disorder, a condition related to stress. In upsetting situations, veterans with adjustment disorder experience more stress than normal and have exaggerated reactions to stressors.
The Cleveland Clinic estimates that 2 to 8% of the general population is affected by adjustment disorder, and twice as many women as men are diagnosed. This statistic holds in the military—two times as many active-duty servicewomen are diagnosed with adjustment disorder than their male counterparts.
The Psychological Health Center of Excellence shows that adjustment disorder diagnoses in military populations increased from 2% to 5.6% between 2005 and 2017. These diagnoses continued to grow in both combat and peacetime.
What is Adjustment Disorder?
Adjustment disorder is a type of mental health disorder. When faced with a stressful situation, a veteran with adjustment disorder reacts disproportionately, either emotionally, behaviorally, or both, because of the excessive stress the veteran experienced. The oversized reaction happens within three months of the stressor appearing and resolves within six months of it going away.
This disorder affects how veterans feel, think, and act. Veterans with adjustment disorder may have a hard time at work or difficulty keeping a job and could experience trouble in their relationships. Some psychiatrists rank the severity of adjustment disorder below major depression, while others believe it is a serious contributor to suicidal behavior.
Types of Adjustment Disorders
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes six different types of adjustment disorder diagnoses. These types are diagnosed based on the primary symptoms the veteran experiences. These symptoms are severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life, whether at work or home.
Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood
Veterans with adjustment disorder with depressed mood may experience crying and tearfulness, hopelessness, a sad or depressed mood, and may not experience enjoyment as much as they did before.
Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety
Veterans with adjustment disorder with anxiety may experience separation anxiety, nervousness, and feelings of being worried and overwhelmed. These veterans may feel jittery and have trouble concentrating.
Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood
Veterans with adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood may experience a combination of the symptoms associated with both the depressed mood and anxiety classifications.
Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct
Veterans with adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct may act impulsively and recklessly. They may be destructive or violent and generally rebel against society’s norms.
Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance or Emotions and Conduct
Veterans with adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance or emotions and conduct may have symptoms of all of the above adjustment disorders.
Adjustment Disorder Unspecified
Adjustment disorder unspecified includes symptoms that do not fit one of the above types of disorders ranging from physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, and heart palpitations or behavioral symptoms like social withdrawal.
What is the Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and Anxiety Disorder?
Veterans with anxiety disorder don’t always have a specific triggering stressor, and their symptoms can last for more than six months.
Veterans diagnosed with adjustment disorder will normally see their symptoms go away when the event that triggered their overly stressful reaction is gone. However, chronic adjustment disorder can last for more than six months.
As noted above, veterans can also be diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxiety, a specific type of adjustment disorder that has many of the same symptoms as anxiety.
What’s the Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after an interaction with an extremely traumatic event. Adjustment disorders can develop after interactions with stressors that are less extreme.
Veterans may be diagnosed with adjustment disorders after stressful events or life changes. Veterans with adjustment disorders will also see their symptoms subside within six months of the stressor being removed from their lives, while veterans with PTSD may experience symptoms for much longer.
One of our VA disability lawyers explains how to service connect a disability caused by your military service.
Adjustment Disorder and Military Service Connection
In a study of junior and senior service members, adjustment disorder was the most common mental health diagnosis. In another study, adjustment disorder was the most common diagnosis of any type for U.S. Air Force basic trainees who were recommended for separation from the military.
Stressful situations cause adjustment disorder. For veterans, this could be the death of someone close, relationship issues with those around and at home, financial difficulties, or traumatic incidents during deployment. In addition, the lack of access to the usual support systems during service may also contribute to the development of adjustment disorder.
Serious health issues are also a cause of adjustment disorder. If a veteran was injured during deployment, the veteran could be eligible for compensation for adjustment disorder on a secondary basis.
VA Disability Adjustment Disorder
The VA rates mental health conditions using the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. The agency looks at the frequency and duration of the symptoms and the remissions’ length to determine what rating to give. The VA also factors in the severity of the symptoms and their impact on daily life. These conditions will be rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100%.
The Code of Federal Regulations refers to adjustment disorder as chronic adjustment disorder (diagnostic code 9440).
Because adjustment disorders may have both physical and psychological symptoms, the VA will evaluate which are more disabling and provide a rating based on the diagnostic code for that condition.
Do Veterans with Adjustment Disorder Qualify for IU?
Veterans with adjustment disorder may qualify for individual unemployability (IU) if their rating is 60% or more and the veteran cannot maintain employment because of their service-connected disorder.
If the veteran has multiple diagnoses, the veteran may still qualify for IU if the combined rating is 70% and one of the ratings is 40% or more.
Is a Discharge for Adjustment Disorder Honorable?
In some situations, veterans may not be able to access disability compensation if they were discharged under other than honorable conditions.
The American Psychiatric Association noted that other than honorable (OTH) or “bad paper,” discharges have sometimes been given when rehabilitation or medical retirement would have been more appropriate. This may have been because it was faster for commanders to use administrative discharges to remove and replace service members than to organize medical options.
Veterans with mental health disorders who believe they were wrongly discharged as OTH can contact their Board for Correction of Military Records to ask for a reason for discharge correction or a discharge upgrade.
If a veteran was denied benefits due to a discharge under OTH conditions but has since received a discharge upgrade, that veteran should contact a veterans disability benefits attorney to assist with an appeal or file a new claim.
Filing a Claim for Adjustment Disorder Benefits
Veterans with adjustment disorders must file a claim to explain how their military service caused the disorder. They should mention specific in-service stressors and how the condition has continued to affect daily life.
Before submitting the claim, a VA disability lawyer should review the paperwork to ensure it’s correct and that it arrives at the right office. Woods & Woods provides free help to veterans filing an initial application. Contacting an attorney first can prevent delays in approval and even reduce the likelihood of an appeals process.
How Woods and Woods Can Help
Call Woods and Woods for free guidance on your initial claim filings. We never charge for help filling out the initial application and can help you get the benefits you need quicker.
If you are going through an appeals process, hire an experienced VA disability lawyer. Woods and Woods has represented thousands of veterans and knows how to construct innovative and strong case strategies. The team includes accomplished lawyers, doctors, and a research support team to provide all the resources your case needs to be successful.
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops after interactions with extremely traumatic events. Adjustment disorders can develop after interactions with stressors that are less extreme. Veterans may be diagnosed with adjustment disorders after stressful events or life changes. They will also see their symptoms subside within six months of the stressor being removed from their lives, while veterans with PTSD may experience symptoms much longer.
Veterans with adjustment disorder may qualify for individual unemployability (IU) if the rating given is 60% or more and the veteran cannot maintain employment because of this service-connected disorder. If the veteran has multiple diagnoses, the veteran may still qualify for IU if the combined rating is 70% and one of the ratings is 40% or more.