When military members leave service and return to their civilian lives, they often have difficulty feeling “normal.” Mental health conditions far too often plague veterans, and major depressive disorder, commonly called depression, is one of the biggest problems.
In this article, we’ll discuss how veterans can receive a VA disability rating for depression, how depression relates to PTSD, how to file for benefits, and what to do if you’re denied VA disability compensation for major depressive disorder. If depression or another mental illness interferes with your life after serving, help is available. No veteran should have to suffer because of paperwork issues or wrongful denials.
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In this article about the VA rating for depression:
- Can you claim depression as a VA disability?
- Secondary service-connected impairments and major depressive disorder
- VA disability for depression and co-occurring disorders
- Depression and Individual Unemployability benefits
- How to apply for VA disability benefits for depression
- VA disability for depression denials and appeals
- Talk to a VA disability benefits lawyer
Can you claim depression as a VA disability?
VA disability law provides disability payments to those who developed a health condition as a result of their service in the military. Vets may also qualify if their service worsened a condition.
Of course, no two veterans are the same. Some get denied VA disability for depression. Others receive a VA rating of 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. As you can see in the table below, you could receive $165.92 a month for a 10% rating and $3,621.95 a month for a 100% rating.
|Disability Rating||Monthly Payment (veteran only)|
It’s an unfortunate fact, but depression is common among veterans. In fact, some studies suggest the rate of major depressive disorder is five times higher among vets than non-vets.
Because common conditions among vets — like traumatic brain injury (TBI) and depression — often occur together, veterans are at increased risk of dealing with issues that can interfere with their ability to work or lead a normal life.
If you are experiencing depression and believe it is related to your service, filing for VA disability benefits will bring you a step closer to receiving the benefits you earned through service.
Secondary service-connected impairments and major depressive disorder
If depression isn’t your primary impairment, it can still help you receive a higher rating. If you’re able to service connect depression — even if it’s secondary to a physical impairment — you may receive a higher monthly benefit amount.
Veterans with depression might experience long-term physical pain, which would make depression secondary to their physical impairment. For example, a veteran with chronic back pain may develop severe depression when unable to participate in regular activities. If you can’t keep a job because of your back pain, you may be eligible for TDIU benefits with panic or depression contributing to your combined rating.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, major depressive disorder often co-occurs with other suicidal thoughts or other mental conditions. Whether the condition is listed as primary or secondary, it’s important to include all conditions on your claim seeking VA disability for depression in order to increase your benefits rating.
However, if you have more than one mental health condition, the VA will likely award a single rating that compensates you for all symptoms rather than a separate evaluation for each diagnosed condition.
VA disability for depression and co-occurring disorders
Unfortunately, depression often isn’t the only struggle veterans deal with after their service. Former service members face a range of common co-occurring disorders, which can make each condition more difficult to treat.
Some of the most common disorders simultaneously occurring with major depressive disorder include anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia.
More than two-thirds of Afghanistan and Iraq combat veterans with PTSD also experience depression.
You can apply for VA disability benefits for PTSD and depression at the same time. You will probably receive a single rating for all your mental health conditions. Vets with more severe symptoms typically receive higher VA ratings.
Depression and Individual Unemployability benefits
If you’re unable to work due to depression or other mental and physical conditions, you may be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU or TDIU) benefits. You are eligible for TDIU if you are unable to maintain gainful employment because of a service-connected disability or a combination of service-connected disabilities.
If you have one disability that precludes you from working, it must be rated at least 60%. If you have more than one service-connected condition, you must have a combined rating of 70%, and at least one of the conditions must be rated at 40% or higher.
How to apply for VA disability benefits for depression
Mistakes in the application process are a leading cause for wrongfully denied VA disability claims. Stick to the following steps, and you’ll improve your chances of receiving the benefits you’ve earned.
- Gather your evidence: The VA doesn’t simply take you at your word when you file for disability benefits. You must provide evidence that can help them grant service connection and assign an appropriate VA disability benefits rating. This means you’ll need to gather medical evidence supporting your claim.
- Do your research: Before filing for VA disability for depression, do a bit of research about the process. There are actually thousands of federal regulations you can take advantage of. For instance, some regulations offer the chance to expedite your claim.
- Fill out the application: When completing the application for benefits, it’s vital that you provide all requested information correctly. Even minor mistakes can delay your claim.
- Ask for a qualified opinion: Before submitting your paperwork, contact our law firm for a qualified opinion. We never charge veterans for help filing the initial application. We’re ready to answer all your questions. This will ensure you get your application right the first time, and that means you could avoid the VA disability appeals process entirely.
- Submit the application: Once you’ve completed your application and received a qualified opinion, make sure you send it to the right place. Veterans often send their claims to the wrong VA regional office which can slow down the process considerably. Call us today if you aren’t sure where to send your application. We’ll get you the correct information.
- Continue treatment with doctors: Don’t cease medical treatment just because you got the paperwork you needed to file. If you end up needing a VA disability rating appeal, we can use continued treatment as evidence in your appeal.
VA disability for depression denials and appeals
Many veterans’ initial VA disability claims are denied. No one is perfect, and mistakes can occur at any step in the process. Regardless of the reason for the denial, thousands of veterans contact us each year after being denied VA disability benefits.
If you’ve been denied VA disability for major depressive disorder, it doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to benefits. If your claim was denied or if you didn’t get the rating you think you deserve, you can appeal within 12 months of the decision date. If it’s been longer than a year since you first filed, you can submit a brand new claim, which starts the process over.
Talk to a VA disability benefits lawyer
Whether you’re just starting the claims process or need to submit an appeal, Woods & Woods is here to help. Since 1985, we’ve fought for injured and disabled veterans. We’re recognized nationally as a leading veterans disability benefits law firm, and we’ve helped thousands of veterans and their family members.
We also offer free claim evaluations for those seeking VA benefits for depression and other conditions. If you decide to hire us, we never charge a fee unless your benefits claim is successful. Our fee is a percentage of your back pay and case expenses — we’ll never bill by the hour or touch your future benefits.
When you hire Woods & Woods, you’ll gain access to experienced veterans disability lawyers and large support staff. Your team will include attorneys, doctors, case managers, and psychologists. We’ll strive to ensure your VA disability for depression claim is successful — and we’ll fight to make sure you get every penny you deserve.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If you developed depression as a result of your military service or if your condition worsened because of your service, you may qualify for VA benefits.
If your service-connected depression is preventing you from keeping a job, you may be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU or TDIU) benefits. You are eligible for TDIU if you are unable to maintain gainful employment because of a service-connected disability or a combination of service-connected disabilities.