Skip to main content
For Immediate Help: 800-544-9144
Veterans Law

7 Most Common Disabilities Among Women Veterans

Kaitlyn Degnan

March 1, 2020

Updated: June 20, 2024

7 Most Common Disabilities Among Women Veterans

Women veterans are the fastest-growing group of veterans in the United States.  As of 2023, there were about 1.7 million women veterans, which represents about 9 percent of all veterans in the U.S. This percentage is expected to grow from 9 to 17 percent by 2040.  Female veterans face health issues due to their military service that may qualify them for VA disability benefits.

We will discuss some statistics concerning women veterans and will break down the seven most common disabilities from which they suffer based on VA’s Annual Benefits Report and information from our 25 years of experience representing disabled veterans.

U.S. Women Veterans Statistics

In 2015, a VA report on women veterans showed that over 405 thousand women veterans received VA disability compensation.  This number represents approximately 20.1 percent of all female veterans.  Of these women veterans, 54 percent of them received a combined rating of 50 percent or higher.

Additionally, according to the 2015 VA report, “about 6 percent of women Veterans who received compensation for service-connected disability were receiving Individual Unemployability compensation … this represents about 1.3 percent” of all women veterans in the United States.

Other insights that this report provides include:

  • In 2015, 840,000 women veterans used at least one VA benefit, which is an increase from 31.2 percent in 2005 to 41.1 percent in 2015;
  • From 2005 to 2015, the total number of female veterans enrolled in VA healthcare increased 83.9 percent; and
  • From 2005 to 2015, the total number of women veterans using VA healthcare increased 46.4 percent.

Accordingly, VA says it is committed to ensuring that these benefits and services for women veterans are made as accessible as possible.  Now we will discuss the most common service-connected conditions among women veterans.

7 Most Common VA Disabilities for Women Veterans

Many medical conditions may occur among female veterans, but some are more common than others.  In 2015, the top four medical conditions alone constituted 29.9 percent of all VA service-connected disabilities for women veterans.  Below are the seven most common VA disabilities for women veterans.

7 Most Common Disabilities Among Women Veterans

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.  While it is natural to experience a range of reactions after a traumatic event, most people recover from the initial symptoms over time.

Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD.  Symptoms of PTSD usually begin within three months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward.

Specific diagnostic criteria for PTSD are divided into different types of symptoms, including the following:

  • Reexperiencing symptoms;
  • Avoidance symptoms;
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms; and
  • Cognition and mood symptoms.

PTSD accounts for 3.5 percent of all service-connected conditions among women veterans, totaling about 162 thousand women.  Veterans may experience some sort of stressor in service that can be due to combat or another stressful experience.

Unfortunately, many veterans, including women, develop PTSD as a result of military sexual trauma (MST).  MST can include sexual harassment and/or sexual assault that occurred during service.  It can become challenging for veterans to prove claims for PTSD because VA requires credible supporting evidence of the in-service stressor.

Some stressors are documented in veterans’ treatment and service records.  However, military sexual trauma (MST)-related stressors may not be documented since incidents are underreported.  Mental health conditions — especially those that arise from MST — can be difficult for a woman veteran to discuss, but it is vital that they do to receive the benefits they have earned.

VA rates PTSD using the General Rating formula for Mental Disorders. Veterans can receive a 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 percent VA rating for PTSD.

2. Back Conditions Among Women Veterans

Musculoskeletal conditions of the back are some of the most common disabilities among women veterans.  In 2015, about 58 percent of women were treated for musculoskeletal conditions of the back whereas about 47 percent of men were being treated for these conditions.

Three different back conditions are most often seen in women:

  • Cervical/Lumbosacral Strain: This condition involves microscopic tears in muscles and tendons, typically due to overuse, and is rated by VA based on the range of motion of the veteran, including bending forwards, backwards, and side-to-side.
  • Intervertebral Disc Syndrome: Characterized by the breakdown of discs between vertebrae, often exacerbated by prolonged sitting, standing, and bending; this condition is rated based on periods of incapacitating episodes requiring bedrest, or range of motion if it results in a higher rating.
  • Degenerative Arthritis of the Spine: This common source of pain is due to the breakdown of cartilage in the neck and back joints and discs, often caused by overuse and repetitive stress.

Other musculoskeletal conditions affecting women veterans include knee, arm, and ankle conditions which comprised 6.5 percent; 3.6 percent; and 3.4 percent of all service-connected conditions for women, respectively.  In total, over 2 million females suffer from a musculoskeletal condition, per the 2022 VA benefits report.

Veterans can receive up to a 100 percent VA disability rating for back conditions, often based on range of motion measurements.

3. Major Depressive Disorder

In 2020, it was noted by the National Association of American Veterans that 51.2 percent of women veterans received mental health services.  This contrasts with only 37.4 percent of male veterans, which may show that women are more likely to experience major depression.

Understandably, depression is associated with military service because a lot of times, people are separated from their families for long periods; undergo multiple deployments; and feel isolated from their support systems.  Women experience these problems, but they also face issues with harassment from their peers and superiors at disproportionate rates.

Depression can also arise as a result of an already service-connected injury.  For example, depression can result from a veteran’ back disability that prevents them from performing activities they once enjoyed. This would be called secondary service connection.

Depression is rated by VA using the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.  Veterans can receive up to a 100 percent VA disability rating for depression.

4. Migraines

Migraine headaches can be very severe and incapacitating.  When someone experiences a migraine, they usually also experience photosensitivity (i.e., sensitivity to light); noise sensitivity; nausea; vomiting; lightheadedness; etc.

How to Get a 50% VA Rating for Migraines

As of 2022, about 201,000 women veterans receive VA disability compensation for migraines.  Some of the most common reasons that migraines are related to service involve other primary conditions, namely, migraines are often secondary to other service-connected conditions.  For example, veterans with neck conditions sometimes develop issues with headaches as well.

Veterans can receive up to a 50 percent VA rating for migraines.

5. Gynecological Conditions

As of 2022, 173,910 women veterans suffered from and received service-connected VA compensation related to gynecological conditions.  The VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) recognizes a variety of gynecological conditions including:

If the gynecological condition first began in service, then that should be enough to establish service connection.  Most of these conditions cannot be rated higher than 30 percent.

Additionally, Gulf War veterans who experience unexplained gynecological issues (i.e., symptoms that cannot be attributed to a known diagnosis), may be entitled to service connection on a presumptive basis.  The law will presume that since the condition cannot be explained, it has something to do with possible exposures in the Persian Gulf.  If the gynecological condition began during service, then service connection may be warranted.

6. Bronchial Asthma

Another common condition among women veterans is bronchial asthma.  In 2022, over 244,000 women received benefits for a respiratory illness — bronchial asthma being one of the most common.

The high rate of bronchial asthma may be due to toxic exposure during their service in the Gulf War.  If their bronchial asthmas have unexplained etiology or pathophysiology, then service connection may be presumed.

The rates of bronchial asthma among women veterans may also be due to post-9/11 service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations where many veterans were exposed to burn pits and inhaled various toxins; carcinogens; smoke; and particulate matter.

7. Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a hearing condition marked by near-constant ringing in your ears.  In 2022, 4.2 percent of female veterans (196,107) were receiving VA compensation for tinnitus. Many veterans file claims for tinnitus in conjunction with claims for hearing loss.

Tinnitus VA Disability Claims and Ratings

Tinnitus is most commonly rated at 10 percent, which is the highest schedular rating for the condition.  There are exceptions to this in extraordinary circumstances, but it is exceedingly difficult to prove and unlikely to succeed in most cases.

It is important to note that sometimes the veteran’s tinnitus is so extraordinary that it leads to conditions such as depression or anxiety.  In these cases, it is possible to get secondary service connection for the mental health condition.  Veterans must provide evidence showing that their mental health condition is caused or aggravated by their tinnitus.

Was Your VA Claim Denied?

Women veterans who suffer a disability are a growing demographic.  These disabilities have the potential to severely impact their daily lives.   However, VA may deny claims for earned service-connected benefits.  Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is a leader in veterans’ law and has been helping veterans for over 25 years obtain the VA benefits they deserve.

Are you a disabled veteran who has had their VA claim denied?  Our dedicated team of VA disability lawyers and accredited advocates may be able to help you.  Call us today at (800) 544-9144 for a free case evaluation to see if we can assist you.

About the Author

Bio photo of Kaitlyn Degnan

Kaitlyn joined CCK in September of 2017 as an Associate Attorney. Her practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Kaitlyn