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Veterans Law

How to Increase VA Disability Rating for PTSD

April Donahower

August 16, 2020

Updated: November 20, 2023

How to Increase VA Disability Rating for PTSD

Overview of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a distressing, shocking, or otherwise traumatic event.  Unfortunately, many veterans experience PTSD stemming from their military service.  The symptoms of PTSD can often be very debilitating and have a negative impact on an individual’s daily life. To increase your VA disability rating for PTSD, you will have to show your symptoms have worsened since you were last rated by VA.

How Does VA Rate PTSD?

Once you are service-connected for PTSD, VA will assign a disability rating.  In doing so, VA will consider the frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms along with the resulting level of social and occupational impairment.  In other words, your disability rating reflects how you are affected in both your personal life and your work life.  Generally, the more severe your symptoms are, the higher your disability rating will be.  To determine your disability rating for PTSD, VA uses the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.  This rating scale ranges from 0 percent to 100 percent with in-between ratings of 10, 30, 50, and 70 percent.  Each rating under the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders has specific criteria that a veteran must meet in order to receive that evaluation.

PTSD Rating Scale for VA Disability Claims Explained

What if My PTSD Rating is Too Low?

Unfortunately, many veterans do not receive the PTSD disability rating they truly deserve from the beginning.  If you feel as though VA underestimated the debilitating effects of your PTSD, you have the right to file an appeal.  Under AMA, you can choose from the following three lanes when filing an appeal: (1) the higher-level lane; (2) the supplemental claim lane; and (3) the Notice of Disagreement (i.e., Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals) lane.  With any of these review options, veterans have exactly one year from the decision assigning a low disability rating to file their appeal.  When appealing for a higher PTSD rating, there are a number of things veterans should keep in mind.

Strategies to Increase VA Disability Rating for PTSD

For you to increase your VA disability rating for PTSD, you will have to show that your symptoms have worsened since you were last rated.

Compensation & Pension (C&P) Examinations for PTSD

If you believe your PTSD was under-evaluated, you may want to consider attending an additional Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination.  Here, a VA doctor, typically a psychologist or psychiatrist, will assess your symptomology.  After your exam, the examiner will write up a report that includes a review of the exam findings, any clinical test results, and any relevant medical literature.  It is important for you to be honest and upfront with your examiner about the impact PTSD has on your life.  Additionally, it can be helpful to request a copy of the exam to ensure your condition was evaluated properly and reflected accurately what you said.  From there, you can submit arguments to VA in support of a higher rating, using the examiner’s findings as evidence.

Lay Statements

Lay evidence refers to written statements provided by a veteran, or those familiar with the veteran’s situation, that aim to help prove a claim for VA disability benefits.  Lay evidence, also referred to as lay statements or buddy statements, can be valuable and versatile pieces of evidence to prove various types of claims, including increased rating claims for PTSD.  Anyone with personal knowledge of the veteran’s PTSD can write a lay statement.  This can include a spouse, family members, friends, coworkers, employers, service member, etc.  The lay statement should outline the onset and progression of the veteran’s PTSD along with the social and occupational impairment they experience as a result of the condition.  Again, veterans can submit this piece of evidence on its own, or with an argument highlighting the main facts.

Highlighting Specific Symptoms from the Criteria

The General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders assesses the impact  a large number of symptoms within its different criteria.  Oftentimes VA will deny a higher rating because a veteran does not endorse the majority of symptoms in the rating criteria.  However, a veteran does not need to endorse all of these symptoms to qualify for a specific rating.  For example, a veteran can meet only one or two symptoms in the 70 percent rating criteria (e.g., suicidal ideation and near-continuous panic) and still qualify for that rating.  The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) decided in Mauerhan v. Principi that the symptoms listed in Diagnostic Code 9411 (PTSD) are not intended to constitute an exhaustive list, but rather serve as examples of the type and degree of the symptoms, or their effects, that would justify a particular rating.  Therefore, a veteran can have any number of the symptoms listed in the rating criteria and still meet that level of evaluation.

CCK May Be Able to Help Veterans Increase VA Disability Rating for PTSD

If you believe you are entitled to a higher VA disability rating for your PTSD, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help.  Our skilled veterans’ attorneys and agents have years of experience representing veterans with PTSD before the Department of Veterans Affairs and the CAVC.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation at 800-544-9144.

About the Author

Bio photo of April Donahower

April joined Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick in August of 2016 as an Associate Attorney. She currently serves as the Appellate Supervisor in our Veterans Law practice. April’s practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

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