Getting Veterans (VA) Disability for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If you are living with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by military service, you may be entitled to VA disability compensation for this condition. The process of obtaining service-connected disability benefits, however, can be stressful and take years to navigate. Fortunately, a qualified VA disability attorney can help you obtain veterans (VA) disability for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The VA disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD will fight on your behalf in pursuit of VA benefits for PTSD. We have extensive experience representing clients in VA disability cases, and we will put our knowledge and vast resources to work aggressively pursuing your case. Call our office today for a free consultation: 844-549-4500.
How Can I Qualify for VA Benefits for PTSD?
Navigating the VA disability process can be difficult, and you will need to build a compelling case to have the best chance of obtaining the benefits you need. As your veterans disability advocates, we gather substantial evidence on your behalf to build a strong case that supports the maximum amount of benefits to which you are entitled.
Your monthly benefit amount is based on how severe the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) believes your condition is, which is gauged by the frequency and severity of symptoms. VA acknowledges that these symptoms can impact social factors, such as family relationships, and the ability to maintain gainful employment. To qualify for VA disability benefits for PTSD, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions;
- You must have a diagnosis of PTSD;
- Your symptoms must be tied to a traumatic event, or “stressor,” that occurred during your military service;
- You must have documented medical evidence from a medical professional that the in-service stressor is what caused your PTSD.
Compensation and Pension Examinations for PTSD
As discussed above, veterans must show a link between their PTSD and military service in order to receive disability compensation. When it comes to establishing a medical nexus opinion, VA will likely order a Compensation and Pension examination (C&P exam) in order to have a doctor opine on whether your PTSD is related to your service. During a C&P exam for PTSD, the medical examiner will likely complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ).
A DBQ uses check boxes and standardized language so that the disability evaluation can be made quickly and correctly. Specifically, healthcare providers will “check a box” next to a description that most accurately depicts the disability in question – in this case, PTSD. However, it is important to note that a DBQ will not be used if the veteran is undergoing an initial exam for PTSD.
Diagnosing PTSD during a C&P Exam
VA uses criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) to evaluate whether there is a valid diagnosis of PTSD. This diagnostic criteria section of the DBQ is broken down into six categories (Criteria A-F). The subsequent section lists additional symptoms related to PTSD. Assuming a veteran meets all of the criteria from the DSM-V necessary for a PTSD diagnosis, the symptoms section of the DBQ will then help determine an appropriate disability evaluation.
Another important section of the DBQ addresses the veteran’s level of occupational and social impairment. Here, the level of impairment due to PTSD ranges from no diagnosis to total occupational and social impairment, with various levels in between. Veterans should be honest and forthcoming about how their PTSD affects their everyday life. Doing so will further help the examiner see the full extent of the condition.
How Does VA Rate PTSD?
After the C&P exam is complete, VA adjudicators will review it along with all of the other evidence in the veteran’s claims file. Specifically, VA rates PTSD under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic code 9411, and assigns a disability rating ranging from 0 to 100 percent with in-between ratings of 10, 30, 50, and 70 percent. The rating assigned is based on the level of social and occupational impairment, and the frequency, duration, and severity of symptoms.
10% PTSD Rating
A 10 percent PTSD rating is the lowest compensable rating offered by VA’s rating criteria for mental disorders. As such, the rating criteria reflects very minimal and often well-controlled symptomology. When assigning a 10 percent PTSD rating, VA will look for the following:
- “Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication.”
In this case, a veteran may experience certain PTSD symptoms that are exacerbated during periods of stress, but ultimately do not impair his or her ability to work in most occupations. Furthermore, the increase in severity of PTSD symptoms during periods of stress implies that the symptoms tend to be episodic otherwise. This means that they are not always present and therefore do not significantly interfere with occupational and social functioning. Moreover, when symptoms are present, it is likely that you have the ability to control them with treatment or medication.
30% PTSD Rating
The criterion for a 30 percent PTSD rating under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic Code 9411, is as follows:
- “Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)”.
The criterion for a 30 percent PTSD rating is meant to represent mild PTSD symptomology. In this case, “occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks” might mean that you are starting to periodically miss work due to your lack of motivation associated with PTSD.
However, your PTSD does not fully prevent you from performing and succeeding in a work environment. Furthermore, you may experience symptoms such as depressed mood, anxiety, and panic attacks. This may cause you to occasionally isolate yourself. Nonetheless, you are still able to maintain relationships with others. Overall, a 30 percent PTSD rating is assigned when a veteran demonstrates these symptoms presented in a mild manner, intermittently over time.
50% PTSD Rating
To receive a 50 percent PTSD rating, veterans must demonstrate the following:
- “Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect, circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g. retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships”.
The 50 percent PTSD rating criterion involves an escalation in the frequency, duration, and severity of PTSD symptoms. Furthermore, there are several additional symptoms included in this criterion that were not included in the lower ratings. If you receive a 50 percent PTSD rating, it is likely that you are beginning to display more noticeable cognitive deficits such as difficulty following instructions or making decisions that depart from past behavior.
Additionally, some of the mood-associated symptomology including depression and anxiety may begin to manifest in physiological ways, such as a flattened affect. In other words, due to feelings of depression, you might speak in a monotonous tone and lack facial expressions. The symptoms mentioned above might then cause a decrease in your ability to efficiently complete work-related tasks.
70% PTSD Rating
To be eligible for a 70 percent PTSD rating, the following criterion must be met:
- “Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a work-like setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.”
The 70 percent disability rating criterion for PTSD is the most inclusive insofar as it represents a wide array of symptoms. Furthermore, it also reflects a progression of the symptoms included in the lower disability ratings. Namely, a veteran who receives a 70 percent PTSD rating suffers from all of the symptoms included in the 50 percent rating, but at a higher frequency, severity, and duration. Here, the veteran is almost always in a state of panic or depression that affects his or her ability to interact with others.
The veteran may also have trouble controlling his or her emotions in a way that leads to violent outbursts or conflicts with others. The level of occupational and social impairment may be evidenced by the veteran’s inability to hold down a job or complete classes for school. Additionally, a veteran may engage in obsessional rituals such as checking the locks on his or her doors multiple times throughout the course of a day as a result of being hypervigilant.
100% PTSD Rating
A 100 percent PTSD rating is often difficult to obtain through VA because it requires a veteran’s symptoms to be so severe that they are totally impaired and unable to function in everyday life. The criterion for a 100 percent PTSD rating is as follows:
- “Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.”
The above-mentioned symptoms represent a substantial decline in cognitive and emotional functioning as compared to the rating criteria for lower percentages. Importantly, this decline results in a total impairment when it comes to a veteran’s work life and personal life. Specifically, a veteran may experience hearing voices or perceiving things that are not actually present. Self-injurious behaviors and suicide attempts are also consistent with a 100 percent rating.
In addition to this suicidality, a 100 percent PTSD rating also includes homicidal ideation in which a veteran might have thoughts of harming others. An intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living can involve a veteran feeling too depressed to get out of bed, take a shower, or change clothes. All of these symptoms and behaviors are consistent with the highest level of impairment reflected by the rating criterion.
How Much Can I Receive in VA Disability Benefits for PTSD?
The amount you receive in monthly benefits depends on the disability rating assigned for your PTSD. Each disability rating percentage increment on VA’s rating schedule corresponds to a different monthly benefit amount. The higher the disability rating, the more a veteran receives in monthly compensation. As of 2019, single veterans with PTSD can expect to receive the following amounts after a grant of VA benefits:
- 0% – $0.00 per month
- 10% – $142.29 per month
- 30% – $435.69 per month
- 50% – $893.43 per month
- 70% – $1,426.17 per month
- 100% – $3,106.04 per month
Additional Benefits for Dependents
Veterans with conditions rated at least 30% disabling can qualify to receive additional benefits for dependents in their household, such as a spouse, child, or dependent parent. For example, if a veteran has a 100 percent disability rating with a dependent spouse, they can receive up to $3,279.22 each month (compared to $3,106.04 for a veteran alone).
How Can a Qualified VA Benefits Attorney Help Me Get the Maximum Amount of Benefits for PTSD?
The VA is a large, bureaucratic administration not known for efficiency or transparency, and the decisions it makes are not always correct. Many veterans with legitimate service-related medical conditions get denied the first time they apply for benefits. If you receive a denial, the appeals process can be lengthy and difficult. The experienced VA disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD can assist you with the appeals process. The more than 25 years of experience representing veterans have given us the knowledge of exactly how to deal with the VA and its complexities.
The consultation is always free, so call our office today at 844-549-4500. We look forward to putting our knowledge, experience, and resources to work for you.
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