Anxiety & Depression VA Rating: Disability Claims for Mental Health

Category: Veterans Disability Law

Article by Tuley Law staff

Anxiety & Depression VA Rating: Disability Claims for Mental Health

VA Claim for Depression, Anxiety, and Secondary Conditions

Many people associate VA benefits with physical injuries, but mental health is also an important factor in what harms veterans during and after service. As veterans can get benefits for physical ailments, anxiety and depression, VA rating can be given so veterans can receive disability benefits.

When your life is affected by anxiety and depression to varying degrees impacting your daily life, you may be eligible to receive a VA rating for depression and anxiety. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 1.7 million veterans used the mental health services provided by the VA this past year. You are not alone in your experience with anxiety and depression.

What is Anxiety and Depression?

Depression and anxiety are mental disorders recognized by the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DMS-5). The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Anxiety is defined as an emotion that causes feelings of tension and excessive worry. These feelings can lead to physical changes as well, such as increased blood pressure and trembling. When anxiety disorders occur, people experience intrusive anxious thoughts and concerns.

Depression is a disorder which results in a lack of interest in daily life. Loss of energy and the ability to stay focused can occur. Depression can oftentimes lead to feeling worthless and guilty. Thoughts of death and suicide may come up.

Service Connections for Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

Although an anxiety and depression VA rating is similar to physical disabilities when it comes to benefits, the process of VA rating is different. VA benefits are service-related, and it can be more difficult to establish service-related anxiety and depression in comparison with PTSD or a physical injury.

There are typically three elements of proving service connection:

  1. The veteran has a current diagnosis for their condition
  2. The veteran has evidence proving their condition is service-related, such as an event, injury, or illness
  3. The veteran must prove that their diagnosed condition and the in-service relation are connected. This can usually happen when they provide a medical nexus

A crucial distinction between a VA rating for depression and a VA rating for PTSD is the evidence needed. PTSD service-connections need to be connected by a stressor, or traumatic event. Depression or anxiety VA rating, however, do not need a specific traumatic event. The mental disorder does still need to establish that their symptoms started during their time in service.

Relating Your VA Claim for Depression To Military Service

In order for depression and anxiety to be service related, the veteran’s psychological symptoms must have started during their time in service. The mental disorder, does not have to be a result of the stressor itself.

VA Direct Service Connection

A veteran may experience anxiety and depression as a result of an in-service incident. To provide evidence for a veteran’s anxiety or depression to be service related, they must prove that the symptomatology (symptoms of the mental disorder) started during service and does not need to be because of military-activity. For example, being apart from family is difficult. If an event occurs at home while you are in your military service, it may be difficult to manage everyday tasks because you are worried about what is happening back at home. This could be considered a service-connection since the anxiety started during the veteran’s time of service and impacted their daily life.

VA Secondary Conditions to Depression

It is also possible to have a secondary service connection for anxiety and depression. Secondary service connection happens when you also have a service-connected condition, such as a broken leg or back, and that causes depression or anxiety. If a veteran has chronic pain which affects their everyday life, they may find that their limitations cause feelings of depression in addition to their primary ailment.

Anxiety And Depression VA Rating System

The general rating formula for mental disorders is based upon the DSM-5. The VA will determine ratings for all mental disorders based on the guidelines in the manual. The diagnosed severity outlined in the guidebook will apply the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders found under 38 CFR § 4.130. The rating formula can be assigned as 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% disability ratings. The anxiety and depression VA rating is based on the severity of the anxiety and depression.

0% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

For a 0% rating, the veteran has been diagnosed for the mental disorder of anxiety or depression, yet the symptoms are mild. The VA has determined that daily life and functioning are not interfered with enough to require medical attention such as therapy or medication. The veteran can still function well in social and work situations. Even though the veteran has been officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the depression and anxiety VA rating of 0% is non-compensable. The veteran will have a diagnosis, but not receive monthly payments due to the diagnosis.

10% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

Similar to the 0% rating, the 10% VA rating for depression and anxiety is still fairly mild. However, the veteran will receive compensation. A 10% rating is given when the veteran experiences occupational and social impairments because of their anxiety and depression. Work efficiency and performance decreases, but only in highly stressful situations. Symptoms of the disorder may be controlled by medication.

30% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

At a 30% rating, depression and anxiety symptoms are still mild. General functioning is still normal, and the veteran can practice self-care as well as have positive social interactions. During times of stress, work and social functioning may decrease. The veteran may experience periods of the inability to perform some work and social tasks. Symptoms may include a depressed mood, increased stress, panic attacks that happen on a weekly basis or even less than that, and sleep impairment. They may also be more suspicious of their surroundings or other people and may have mild memory loss. Symptoms may come up over time. Yet generally speaking, the ability to maintain relationships stays intact.

 50% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

The 50% VA rating for depression and anxiety is given when there are even more depression and anxiety symptoms that happen more often and for longer periods of time. The veteran’s depression and anxiety are usually more noticeable by friends, family, and coworkers. The veteran may become unreliable in work and social scenarios. Productivity decreases and is accompanied by more symptoms such as difficulty understanding complex commands and short- and long-term memory loss. Completing tasks will be difficult because of this memory loss. In addition, the veteran shows mood-associated symptoms. Their mood may become “flat,” meaning they are indifferent towards life which can even be heard in a monotone voice and seen in inexpressiveness. Their behavior may change and they may not “act like themselves.”

Their character may seem different and their actions may be different than how they used to be in the past. A 50% anxiety and depression VA rating is also given when panic attacks become more frequent and happen multiple times per week. Relationships also play a big role in the 50% rating — starting and/or maintaining relationships either at work or in their personal lives is more difficult. Symptoms, frequency, duration, and inability to function socially all increase between a 30% and 50% rating.

70% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

A 70% rating includes multiple aspects of anxiety and depression including the intersections or social functioning, mental wellbeing, and physical impacts of the mental disorder. A lot of relationships may look different in social and work life. Judgement calls, thought processes and actions, mood, and family relations may be impaired. Common symptoms for a 70% rating include suicidal thoughts and obsessing over rituals and distractions. Depression and anxiety will be present most of the time. The veteran may need a caregiver because of symptoms including violent episodes, spatial disorientation, and neglecting hygiene.

100% Anxiety and Depression VA Rating

When a veteran is given a 100% anxiety and depression VA rating, they cannot function on their own and have complete work and social impairment. The veteran’s depression and anxiety lead to inappropriate behavior, the inability to communicate with others well, and can even have delusions or hallucinations. Daily activities cannot be done independently (such as showering or brushing teeth), and the veteran will be disoriented. Excessive memory loss is also a symptom of total anxiety and depression.

The need for someone to watch over the veteran increases substantially as they may perform self-harm and attempt suicide. There may even be the thought of hurting others. Typically, a 100% VA rating for depression and anxiety is difficult to obtain. A 100% rating is vastly different than the VA ratings beneath it.

Ratings for Individual Mental Health Conditions

Because the general rating formula for mental disorders applies to multiple psychiatric diagnoses, veterans are not granted separate disability ratings for each diagnosis. Mental health conditions are rated together all under 38 CFR § 4.130 schedule of ratings and are rated on the severity of the symptoms, not necessarily a particular disorder or multiple disorders. The VA looks at the veteran’s conditions and bases the VA rating on the occupational, social, mental, and physical impairments of the veteran’s mental disorder(s).

For example, major depressive disorder VA rating will be measured on the same scale as a generalized anxiety disorder VA rating. The conditions are different, but the symptoms may result in the same impairments of not being able to establish or maintain relationships.

Ratings may vary with the severity of symptoms, too. Panic attack VA disability rating can start at 30%, but with increase in the frequency and duration of panic attacks, can move up to 100%. Panic attacks may be symptoms of anxiety or depression, so the panic attack VA disability rating is given not as an isolated incident or condition but looked at as a whole. If you experience panic attacks, it may be helpful to record each incident prior to your VA C&P exam for depression.

Adjustment Disorder VA Rating System

There is also a form of depression called adjustment disorder. This is typically a short-term condition that has symptoms of depression when a particular stressor occurs or when there is a big life change. Adjustment disorder is not PTSD, rather, adjustment disorder begins within three months of a particular event but will stop around six months post-event. Adjustment disorder will lead to the inability to perform basic functions, but it is temporary.  The adjustment disorder VA rating system is the same as anxiety and depression since it follows the 38 CFR depression rating of the general rating formula for mental disorders. Like all mental health assessments, adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood VA rating can be between 0 and 100 and depends on symptoms shown and how those symptoms affect work and social life.

TDIU for a 100% VA Disability Rating

When there is a gross impairment in thought processes or communication to the point of not being able to function in work and social life, a veteran may be able to qualify for total disability.  To make a VA claim for anxiety and depression for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) benefits, veterans must show they are unable to work because of their anxiety and depression. TDIU provides compensation at the 100% level even if a veteran’s VA Disability rating is less than 100%. A veteran who has a 50% or 70% rating but cannot find work may be eligible. Speak with your experienced Veterans benefits lawyer for individual unemployment benefits.

Additional Resources

If you are a veteran who is experiencing anxiety and depression, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has mental health services that you can utilize. If you are not sure what help you need, if you want to speak with someone, or are in search of a community who empathizes with your conditions, you can find the resources through the VA.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

The experienced lawyers at Tuley Law Office understand the hardships of applying for VA benefits for anxiety and depression. If you have questions or are interested in a no-obligation case evaluation, contact us today. We look forward to working with you.

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