Anxiety VA Rating
When a veteran is suffering from service-connected anxiety disorders like PTSD or General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), they can qualify not only for medical and mental health coverage but also up to 100 percent disability compensation. The amount in compensation through monthly tax-free payments that you are entitled to depends upon the anxiety VA rating that you are assigned. The amount you are entitled to depends upon your current diagnosis and evidence submitted to both link it to your service and demonstrate how your symptoms impact your day-to-day life and ability to work. Working with one of the VA disability lawyers from our VA benefits law firm ensures that your application contains everything needed to accurately rate your anxiety, or to successfully appeal a denial.
As clarified by the National Institute of Health (NIH), occasional anxiety is normal, but anxiety becomes a disorder when the symptoms do not go away or worsen in time and ultimately interfere with day-to-day activities like work and social interactions. There are a number of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, as well as phobia disorders. The VA classifies PTSD as an anxiety-related disorder but has a separate application process and form, linked below.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD generally involves feelings of anxiety or dread that get in the way of everyday life. Symptoms of GAD include:
- Experiencing difficulty trying to control feelings of worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily tired
- Feelings of being restless or on edge
- Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep
GAD can be caused by worries linked to everyday life, due to past traumatic experiences, and due to current concerns in life that are caused by outside sources. Conditions that the VA covers can be primary, meaning they were directly caused by a service-related injury, illness, or event, or secondary. Secondary conditions are due to primary conditions, and may be factored into your VA disability rating. GAD can be a primary or secondary condition, and it is essential that you receive an accurate medical diagnosis of your condition.
Individuals experiencing panic disorder have frequent and unplanned panic attacks, which are periods of sudden and intense discomfort, fear, or feelings of a loss of control. This can happen even when there is no present danger or active trigger. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Chest pain
- A feeling of impending doom
- Tingling or trembling
- A sense of being out of control
For one of our clients, each time he experienced these panic attacks, he would break out in hives, which is medically referred to as urticaria. In his case, he was assaulted in the service but never reported it. But his service treatment records (STRs) documented the hives, which gave us the hook we needed to establish the presence of a psychiatric event during service. We were able to establish service-connection for the anxiety condition based on the presence of hives in his service treatment records. Similarly, we have won other cases for veterans whose panic or anxiety manifested by severe skin itching. When developing this veteran’s case, we expanded on the field of pscyhodermatology, which deals with how psychiatric conditions, like anxiety, can manifest as skin problems.
Persons with panic disorder may experience frequent panic attacks and the fear that a panic attack can happen at any time. This impacts work performance and social interactions and can lead to a VA disability rating in line with how disabling your symptoms are.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD develops in persons who have encountered shocking, scary, or dangerous events. Combat veterans are some of the persons who are most likely to experience PTSD, which is characterized by symptoms including:
- Re-experiencing symptoms
- Avoidance symptoms
- Cognition and mood symptoms
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms
Re-experiencing symptoms include:
- Experiencing flashbacks of the traumatic event, often including physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat or sweating
- Experiencing distressing thoughts
- Experiencing physical manifestations of stress
- Experiencing recurrent memories or dreams linked to the traumatic event
Veterans who suffer from flashbacks may experience flashbacks at any given time, which can lead to their engaging in avoidance behaviors.
Avoidance symptoms include:
- Avoiding places, objects, or events that remind the PTSD sufferer of the initial traumatic experience
- Avoiding feelings or thoughts that are linked to the traumatic event
Avoidance behaviors can lead to decreased productivity at work and a drop in social engagement and the quality of personal relationships.
Arousal and reactivity symptoms generally include:
- Difficult concentrating
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feelings of irritability and sometimes angry outbursts
- Feelings of being tense or on edge
- Engaging in reckless, destructive, or risky behavior
Arousal symptoms are generally constant, which in turn results in a negative impact on daily life, including concentrating, eating, and sleeping.
Cognition and mood symptoms are as follows:
- Experiencing ongoing negative emotions such as guilt, anger, fear, or shame
- Experiencing negative thoughts about the world or oneself
- Trouble remembering key parts of a traumatic event
- A loss of enjoyment in activities
- Feelings of social isolation
- Experiencing difficulty feeling positive emotions like satisfaction or happiness
The symptoms of your PTSD and the evidence you provide to the VA from respected medical experts and psychologists, as well as statements from persons familiar with your condition, informs the anxiety VA rating that you receive.
Rating Percentages Assigned to Anxiety by the VA
For anxiety and depression disorders, veterans are eligible to receive a VA rating of 0 percent, 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent, as follows:
- 0 percent – You have a diagnosis, but it does not interfere with your social life or work and does not require medication
- 10 percent – Mild symptoms that require medication, and you experience a decrease in work efficiency in high-stress situations
- 30 percent – Your symptoms cause a moderate impact on your social life and ability to work, with symptoms including anxiety, panic attacks, sleep impairment, and even memory loss
- 50 percent – This rating means that you are impaired socially and at work and experience difficulty following instructions, impaired judgment, and regular panic attacks
- 70 percent – When your anxiety results in substantial impairments in most areas of your life and put you in a constant state of panic or depression, or your personal relationships are severely impacted, this rating will be assigned
- 100 percent – Your condition results in a total inability to function in daily life socially and at work
PTSD is an anxiety-related disorder and is rated in the same percentages as other anxiety disorders. In an example decision made by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, it was determined that a veteran whose service-connected anxiety reaction had been rated at 50 percent could be upgraded to a 70 percent rating, with TDIU, or total disability for individual unemployability. TDIU is individual unemployability compensation provided by the VA, which provides a veteran with disability compensation equal to the 100 percent rate.
The anxiety VA rating that is assigned to your condition determines how much you are eligible to receive each month in tax-free compensation, but this is only available to you if you properly file your application with sufficient supporting evidence and are approved.
Filing an Anxiety Claim
The process of filing for VA disability benefits for your anxiety begins like any other VA disability application. Additional forms will be filed alongside your general VA disability application to support your claim, depending upon which anxiety disorder you have been diagnosed with and the types of evidence you intend upon submitting.
Required forms include:
- VA Form 21-526EZ – is the general VA disability compensation application that all veterans applying for disability submit and must be supported by sufficient evidence to prove your current condition, its impact on your life and work, and its connection to your qualifying active service
- VA Form 21-0781 – Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD – This form is for veterans who have received a PTSD diagnosis and want to apply for the relevant VA disability rating and benefits.
- VA Form 21-0781a – A Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Secondary to Personal Assault – This form is used when your PTSD is due to a personal assault, including sexual assault
- VA Form 21-4138 – Statement in Support of Claim – This is the form that you are able to use when submitting additional medical evidence or expert opinions in support of your claim, in addition to “buddy statements,” which are statements from persons with firsthand knowledge of how your condition impacts your life and ability to work
The exact forms that will support your VA disability claim can vary depending on your unique situation, and an experienced VA disability lawyer can help guide you through the process. Under the newer AMA system, if your claim has been denied before more than a year ago, you will need to file a supplemental claim and submit new and relevant evidence to reopen the previous denial.
The Importance of Supporting Medical Evidence
The VA will conduct a compensation and pension (C&P) exam to determine the extent to which your symptoms impact your day-to-day life and, most importantly, your ability to work. The purpose of your VA claims review, or an appeal review if your initial claim was denied, is to determine whether the evidence submitted demonstrates a disability they recognize, its possible connection to service, and what the appropriate rating should be. If the C&P is in the context of an increased rating appeal, then the focus of the exam will be solely on the severity of the symptoms. Only in original service connection claims will the C&P examiner address the issue of causation, i.e. is your current anxiety disorder linked to active duty.
When it comes to anxiety, supporting evidence from a mental health professional who has been given the chance to thoroughly assess and treat your anxiety is extremely helpful to your claim. If you simply submit a claim that relies on your military records and statements of your condition during a C&P exam, your disability may not receive an accurate or complete rating or may be denied service connection.. Providing a psychologist’s opinion that your anxiety directly impacts your capacity to work will bolster your VA disability application when packaged in a way the VA can accept.
Proving the Service-Connection and Nexus Letters
To be eligible to collect VA disability benefits, a veteran must:
- Have a current diagnosis of a VA-recognized medical or mental health condition or disability
- The evidence must show that something happened in service
- The current diagnosis must be linked to the veteran’s qualifying active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and the documented in-service event. Usually, unless a presumption applies, the veteran must have a medical opinion that links the current diagnosis to the active service, often referred to as a nexus letter
A nexus letter is the opinion of a medical expert who clearly communicates that your current diagnosis is a result of a service-connected event, injury, or illness. A medical expert will conduct a present assessment of your condition and review evidence from your military medical records and statements you provide from others like peers in the military, leaders in the military, or employers.
The expert will then determine the degree of likelihood that your current condition is linked to your active service on an ascending scale of “not likely,” “at least as likely as not,” “more than likely,” and “highly likely.” The VA awards benefits when the assessment is “at least as likely as not” or greater. In other words, you need only to establish a connection to service to a degree of 50 percent probability. This means a tie should result in service connection.
Connect with a VA Disability Lawyer for Help with Your Anxiety VA Rating
The evidence you submit from medical experts and current or former employers proving the impact of your anxiety on your day-to-day life and ability to work will determine the extent of your compensation. While you might not know what exactly the VA is looking for, our experienced VA disability lawyers do. To learn how we can help, call toll-free at 888-915-3843 or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.
How can I prove my VA disability for anxiety?
To prove your VA disability for anxiety, you’ll need to undergo a compensation and pension (C&P) exam, and submit your VA disability application alongside sufficient supporting medical evidence and other supporting data for the VA to accurately rate your anxiety.
Does anxiety fall under PTSD for VA disability?
No, PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder by the VA, with other recognized anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
How does the VA rate PTSD and anxiety?
The VA rates anxiety disorders like PTSD and GAD like any other disability, by performing a C&P exam as appropriate, and by thoroughly reviewing your medical evidence and other statements to determine the impact of your anxiety disorder on your ability to live your day-to-day life and to work. Aside from this, the VA rates all mental health disorders under the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. This means that so long as the diagnosis is not a personality disorder, the VA will rate any of the various mental health diagnoses under the same rating formula. As such, it is generally not productive to argue about whether a condition is depression versus anxiety. So long as you can service connect the condition, the VA will rate it based on the same criteria, regardless of diagnosis.
What is the VA rating for mental stress?
General mental stress is not a recognized mental health condition, so it is not rated by the VA for disability. For a mental health-related condition to be recognized and compensated through VA disability, it must be a condition listed in the DSM-5, a listing of psychological conditions and their symptoms published by the American Psychological Association. However, the VA will not pay disability compensation for a personality disorder. These conditions are considered congenital and not subject to service connection. Often, a veteran will receive an incorrect diagnosis during service of a personality disorder, but later after service, the diagnosis becomes something like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or PTSD. In those cases, it is useful to prove that the in-service diagnosis of a personality disorder was a misdiagnosis.
This “misdiagnosis” can then be used to prove the in-service occurrence of a psychiatric manifestation, and serve as the foundation to prove an in-service event. The other issue is that even if there is a personality disorder diagnosis, a veteran may also have a co-morbid acquired psychiatric condition that is subject to service connection. The VA will try to characterize the case as all or nothing in favor of a personality disorder, so it can deny the claim. But veterans and their advocates need to understand that people with personality disorders are highly likely to have other conditions simultaneously that can be service connected.