Memory loss is a common symptom of PTSD that can severely affect your quality of life. If you are a veteran applying for benefits from the VA, highlighting the memory loss may result in a higher rating.
Read on to learn more about the link between PTSD and memory loss and what you can do to ensure you get the rating you deserve for your disability.
How Does PTSD Cause Memory Loss?
Severe and/or chronic stress are the top symptoms of PTSD. When you're stressed, your body releases higher amounts of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. Over time, high levels of these hormones can affect the regions of your brain that play a role in memory.
According to a 2006 study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, the hormonal changes that occur with PTSD can lead to a wide range of cognitive problems and memory loss—including that which can affect even your happiest memories. A report from Columbia University adds that PTSD-induced memory loss can also prevent you from learning new things.
Memory loss that affects your ability to remember the happiest moments in your life can significantly affect your livelihood and increase your risk for other mental health disorders like depression. The inability to learn new things can lead to difficulties moving forward in your life after a traumatic event—especially when pursuing a new career path or immersing yourself in new hobbies.
Other challenges you may face with PTSD and memory loss include:
- Difficulty with staying organized.
- Problems with focus and concentration.
- Inability to follow written or verbal instructions.
- Inability to have productive conversations with others.
Having PTSD-Related Memory Loss Can Increase Your Rating
The amount of benefits you receive from the VA depends on the severity of your PTSD and your given rating. The higher the severity of your PTSD and its symptoms, the higher the rating and the more benefits you'll receive.
Veterans with PTSD are eligible for VA benefits if the traumatic event that caused their condition occurred because of their service. As a veteran with PTSD, you will be entitled to 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100% benefits, depending on your symptoms.
The VA rates PTSD as follows:
- 0% PTSD Rating: Your doctor has formally diagnosed you with PTSD, but your symptoms do not interfere with your ability to work or function in social settings and do not require medication.
- 10% PTSD Rating: You have mild PTSD symptoms that appear only at times of stress and may mildly impair your work or social interactions. You are also taking medications to manage your PTSD symptoms.
- 30% PTSD Rating: Your PTSD symptoms include depression, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks that occur at least once a week, chronic sleep impairment, and mild memory loss. Your PTSD impacts your work and social lives and reduces your work efficiency.
- 50% PTSD Rating: Your symptoms of PTSD, such as panic attacks and mood disturbances, make it difficult for you to stay productive and reliable in the workplace. You also suffer from impaired short-term and long-term memory and have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships at work and in your social life.
- 70% PTSD Rating: Your life is significantly impaired due to PTSD symptoms, including suicidal ideation, chronic panic or depression, loss of control of impulsive behaviors, and poor hygiene. You have difficulty adapting to stressful situations and cannot establish and maintain relationships.
- 100% PTSD Rating: Your PTSD symptoms are preventing you from being able to work or function in a social capacity, and you also experience hallucinations and delusions. You cannot perform essential daily functions such as bathing or driving a vehicle, and memory loss has caused you to forget the names of close relatives or even your own name.
As is evident from the VA's mental disabilities rating code, severe memory loss that causes a veteran to forget the names of close relatives or even his own name is a symptom that speaks to the maximum 100 percent VA rating. The condition is also mentioned in the criterion for the 50 percent rating.
Although VA has proposed changes to mental disorder ratings, we at Gang & Associates believe that severe memory loss under the current 100 percent rating criterion would impair a veteran's functioning at a 100 percent level—even under the new proposal.
Collecting Medical Evidence For Your VA Disability Rating
The VA will determine your PTSD disability rating based on the evidence in your file plus any evidence in VA's possession that VA can obtain per its duty to assist. The medical evidence you submit should include information supporting your PTSD diagnosis, memory loss, and all symptoms.
Basing your claim for the highest possible PTSD on only memory loss is not likely to produce the maximum rating. In short, your evidence should show total occupational and social impairment. Memory loss can be a part of the overall disability picture that prevents a veteran from working or having a meaningful social life.
For instance, if a veteran cannot remember the names of his friends or close relatives, what kind of social life would he have? Similarly, if he cannot remember how to do basic tasks or follow instructions at work, it is not likely he could hold a job.
Medical records, statements from your doctor, and witness statements are helpful evidence you can submit with your claim. For instance, if your employer has given you written warnings about your inability to remember essential job duties, include copies of these statements with your claim. Or, if your neighbors have helped you get safely back home after you forgot where you lived, collect statements from them if possible so you can submit them with your claim.