Veterans Disability Info Blog

PTSD VA Rating: The Keys to Maximizing Your Rating

If you are service-connected for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then your PTSD VA rating is determined by 38 C.F.R. § 4.130—Schedule of Ratings for Mental Disorders. This regulation allows ratings of either 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 for PTSD, depending on the severity of your condition.

How to Qualify for a PTSD VA Rating

To qualify for a particular rating, you must demonstrate the types of symptoms and overall impairment contemplated by that rating. In this regard, it is important to remember that you need not experience every symptom contemplated by a particular rating; however, you do need to show that your symptoms are of a similar severity, frequency and duration as the types of symptoms listed in that rating criteria, and that your symptoms cause the overall level of impairment required by that rating.

For example, the maximum 100% PTSD VA rating requires total occupational and social impairment due to symptoms such 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.

Obtaining a schedular 100% VA rating for PTSD is very difficult, as it requires total impairment. This means the veteran is completely unable to function socially, at work, or even at home.

Alternatively, even if you do not meet the criteria for a schedular 100% but your PTSD still prevents you from working, then you may qualify for a 100% rating by way of a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU). To demonstrate entitlement to TDIU based on your PTSD, you will need to show that your service-connected PTSD symptoms prevent you from performing the tasks required for substantially gainful employment.

A 70% PTSD VA rating—which is the second highest PTSD VA rating under the regulation—requires 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.

To qualify for a 70% PTSD VA rating, you must show that the severity, frequency, and duration of your symptoms cause deficiencies in most areas of your life. This may include PTSD symptoms that cause legal issues, financial distress, familial discord, poor performance at work or school, and near-constant panic, depression or emotional volatility and instability.

Notably, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) has held that suicidal ideation, alone, may sufficiently demonstrate deficiencies in most areas.  See Bankhead v. Shulkin, 29 Vet.App. 10 (2017). This means that you may qualify for a 70% PTSD VA rating if you experience suicidal ideation, even if you do not experience any of the other symptoms contemplated by the 70% schedule. Thus, it is important when seeking a higher VA rating for PTSD to thoroughly analyze whether you have had active or even passive suicidal thoughts.  The presence of suicidal thoughts should entitle a veteran to a 70% rating for PTSD.  In addition, we strongly recommend that you have any such suicidal thoughts documented as this would support a 70% VA PTSD rating. A veteran would do this by advising one of his clinicians that he has had those thoughts so that the clinician can notate it in the veteran’s medical records.

The remaining PTSD VA ratings under 38 C.F.R. § 4.130 reflect a milder or less severe disability picture. Although the symptoms contemplated by these schedules can and often are distressing, they are less frequent and do not significantly interfere with your performance at work or ability to establish and maintain relationships. These symptoms may also be manageable with medication.  

The 50% PTSD VA rating requires 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.  This is often seen by excessive absences, tardiness, and getting less work.

The 30% PTSD VA rating is assigned for 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).

A 10% PTSD VA rating is assigned 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.

A Note About Non-Compensable PTSD VA Ratings

Finally, a non-compensable 0% PTSD VA rating is assigned where a mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.

As stated above, you need not demonstrate every symptom in a particular rating schedule to qualify for that rating. However, understanding the criteria for the various rating schedules—10, 30, 50, 70, and 100—can help you contextualize your own PTSD symptoms for VA rating purposes. Furthermore, obtaining statements from friends, coworkers, supervisors, and family members may shed additional light on the extent of your PTSD symptoms and their impact on your daily life. It is important, also, that you continue to treat for the condition so that there is a record of your symptoms.  We have seen many seriously disabled veterans who are impaired at the 100% VA rating level and receive far less because they do not have a treatment record documenting their symptoms.

On examination, you will want to be sure that you accurately and fully describe your symptoms, including their frequency and duration, and how they affect you both socially (including at home) and occupationally. It is crucial to be honest and forthcoming in describing your symptoms to ensure the VA properly evaluates your PTSD and assigns the appropriate disability evaluation.

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