Experiencing situations of severe trauma or other life-threatening events, like many combat veterans, can contribute to the development of PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is a condition that many veterans in the United States suffer from. PTSD can forever change how you can live and enjoy your daily life. Despite the disabling nature of PTSD, it can be difficult to accurately rate with the VA to ensure you receive adequate compensation for your PTSD-related disability.
If you are a veteran with PTSD or a loved one of yours who has served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces has PTSD, disability benefits in the form of tax-free monthly payments and medical coverage could be available. The amount that you are able to collect depends upon how your disability is measured by the VA through your PTSD VA rating.
The process of gathering evidence to prove your PTSD, and that it is connected to your active service, can be complex and time-consuming. Working with an attorney with experience helping veterans file and ultimately collect the benefits they deserve supports you throughout the process and helps to ensure that your application is approved.
A VA benefits lawyer from our VA disability law firm is standing by to review your case and help however we can. If you are applying for the first time, need to appeal an existing decision, or are seeking to have your PTSD VA rating increased, our VA disability benefits lawyers have the experience and knowledge necessary to make the most of your claim.
PTSD and Veterans: A Brief Overview
Following a traumatic event, it is normal for an individual to experience upsetting memories, experience trouble sleeping and feel anxious. It can be difficult for individuals who have recently been through a traumatic event to return to normal activities like going to work or school. It can also become difficult to spend time with loved ones and friends. The National Center for PTSD explains that PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is when the negative impact of a traumatic event persists for more than a few months.
PTSD was established as a mental health diagnosis in 1980, with combat veterans playing a central role in the development of the diagnosis. Historically, soldiers were at first diagnosed with “Soldier’s heart” or “irritable heart”, which was characterized by anxiety, trouble breathing, and a rapid pulse. This evolved into “shell shock” following World War I, which was an umbrella term applied to veterans who had experienced various forms of brain damage and trauma during the war.
The VA explains that PTSD can affect your life in several ways, including the following:
- Losing interest in things that you used to be engaged by
- Being unable to express your emotions
- Feeling as though you are out of control of your life
- Experiencing difficulty with the memory of traumatic events
What matters most is whether or not your ability to work and earn a steady income to support yourself and your family is impacted by your PTSD symptoms. The percentage ratings directly correlate to the amount of tax-free compensation that you receive, and providing the VA with sufficient evidence to make an accurate rating is essential for your application. To collect disability benefits from the VA, your application must include evidence that meets the VA’s standard for your PTSD to qualify for VA disability benefits.
What Qualifies as PTSD for VA Disability
The purpose of collecting VA disability benefits is to provide compensation for your service-related condition and to offset the diminished earning capacity that you suffer as a result of your disability. The income replacement is received in the form of tax-free monthly payments, and the amount that you receive depends upon your PTSD VA rating, the symptoms you experience, the number of dependents in your family, and other factors.
You’ll need to file VA Form 21-0781, a Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, alongside your disability claim, or VA Form 21-0781a, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Secondary to Personal Assault. The VA will screen you to determine if the symptoms of your PTSD meet the eligibility requirements for you to collect VA disability benefits.
VA Disability Benefits for PTSD
The benefits available to a qualifying veteran with PTSD include:
- Health care coverage
- Compensation in the form of tax-free payments
- Treatment for PTSD
For example, the following are the basic compensation amounts veterans receive based upon their percentage disability, and note that if you have a 10 or 20 percent disability rating, your monthly compensation rate does not increase with dependents such as children, parents, or spouses:
- 10 percent disability – $165.92
- 20 percent – $327.99
- 30 percent – $508.05
- 40 percent – $731.86
- 50 percent – $1,041.82
- 60 percent – $1,319.65
- 70 percent – $1,663.06
- 80 percent – $1,933.15
- 90 percent – $2,172.39
- 100 percent – $3,621.95
In terms of PTSD, the VA disability rating is only rated at 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent. The VA generally follows the DM-5 Criteria for PTSD, with the following qualifying you for VA disability for PTSD:
- Criterion A – required – the individual must have been exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury or sexual violence, whether through direct exposure, witnessing the trauma, learning the trauma happened to a close relative or friend, or indirect exposure to aversive aspects of the trauma generally while performing professional duties, like medics or first responders
- Criterion B – required – the traumatic event is re-experienced in a persistent manner whether through unwanted upsetting memories, nightmares, flashbacks, or physical reactivity or emotional distress after exposure to reminders of the trauma
- Criterion C – the avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, including reminders, feelings, or thoughts linked to the trauma
- Criterion D – negative feelings that started or became worse after the trauma
- Criterion E – arousal and reactivity to the trauma that started or got worse after the trauma, including difficulty concentrating, aggression or irritability, difficulty sleeping
- Criterion F – the symptoms must have lasted for over 1 month
- Criterion G – the symptoms result in distress or functional impairment, including in social or occupational situations
- Criterion H – the symptoms are not a result of substance use, medication, or other illness.
To collect compensation for your PTSD, you need to prove the current condition with a medical professional, and that your condition is linked to your service. And in most cases, you will also have to corroborate the stressor. While the VA has its own staff of psychologists and medical professionals, you are also able to submit independent assessments as evidence in support of your application.
Only Service-Related PTSD Will Support Your PTSD VA Rating
You eligibility for VA disability compensation requires that you have:
- A current diagnosis of a medical condition or disability
- The condition was caused or worsened by your active duty
- You have an expert opinion that links your current condition to your active duty
- And in many cases, be able to prove or corroborate a PTSD stressor
To collect benefits, your disability must be service-related. Buddy statements can be used to support your experiences and the traumatic events that you went through, which are statements provided by your fellow veterans and others who are knowledgeable of your active duty. Check out some examples.
A service connection means that your condition was an injury or illness that was caused by, or worsened through your active military service. You must have served on active duty, or inactive duty training, or active duty for training with a line of duty determination. In addition to this, you must be able to link your condition to your illness or injury in the service or that your service made a pre-service injury or illness worse.
Whether you file an in-service disability claim, pre-service disability claim, or post-service disability claim for an injury or illness that did not emerge until after your service, you will need to complete an extensive application supported by proof of your condition and its link to your service.
Your Discharge Status Counts for Your VA Disability Benefits
In general, you must have received a discharge under other than dishonorable conditions to be entitled to collect VA disability benefits. If you received the following discharge statuses, you might not be eligible for VA disability benefits:
- Other than honorable
- Bad conduct
- Dishonorable discharge
Keep in mind that there are exceptions in the regulations that could still provide a pathway to obtaining VA benefits even if you have dishonorable or other than honorable discharge. Most commonly, these scenarios occur when a veteran starts to develop the early symptoms of a psychiatric disability in service that causes him to get into trouble. The military then kicks him out with a bad conduct discharge without realizing that the “misconduct” was really just the early signs of PTSD. In these cases, there is what is called the “insanity” exception, that would allow an individual the ability to obtain VA benefits even with an other than honorable discharge.
Besides the insanity exception, If your discharge status is preventing you from receiving VA disability benefits, it is possible to apply for a discharge upgrade. This process requires the gathering of evidence and the completion of a process to have your discharge status reviewed, which can potentially lead to an upgrade or correction. When your discharge status is upgraded, you become eligible for the VA benefits that you earned while serving.
If you suffer from PTSD and can demonstrate that your discharge was connected to your PTSD or other mental health conditions, the military considers you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade. If you are unable to upgrade your discharge status, veterans with a less than honorable discharge are still able to access some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge process of review.
The process of the Character of Discharge review can take up to a year, and requires the same type of evidence that you would submit with your application to upgrade your discharge. Working with an attorney from our VA disability benefits law firm can help to ensure that you make the most of your application, and as necessary improve upon your discharge status to line up the compensation you deserve.
Is PTSD an Automatic 50 Percent Disability?
Your VA PTSD disability rating is not automatically set at 50 percent, but rather is as follows:
- 10 percent – the symptoms of your PTSD come and go, and are not regular, with medication either controlling or eliminating your symptoms
- 30 percent – this is one of the most often assigned VA PTSD rating and is assigned to veterans whose PTSD symptoms are more substantial than those in the 10 percent category, but are nevertheless manageable, although they can impact sleep and the ability to function in social and occupational environments
- 50 percent – this rating is appropriate for veterans whose PTSD results in speech impairment, a flat or lethargic disposition, impairment of memory, judgment or thought, panic attacks weekly or more often, difficulty maintaining healthy social relationships, and difficulty understanding complex instructions
- 70 percent – at this level of disability, the veteran suffering from PTSD had difficulty maintaining employment and engaging in social interactions, with specific symptoms including an obsessive focus on rituals, suicidal thoughts, emotional outbursts often characterized by irrational anger, an inability to manage stressful situations, almost ongoing panic attacks and depression, and the neglect of personal hygiene
- 100 percent – this PTSD VA rating is generally assigned to veterans who are either unable to leave the house, or require constant supervision. Some symptoms of total disability for PTSD include near-complete memory loss, delusions or hallucinations, being a danger to self or others, gross thought impairment, and disorientation concerning time, place, and situation
It is possible that your PTSD VA rating is not an accurate reflection of your current condition. In these instances, it is possible for you to pursue an independent medical examination to provide evidence with your application. During this process, your spouse or family members may be interviewed for additional insight into your PTSD symptoms, and buddy statements can also be put to use in support of your case to explain the traumatic events you went through.
Is 70 Percent PTSD a Permanent VA Disability?
Receiving a 70 percent PTSD VA rating can lead to a permanent VA disability rating when you receive TDIU, Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability. To qualify for TDIU, both of the following must be true:
- You must have at minimum 1 service-connected disability with a 60 percent or greater disability rating, or 2 or more service-connected disabilities that add up to 70 percent or more, with one of those two having at least a 40 percent disability rating, and
- You cannot maintain “substantially gainful employment”, a steady job that can support you and your family at or above the poverty line, as a result of your service-connected disability
It is important to note that if regular steady employment is impossible; marginal employment such as odd jobs do not count towards this. In other words, you can still obtain TDIU and work a marginal or casual job that generates income below the poverty threshold.
To pursue TDIU benefits, alongside your disability claim you need to also file the following additional forms to collect your Individual Unemployability benefits:
- VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability, and
- VA Form 21-4191, Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits
VA Form 21-8940 is for veterans who are applying for Individual Unemployability disability benefits for service-connected conditions such as PTSD that prevent them from keeping a steady job. Some of the symptoms of PTSD can impact your ability to concentrate and to function in social and occupational environments. An inability to maintain regular income can lead to your being entitled to tax-free benefits from the VA.
Your VA benefits attorney from our firm will set a review with our in-house physician to begin the assessment of your condition. Thereafter, we can put our network of medical professionals to work to help accurately measure your PTSD to ensure that you receive an accurate PTSD VA rating.
How to Increase PTSD Rating from 50-70 Percent?
The primary difference between a 50 and 70 percent VA PTSD rating is the capacity of the veteran to maintain employment. At 50 percent, it can be difficult to work efficiently; however, at 70 percent it can be extremely challenging to maintain long-term employment. Typically, the classic 70 percent PTSD-rated veteran may be able to get a job, but he loses it after a few weeks, and this process continues, providing for a very sporadic work history. When you are unable to work to support yourself and your family, collecting compensation through your VA disability benefits is even more essential. If you disagree with the PTSD VA rating that you have received, it is possible to appeal your rating.
If you disagree with your rating, it is possible to request a Board Appeal. To do so, you’ll fill out a Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement), VA Form 10182. Through this you are able to challenge what your rating was, and also can offer up additional evidence in support of your claim. Our VA benefits law firm employs an in-house physician, and in addition to this, our network of medical and psychological professionals will accurately assess your PTSD and how your symptoms impact your ability to work.
Connect with a VA Benefits Lawyer for Help Now
Ensuring that your PTSD is accurately assessed and that you receive an accurate PTSD VA rating will determine what benefits and in what amount you qualify for. To learn how a VA benefits lawyer from our law firm can help with an appeal or other VA disability benefits application steps, give us a call at 888-495-5774, or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.