Mental health conditions can lead to significant limitations on daily life activities. Bipolar disorder is a condition that leads to dramatic and erratic mood changes. People with bipolar disorder may have long periods where they cannot work and may need inpatient care to manage serious episodes.
The stressors of military service can trigger or aggravate the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Veterans who develop bipolar disorder during or after their active duty service may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA. Learn about the VA rating for bipolar disorder and how you can receive benefits for service-related bipolar disorder.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme moods, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania), lows (depression), and dramatic swings between moods. It used to be called manic depression, though that term is not used anymore.
During the depressive phases of bipolar, you may feel extremely sad or hopeless. You may lose interest or pleasure in all activities. During the shift to mania or hypomania, you may feel euphoric, energized, or unusually irritable. In some cases, moods may be so extreme that individuals require hospitalization to prevent them from harming themselves or others.
These mood swings from bipolar disorder can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and concentration. Mood swings can be debilitating and interfere with daily living. Some people have frequent mood swings, while others only experience extreme moods a couple of times a year.
Bipolar disorder can be managed with medication and ongoing care from a qualified healthcare provider.
Our VA Disability Lawyer Discusses Benefits for Bipolar Disorder
The VA recognizes bipolar as a disability under section § 4.130. Benefits for bipolar disorder are awarded based on how significantly symptoms affect a veteran’s daily life. Ratings for bipolar disorder are 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%.
For veterans to qualify for VA disability benefits for bipolar or any health condition, they must be able to prove a connection between their condition and their military service. You need to be able to demonstrate that your service in the military either caused your condition or made an existing condition worse.
Bipolar Disorder Onset During Active Duty
One way to build service connection is to identify that the onset of your bipolar symptoms coincided with your military service. The earliest phases of bipolar disorder, sometimes called the prodromal phase, often appear when an individual is in their early 20s. It may not be clear at that time that bipolar disorder is the cause of symptoms.
Experts believe that high-stress events or trauma can trigger the first episode of bipolar disorder. You may be able to demonstrate that an experience in combat, an injury, or military sexual trauma occurred before your first manic or depressive event.
It is helpful to provide medical records demonstrating that you sought care for early symptoms. In addition, letters from people you knew at the time can verify instances of bipolar symptoms affecting you. This can support the claim that your bipolar disorder began during your service period.
Military Service Aggravating Bipolar Disorder
Military service is not always the cause of disabling conditions. The VA acknowledges that military service can make some conditions more severe than they would have been otherwise. Bipolar is a condition that military service can aggravate.
One way to prove this is to demonstrate that you had a bipolar diagnosis before joining the military. Your medical records and enlistment records may contain this information. If you can show that your symptoms grew worse after service or as a result of an incident during service, this can prove that service aggravated your condition. However, be careful about pursuing an aggravation theory for bipolar. The VA will likely claim that any worsening was due to the natural progression of the condition. There are many VA adjudicators that believe bipolar is congenital, and once they hear that it is pre-existing, will be reluctant to grant it.
Our firm litigated a noteworthy bipolar case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and obtained a reported decision on the case.
Military and medical records, as well as recollections from family, friends, and colleagues, can corroborate the connection between a traumatic event and bipolar symptoms. Although lay statements cannot opine on causation—as that is a medical question only a trained psychiatrist can answer—friends and family can attest to what you were like before versus after service when the bipolar started.
Proving a Service Connection: “As Likely As Not”
When submitting disability claims, it’s unnecessary to prove that military service was the definite cause of the condition. The VA will judge whether it is as likely as not that military service caused or aggravated bipolar disorder. If you provide thorough documentation of how your symptoms progressed and how events during service affected you, you can prove that service cannot be ruled out as a cause for your bipolar disorder. This can lead to a favorable claim rating.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation From a VA Disability Lawyer
If you are a Veteran who has service-related bipolar disorder symptoms and need help appealing a claim for VA benefits, contact an experienced VA disability lawyer. At Gang & Associates, we focus exclusively on helping veterans obtain compensation for disabilities incurred in active military service. Call us today at 888.481.4428 for help with getting the support you need and deserve from the VA.