If you have served qualifying active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and as a result of an event, injury, or illness you have developed anxiety, you could qualify for VA disability benefits for anxiety. Collecting disability benefits from the VA requires that you file your general application to collect VA disability benefits, supported by evidence of your current anxiety condition, and its link to your active service. The process can be extensive and time-consuming, and a VA disability lawyer from our law firm can help you understand your anxiety VA rating and how it impacts your eligibility for benefits.
Anxiety: Types and Symptoms In Brief
The VA explains in its presentation on mental health that while occasional worry and anxiety about certain things is a part of life, it can become a problem. When “persistent worries” start impacting your daily activities, work, your ability to sleep, and your personal relationships, it may be a problem. When mental health issues impact your ability to enjoy life and work, and they are linked to your active service, you could be entitled to VA disability benefits.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Worrying in excess over everyday decisions
- Twitching or trembling
- Experiencing difficulty sleeping
- Experiencing trouble catching your breach or feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous
There a number of different types of anxiety that the VA recognizes and provides a screening checklist for, as follows:
- Social anxiety – anxiety in social situations that is long-lasting and significant, as such that you might feel inhibited from attending a crowded event, or public speaking, and feeling nervous or anxious in specific situations.
- Generalized anxiety – individuals who suffer from generalized anxiety are generally worried or anxious about a wide range of aspects of daily life such as work, school, money, or health, and they often have no way of controlling or stopping these worries. Symptoms of generalized anxiety include difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, tiring easily, and irritability. This is the most common type of anxiety claim we see in our veterans disability law firm.
- Panic attacks – these are characterized by recurrent, unexpected episodes that are characterized by intense fear or discomfort. They are accompanied by symptoms including heart palpitations, pounding heart, trembling, stomach distress, numbing or tingling, and chest pain. Persons experiencing a panic attack may fear that they have lost control or that their life is at risk. We usually see this claim presented as one for Panic Disorder.
- Specific phobias – these are intense fears in response to specific situations or objects, such as enclosed spaces, going outside, blood, or needles. When phobias get in the way of everyday life, seeking out treatment can be important.
Whatever type of anxiety you might have, you’ll need to meet the criteria laid out by the VA in order to collect benefits.
The VA’s Screening Questions for Anxiety
The VA recognizes that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, can lead to difficulty for veterans in living their daily lives. Anxiety can lead to symptoms of irritability, muscle tension, sleep difficulties, being easily tired, difficulty concentrating, feeling on edge or “keyed up”, or restless. These symptoms can in turn impact your ability to enjoy life and work, which in turn can entitle you to VA disability benefits.
The initial screening questions presented by the VA to determine if you should seek out a professional medical opinion concerning your anxiety are as follows:
- Have you been feeling worried or anxious on a continuous basis concerning a number of different events or activities that you encounter in your everyday life?
- Have you been experiencing this worry or anxiousness for a minimum of 6 months?
- Do you experience difficulty controlling your worries or anxiety?
- Do anxiety, worry, and the related symptoms of tension slow you down or lead to you being unable to do the things that you need to do?
If your answer was “yes” to one or more of these questions, the VA suggests that you speak with your physician or a mental health professional about your experiences and concerns. Expert medical opinions are essential forms of evidence in support of your VA claim for anxiety.
How Can I Prove My VA Disability for Anxiety?
To prove your anxiety VA rating, you need to gather evidence that demonstrates that your current feelings of fear or anxiety are linked to your active service. This means showing that something happened in service and that your current anxiety diagnosis is linked to those events in service. Your symptoms must qualify you for a diagnosis that is recognized by the VA. There are a variety of VA diagnosis codes for mental health issues using the DSM-V definitions which is the newest list of conditions recognized by the American psychological community and accepted by the VA, and when it comes to anxiety, the following apply:
- 9403 – specific phobia, social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
- 9410 – other specified anxiety disorder (DC 9410); unspecified anxiety disorder (DC 9413)
- 9413 – unspecified anxiety disorder
The diagnostic code that applies to your particular situation will in turn influence the evidence that you’ll need to provide with your application to prove your condition. Anxiety disorders require extensive evidence from medical professionals who have taken the time to review your unique situation. It can be difficult to find mental health professionals familiar with working with veterans and what the VA is looking for in terms of evidence. But remember, regardless of the diagnosis or diagnostic code, VA rates all mental disorders under the same general rating formula.
To prove that you qualify for VA disability benefits for your anxiety, you must demonstrate a current condition, and that your current condition is linked to your active service. This is often accomplished with a nexus letter, which is a medical opinion that clearly links your current condition with an event, illness, or injury that occurred during your qualifying active service. In addition, the diagnosis must be done according to the DSM-5.
Our VA disability benefits law firm has an in-house physician who is able to provide strategic consulting to begin any appeal. We also have a network of mental health experts who we will schedule your appointments with to produce the evidence we need to make the most of your VA disability benefits appeal.
How Does the VA Rate PTSD and Anxiety?
The VA rating for a mental health condition like anxiety ranges from 0 to 100 percent disability, with your symptoms determining the extent of your related disability. To collect for your anxiety, you’ll need to prove that your psychological condition has a formal diagnosis and that it is linked to your active service. This must be supported through medical records to demonstrate how severe your condition is, and from there the VA will rate it. Anxiety is rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 percent disability. We have seen problems in some cases where the veteran is severely disabled from his service-connected anxiety disorder but yet VA rates the condition very low. The reason for this is often because the veteran does not have an active treatment record with mental health professionals, and so there is no evidence documenting the severity of symptoms.
Does Anxiety Fall Under PTSD for VA Disability?
There are a variety of mental health issues that are recognized by the VA and covered through the VHA. In short, other than congenital disorders like personality disorders, the VA recognizes any of the acquired psychiatric diagnoses described in the DSM-5. To receive the healthcare you require, and the tax-free compensation you deserve, you’ll need to prove that your anxiety meets the criteria set forth by the VA, but is anxiety a branch of PTSD? The simple answer is that PTSD is similar to an anxiety disorder but it is distinct and different.
Anxiety is a condition that can emerge in a variety of different ways and can vary widely from person to person. At its base, however, anxiety is generally characterized by persistent and at times excessive feelings of worry or fear. Here is a list of some of the VA grants compensation for the following anxiety-related diagnoses:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder or agoraphobia
- Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
We have had some very serious cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder that have been totally disabling for veterans. Obsessive-compulsive related disorders include body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, and trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder).
The evidence provided of your symptoms from a current condition linked to your active service will in turn determine which rating you receive, which in turn impacts your compensation.
PTSD is Distinct from Anxiety
Posttraumatic stress happens after an individual goes through a traumatic event, which can include assault, a disaster, or combat. While some stress reactions after traumatic events are normal, when they persist and begin to disrupt your life, you may have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To be eligible for PTSD disability benefits from the VA for your PTSD, you must have symptoms related to a traumatic event, a “stressor”, or your experience with the stressor is linked to your PTSD symptoms, and you must meet all of the following requirements:
- The stressor occurred while you are on active service, and
- You cannot function as well as you were able to before as a result of your symptoms, and
- You have a PTSD diagnosis from a doctor that is linked to the stressor
The VA considers a “traumatic event” to be, among other things:
- Suffering a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, or sexual violation, or
- You perceived a threat of injury, sexual assault, or death
There can be a whole host of stressor events, such as handling dead bodies, treating burn victims in the hospital, or witnessing a friend’s suicide. The above items are examples.
If you have PTSD recognized by the VA, you are able to collect healthcare, tax-free monthly payments, as well as treatment for PTSD. To collect compensation for PTSD, in addition to your VA disability benefits application, you’ll also need to complete and file your Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, VA Form 21-0781. Should your PTSD claim be based on a personal assault, you’d include VA Form 21-0781a, Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Secondary to Personal Assault. Personal assault includes military sexual trauma or MST.
Is Anxiety a 70 Percent VA Disability?
Your anxiety disorder and any other mental health conditions are all subject to the rating system of the VA, as outlined in 38 CFR Sec. 4.130. The VA rates mental health conditions on a scale of severity from 0 to 100 percent disability. 100 percent is classified as total disability and qualifies you for the highest amount of tax-free monthly compensation. In some instances, if you have a rating under 100 percent, you still may be able to receive a total disability rating based on individual unemployability, TDIU.
Is TDIU automatic once you receive a 70 percent rating for anxiety? The answer is, no. TDIU is never automatic no matter what your rating is. You would have to prove that your service-connected disabilities make you incapable if sustaining a gainful occupation.
The VA ratings for anxiety are as follows:
- 0 percent – when a veteran has a general anxiety disorder diagnosis, however their work performance and social impact is unaffected and medication is not needed, this rating is assigned
- 10 percent – this rating is applied to a veteran demonstrating mild symptoms of anxiety that impact their work and social performance at times of high stress, with medication being a possibility for the affected veteran to manage the related symptoms
- 30 percent – this rating is assigned to veterans who is able to generally function normally when it comes to self-care, communication, and behavior, but may occasionally suffer a decrease in their work efficiency or ability to perform their occupation as a result of the symptoms of anxiety
- 50 percent – this rating is assigned to a veteran with a regular work impairment and also social impairment that happens frequently, and may include impaired judgment, memory problems, or panic attacks that happen more than once each week
- 70 percent – this anxiety VA rating is assigned to a veteran who is suffering from anxiety that is significant anough that all areas of their life are impacted, including work, family, school, and other areas, and can include symptoms such as compulsive behavior, violent behavior, lack of personal hygiene, impaired impulse control, and suicidal thoughts
- 100 percent – the highest anxiety VA rating, this is awarded to a veteran who is totally disabled as a result of anxiety, suffering from severe symptoms of GAD, general anxiety disorder, as such that they are unable to work, and may be in danger of hurting themselves or others, have memory problems, hallucinations, or attempted suicide
Tax-free monthly compensation is available for disability ratings at or above 10 percent, but if you have a 0 or 10 percent rating, you can still qualify for VHA coverage for mental health services for your anxiety condition.
In terms of PTSD, the PTSD VA rating percentages are as follows:
- 10 percent – for this rating, the symptoms of PTSD are short-term and only occasional, and can include nightmares of difficulty sleeping from time to time, with medication helping to control or eliminate the symptoms
- 30 percent – when the PTSD symptoms are more frequent than a 10 percent rating, but still manageable and the veteran is able to function satisfactorily in work and social environment, this rating is assigned
- 50 percent – this rating applies when the symptoms cause a greater and more regular impact on the veteran, including weekly panic attacks, impaired judgment or speech, a flat or lethargic disposition, difficulty understanding complex instructions which can impact work, or difficulty maintaining social relationships
- 70 percent – Veterans with this rating struggle to maintain regular employment, and symptoms include suicidal thoughts, inability to manage stressful situations, irrational anger and emotional outbursts, and suicidal thoughts
- 100 percent – total disability for PTSD means the veteran either is unable to leave their home or requires constant supervision, with symptoms including disorientation as to time, place, and situation, being a danger to self or others, gross thought impairment, and near-complete memory loss
To qualify for PTSD you’ll need an assessment from a mental health professional, and our VA disability benefits law firm can help you secure a consulting medical expert to help win your appeal.
VA Individual Unemployability Provides Support When You Cannot Work
When your service-connected condition or disability makes you unable to work, you may qualify for VA individual unemployability benefits, or TDIU. When you qualify for TDIU, you are able to collect disability compensation and/or benefits at the same level of a veteran who has a 100 percent disability rating.
If you have two or more conditions with a combined disability rating of 70 percent or greater, and one of those conditions is rated at least 40 percent, then you could qualify for TDIU. Alternatively, you can have one disability rated at 60 percent or higher and qualify for TDIU. In both cases, your service connected conditions must make it impossible for you to engage in gainful employment. This in turn entitles you to a 100 percent compensation rate rather than 70 percent. Based on the 2023 veterans disability compensation rates, at 70 percent a veteran with no dependents would be entitled to $1,663.06 per month, while a 100 percent disability rate is $3,621.95. The difference in tax-free monthly compensation is significant, and an experienced VA benefits attorney can help ensure that you receive an accurate and complete anxiety VA rating.
To begin the process, you’ll need to file your claim for VA disability, in addition to VA Form 21-8940. This form is for veterans seeking out disability benefits because their service-connected condition prevents them from keeping a steady job.
Discuss Your VA Disability Claim for Anxiety with A VA Disability Lawyer
The success of your VA disability benefits application for anxiety depends entirely upon the quality of the evidence that you submit. If you cannot prove a current diagnosis and that your current diagnosis is linked to your qualifying active service, you will be unable to collect VA disability benefits or receive less than you deserve. Our in-house physician, network of mental health professionals, and highly experienced VA disability lawyers know how to provide the VA with the evidence they need to accurately determine your anxiety VA rating.
To get started, reach out to us by phone at 888-878-9350, or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.