Mental health is an issue that is increasingly being recognized as a serious issue by the VA, and if you are a veteran suffering from service-related depression, you could be entitled to benefits. Collecting what you might be entitled to from the VA requires that you receive a current diagnosis, gather evidence, and file all the necessary paperwork for your claim to be approved. The process can be both complex and time-consuming, and mistakes can lead to delays or even the outright denial of your benefits.
The compensation you could receive through VA disability is something that you are entitled to if you qualify for them. Despite the fact that you earned this compensation after having experienced an injury, illness, or event during active service that caused your current condition, applications for VA disability are not guaranteed. To ensure that you are able to collect the benefits you deserve, reach out to one of our VA disability lawyers from our VA disability benefits law firm.
Can You Get a VA Rating for Depression?
When you have a mental health condition that impacts your ability to enjoy your everyday life, perform everyday tasks, and work, the VA may provide benefits to cover the associated costs and hardships. In fact, the VA recognizes service-connected conditions including depression, anxiety, and even adjustment disorder. While you might be entitled to collect VA disability benefits for your condition, that does not automatically mean that it will be accepted.
To get a depression VA rating, you’ll need to prove that your current diagnosis of depression meets the standards of the VA, and that it was related to service. The VA rating for depression and other recognized mental health disorders is measured on a percentage scale of 0 percent to 100 percent.
The ratings consider the impact of your current condition on your ability to function socially and at work, and also your ability to take care of yourself. When your rating is higher, this means that your condition impacts your life in a more significant way.
What is the Average VA Rating for Depression?
While each individual veteran will have unique symptoms, experiences, and current conditions, the VA does apply the rating scale uniformly. The percentage ratings assigned to depression and other mental health disorders are broadly as follows:
- 0 percent VA depression rating – you might receive this VA disability rating for depression or another mental health condition for which you have a formal diagnosis but is well-controlled. This disability rating means that your condition does not significantly impact your social life or ability to work, and you do not require constant medication. At a 0 percent depression rating, you are eligible for medical coverage but not for monthly disability payments.
- 10 percent depression VA rating – for persons who receive a 10 percent disability rating for depression, their current symptoms happen regularly, but medication is still able to control or eliminate your symptoms. A 10 percent rating can lead to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) coverage but does not provide you with disability payments.
- 30 percent VA rating for depression – this is generally the most common disability rating assigned to mental health conditions like depression. A 30 percent rating means that your depression is more frequent and substantial, and can lead to you experiencing difficulty in both social and occupational situations. At this rating, however, you are still generally able to perform in a way that is satisfactory to living a normal life. This percentage is also where you can begin to qualify for tax-free monthly compensation.
- 50 percent depression VA rating – at 50 percent, the symptoms of your depression happen more often, and are more severe. This rating also has symptoms that are unique and more substantial than the earlier ratings and can include cognitive impairment, changes in mood, and the impact on day-to-day life, and in social and occupational environments are worse.
- 70 percent VA rating for depression – at the 70 percent disability rating, veterans suffering from depression experience more significant manifestations of the symptoms mentioned above, but at greater duration, frequency, and seriousness. At 70 percent the depression may be constant and causes ongoing issues with daily life and occupational and social situations.
- 100 percent VA disability rating for depression – at this rating the symptoms being experienced by the veteran must be so severe that the entirety of the veterans life is impaired, and they are unable to function. The difference between a 70 percent rating and a 100 percent rating is substantial and is marked by a significant drop in both the cognitive and emotional functioning of the veteran. Suicide attempts and self-injury are common behaviors demonstrated by individuals in this rating. A 100 percent depression VA rating can also include being a danger to self or others.
The rating that your depression receives from the VA will determine what monthly compensation you are entitled to collect. The greater the percentage, the higher the monthly compensation, with the quality of your diagnoses and related evidence determining where your rating falls.
It is also worth noting that you may achieve 100 percent disability if you have two or more current conditions that equal 70 percent or greater in total, with one having a minimum rating of 40 percent and be unable to sustain gainful occupation as a result of your service-connected disabilities. For example, if you were assigned a disability rating of 50 percent for depression, and had a 30 percent rating for another condition (which would be a 70 percent combined rating under the VA combined rating table), you could qualify for 100 percent disability compensation based on TDIU.
In terms of what rating is average or typical, we are not aware of any data that VA has published that provides an exact answer to what is the average rating for depression. However, from our experience, it is typical for VA to assign a 50 percent rating if the symptoms show a moderate impact on occupational and social functioning.
What is the VA Rating for Mental Health?
The VA rates service-connected mental disability in a largely uniform way. The VA uses the same criteria as those listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Mental disorders that the VA assigns disability ratings for include, but are not limited to:
- Mood disorders like bipolar
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Amnesia and other cognitive disorders
- Adjustment disorders
- Eating disorders
To establish your VA rating for mental health, your medical record is carefully reviewed to identify symptoms of mental health conditions. If you only submit your application with permission for the VA to access your military records, you may be limiting the capacity of your application to be successful. You are allowed to provide evidence of your current condition through a diagnosis from a doctor, who can provide evidence after having undertaken observation, testing, and other measures to accurately determine the symptoms and implications of your current mental health condition. You can also submit lay statements from friends and family on what they personally observed. But keep in mind that unless your friend or family member is a doctor or psychologist, the VA will not accept their statements on issues pertaining to the diagnosis and causation. But your friends and family can make statements regarding how severe your symptoms are and how it impacts your life.
A medical expert’s opinion is also essential to demonstrate the link between your active service and your current condition. This is generally provided through a nexus letter, which is an expert medical opinion that has carefully considered your in-service injury, illness, or event, and presents the opinion that your current condition is linked to this in-service event.
VA Form 21-4138 can be used to provide information in support of your claim, whether a nexus letter or a “buddy statement”. When it comes to a particular event during your active service that may have caused a mental health issue, the statement of an individual who was present with you during the event can be submitted with your application. The opinion of a medical expert that your current condition is linked to that event in turn provides the VA with strong evidence of your eligibility to collect disability benefits. Keep in mind that has a strong bias in favor of things documented in the service treatment records, and your claim will carry less weight if they only thing establishing that something happened during service is your lay statement or a lay statement of a buddy. The exception to this is veterans with combat experience whose statements refer to the events of their combat.
While it might seem that the VA is working against you, that is not necessarily the case, they just have requirements that must be met in order to approve your application. They are looking for specific information, presented in specific ways, and failing to do so can result in undue delay or the improper denial of your claim.
How Do I Claim Anxiety and Depression with the VA?
Collecting the medical coverage and compensation you might be entitled to for your service-related anxiety or depression requires that you file for disability with the VA. Claiming for compensation requires that you prove your current condition and its service connection as explored above, unless you have a presumptive condition. So long as the condition is on the list, veterans who were prisoners of war, in Southwest Asia, Vietnam, the Royal Thai air bases, the DMZ during portions of the Vietnam era, have certain chronic conditions manifested within certain time frames, or exposed to certain toxic chemicals (such as burn pits or Camp Lejeune water from 1953-1987) are able to collect benefits without proving a nexus as the connection is presumed in the circumstances outlined by the VA. Whatever the source of your current condition might be, you must be eligible to collect compensation from the VA.
First Confirm Eligibility for VA Benefits
To be eligible to collect VA disability benefits, you must prove that service connection for your depression, which has three main elements:
- A current diagnosis of your depression from a mental health expert the VA will accept an expert opinion from and whose diagnosis is in accordance with the DSM-5
- Evidence of an illness, injury, or event that occurred during your qualifying active service
- A medical opinion that links your current condition to the in-service event, injury, or illness
How you develop your initial strategy for your claim will be affected by when the condition began, and how it was impacted by your active service. For example, if you had a pre-existing condition that was worsened by your active duty, you’ll require different evidence than if your condition was originally caused during your active service. Whatever strategy that you employ for your post-service claim, and whichever is best suited for your situation, your application will have to be supported by evidence to verify your current condition.
Gather Evidence in Support of Your Current Condition of Anxiety and/or Depression
A current diagnosis is essential for you to collect VA disability benefits. You might not know where to begin to look for a psychologist who is qualified to assess your level of depression and to in turn incorporate their opinion into your VA disability applications. The VA has specific forms and is looking for specific things when processing applications. While you might be able to get a diagnosis of depression from a mental health professional, if they do not know how to communicate this to the VA in terms the VA recognizes, your application could still be rejected. VA is looking for certain buzz words from doctors who write opinions to support a nexus with service.
Our VA benefits law firm employs an in-house physician to provide general strategic guidance behind the scenes, and we have a network of healthcare professionals and mental health experts in our network to whom we refer cases that need top-notch medical nexus reports. If you take your case, we’ll help you schedule appointments with mental health professionals who can accurately measure your depression, and provide evidence to the VA to maximize the chances of winning service connection and/or maximizing your rating.
Complete Your Application
You’ll need to complete VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, either the paper form or you are able to file online. Simply filling out the form and filing it does not in any way guarantee that you will be able to collect the benefits that you deserve. Your application must be supported by sufficient evidence and medical opinions to verify your current condition, its link to your active service, and its impact on your ability to participate in social and occupational environments.
Make the Most of Your Depression VA Rating with Our VA Benefits Law Firm
Our VA benefits law firm is focused on ensuring that veterans and their families receive the coverage and compensation that they deserve. Suffering from a current condition or disability as a result of your active service entitles you to medical coverage, as well as tax-free compensation and other benefits. The unique facts and circumstances of your situation will drive the outcome in your case, and working with an experienced VA disability lawyer to support your depression VA rating will make the process quicker, easier on you, and more likely to be approved.
To get started, connect with our VA disability law firm to learn how we help veterans collect what they deserve, and the kind of support we provide throughout the process. To get started, give us a call at 888-878-9350, or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.