Depression VA Rating

A recent study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that approximately 14-16 percent of U.S. service members who were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depression can impact every aspect of your life, from social situations to your ability to work. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression as a result of a service-related event, injury, or illness, VA disability benefits may be available. These benefits cover medical costs like mental health counseling and medications, and tax-free monthly compensation payments are also available. 

Filing a successful VA disability claim for depression can be a complex process, and requires that you gather sufficient evidence to prove your case, while also filing the correct forms, in the proper way. If your claim was denied and you need help with a claim, the VA disability lawyers from our VA benefits law firm are standing by to answer any questions and determine how we can help. 

An Overview of Depression 

The CDC explains that depression is when a sad or negative mood lasts for a long period of time, and further, interferes with normal, everyday functioning. Your family and friends may notice a change in your behavior or outlook, and your employer may take note of a decrease in concentration or productivity on the job. 

Symptoms of Depression in Veterans

It is important to understand that the only way to receive a diagnosis of depression is through a medical examination with a qualified professional. Individuals experience depression in different ways, and for some individuals, it may not seem apparent that they are depressed. Whether or not symptoms of depression are apparent, they can include:

  • Feelings of sadness or anxiety that happen regularly or are experienced all the time
  • Losing interest in doing activities that you used to enjoy 
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Being easily frustrated 
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleeping too much or waking too early 
  • Changes in eating habits 
  • Experiences of pain, headaches, stomach problems, or other aches that are not improved through treatment
  • Restlessness 
  • Feeling tired despite having enough quality sleep 
  • Experiencing feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt 
  • Thoughts of suicide or other self-harm

While experiencing these symptoms can indicate depression, a medical diagnosis is necessary to determine whether or not a veteran is suffering from depression or other mental health issues. The CDC recommends that if you believe you may be depressed, it is important to talk with your doctor or another mental health professional as soon as possible. If your symptoms are worsening or impacting your daily life, immediate treatment is recommended. 

Major Causes of Depression in Veterans

While there is no specific cause for depression, the New England Journal of Medicine notes that it is generally believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and biological factors. Depression and the causes of depression differ from person to person, but the following factors have been recognized to increase the chances of an individual being depressed: 

  • When you have blood relatives with depression 
  • The experience of traumatic or stressful events, including sexual or physical abuse, the death of a loved one, or financial problems 
  • Experiencing a medical problem like chronic pain, cancer, or stroke
  • Taking particular medications, and if this might be the cause, it is important to ask your doctor if the medications you are taking could be causing depression 
  • Experiencing a major life change, even if it was something that you planned 
  • The use of alcohol or drugs 

It’s estimated by the CDC that one out of every six adults experience depression at some point during their lives. Depression can happen to anyone at any age or time in their life. Many individuals who experience depression also experience other mental health conditions, with anxiety being particularly common. Individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder suffer from intense and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, panic, or worry, and they may be long-term and interfere with daily life. 

Veterans Develop Depression Due to Common Active-Service Experiences

Depression is one of the leading mental health conditions experienced by members of the U.S. military. The NIH notes that mental health concerns such as PTSD and depression are the most publicized of those faced by veterans. Combat and deployment increase the risk of depression and PTSD, and the impact of the condition can be extensive and affect not only the veteran but also their families. 

If you are a veteran suffering from depression, the extent to which it impacts your day-to-day life, and your ability to work, determines your depression VA rating.

The Impact of Depression of Everyday Life

When a person is suffering from major depression, their symptoms can result in a significant impact on their ability to fully function in all areas of life. The actual presentation of depression symptoms can be difficult to identify and vary from patient to patient, underlining the importance of receiving mental health counseling and maintaining records of your condition for your VA disability application. 

VA Disability Rating Criteria for Depression

When a current diagnosis is service-related, a veteran is eligible for benefits. The VA explains that a service-related condition means that an illness or injury was a result of, or made worse by, your active military service. 

To be eligible for VA disability benefits like health care or tax-free compensation, you must meet the following requirements: 

Both of the following must be true: 

  • You have a current injury or illness, referred to as a condition, that impacts your body or mind, and
  • You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training in a qualifying U.S. Armed Force or other qualified organization

In addition to the two above points, at least one of the following must also apply to your situation: 

  • You were injured or became sick while serving in the military, and you can prove that this condition is linked to your illness or injury, referred to as an in-service disability claim, or
  • An injury or illness that you have prior to joining the military was made worse during your service, known as a pre-service disability claim or
  • You have a disability that is service-related but did not emerge until after your service ended, referred to as a post-service disability claim, but that is related to an incident in service or circumstances of service, such as presumed exposure to toxic substances. 

When the above applies, you will be eligible for VA disability benefits based on the percentage rating your symptoms are assigned. 

Once you have met the basic standards to qualify for VA disability benefits, your depression will be assessed based on the VA criteria for depression, as explained in the percentages below. 

VA Depression Rating Percentages

For depression, you may be assigned a disability rating of 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 percent. Depression is classified like other mental health disabilities and depends upon the extent to which your depression negatively impacts you in social and occupational environments.  

  • 0 percent – this rating is for veterans who had a diagnosis of depression, although the symptoms do not cause any functional impairment, and they do not require medication to manage.
  • 10 percent – a 10 percent depression VA rating is assigned to veterans who are experiencing symptoms of depression that may periodically cause minor social or occupational impairment, but there is no major functional impairment, and medication is sufficient to control the symptoms.
  • 30 percent – at 30 percent the symptoms of the veteran’s depression begin to interfere with social and occupational situations, and can cause periods in which work efficiency is decreased or when work is not possible as a result of the condition. Healthy social relationships are still possible, and medication may enable the veteran to continue generally being productive in the workplace. Mental health services and medication are often sufficient to manage depression at this level, for most of the time. 
  • 50 percent – Veterans with a 50 percent depression VA rating experience greater frequency, duration, and severity of their symptoms. At this level, the veteran experiences a substantial decrease in cognitive performance, including difficulty following instructions or coming to a decision. Dealing with stressful situations can be impossible, and workplace productivity is decreased while absenteeism increases due to the symptoms. Medication and mental health counseling may assist in treatment, however it does not eliminate the symptoms of depression. 
  • 70 percent – At 70 percent, a veteran is suffering from severe symptoms of depression that substantially impact their ability to perform in the workplace and to maintain healthy social relationships. The ability of the veteran to impact others is highly impacted by the symptoms of depression at this depression VA rating, and oftentimes, veterans at this rating are unable to maintain steady employment or achieve academic goals. The compensation available to veterans with a 70 percent rating can equal the amount awarded to persons with a 100 percent disability rating through total disability due to individual unemployability (TDIU). Medication is unable to manage the symptoms of depression at this level, and the veteran is unable to maintain employment. 
  • 100 percent – a 100 percent disability rating for depression alone requires that the veteran be totally unable to engage in everyday life as a result of the symptoms of their depression. Feeling too depressed to engage in everyday activities and a total inability to work is necessary for this rating. 

Generally, a veteran is awarded a lesser depression VA disability rating and other conditions will also receive a rating, with the sum total of your VA-rated disabilities determining the amount you are awarded. TDIU means that you are eligible to receive the full compensation amount awarded by the VA and is available when your service-related disabilities make you unable to work.

Your Depression Can be a Secondary Condition that is Covered by VA Disability 

It is important to understand that your service-related depression does not have to be a direct result of an event, injury, or illness during your active duty. Rather, it can also be secondary to a primary condition that developed during your active service. This could be due to medications you require to address chronic pain from injuries, be linked to service-related PTSD, or other primary issues. 

When depression is secondary to other conditions, your overall disability rating is determined by adding up the sum total of all your disabilities. For example, back pain and depression can be experienced simultaneously. If you were to receive a depression VA rating of 30 percent, and a back painVA rating of 40 percent, you would have a total disability rating of 70 percent. That 70 percent rating could entitle you to TDIU. It can be confusing, and the best way to determine exactly what VA disability benefits you could be entitled to is by working with a VA disability lawyer. 

Filing a VA Disability Claim for Depression

When you are eligible for VA disability benefits, unfortunately, you are not automatically awarded what you deserve. Instead you need to gather medical evidence to prove your depression VA rating, and file your completed claim with the VA for consideration. You’ll need to collect the appropriate evidence and properly and completely fill out the following forms to be considered for VA disability benefits based on your depression VA rating:

  • VA Form 21-526EZ – Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits – this is the general form you’ll need to file to collect compensation for your service-related condition.
  • Depression Questionnaires – to begin the process of determining whether or not you are depressed, the VA offers screening questionnaires that you are able to take advantage of. The VA provides a self-assessment that you can take, an anonymous screening, that helps you determine whether or not you should seek out professional medical attention for your symptoms. Completing the depression screening opportunity presented by the VA can provide you with an important piece of evidence and a starting point in addressing your service-related depression and receiving the benefits you deserve. 

It is essential that your application is supported by evidence that clearly links your current diagnosis with your active service or a condition stemming from it. To support your VA disability compensation for depression, you can submit the following in support of your application:

  • Medical records and statements from your regular mental health visits to address your depression, 
  • Self-reported journals of how your depression impacts you
  • Statements from family members and friends who witness how your depression impacts you
  • Statements from your coworkers and/or employ explaining how your symptoms impact your ability to perform at work

This information is submitted to the VA in the form of nexus letters and buddy statements. 

The Importance of Nexus Letters and Buddy Statements 

Only veterans who are able to demonstrate that their current diagnosis is connected to qualifying service in the U.S. Armed Forces qualify for VA disability benefits. A part of your depression VA rating is the C&P Exam, the Compensation and Pension Exam conducted by the VA as part of your VA disability claim. However, applicants who provide sufficient medical evidence in support of their claim may not have to go through the C&P Exam. This is where nexus letters and buddy statements come into play. 

To file your nexus letter or buddy statement, you’ll use VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim. This form is used when you have information to provide to the VA to consider from an individual who has firsthand knowledge or information related to your claim for VA disability benefits. This form is flexible and can be used to submit both your nexus statement in addition to statements from peers in the military or your family who are familiar with your current condition or the service-related event, injury, or illness that caused it. 

The nexus letter is the opinion of a medical expert that links your current diagnosis to your service or a condition connected to it. A medical expert will carefully review your service records and medical records concerning the event, injury, or illness that caused or worsened your current diagnosis. The medical expert then determines whether the likelihood that your current diagnosis is linked to your active service is “at least as likely as not “or not at least as likely as not.. 

When your rating is “at least as likely as not”, the VA will generally approve your claim for benefits. The screeners at the VA are generally looking for particular information in the applications they review to approve them. If you have had your initial claim denied, the VA disability lawyers at our veterans’ benefits law firm have decades of combined experience in this exact area. We know how to help you package your evidence and file your claim to support success. 

Supporting Medical Evidence and Ongoing Mental Health Services

Documentation covering how your depression impacts your life helps the VA in rating your disability. If your depression is secondary to a condition such as chronic back pain, providing the VA evidence of your service-related back injury and a statement from a medical professional linking your depression to your back injury will support the approval of your application. Fully covering how depression impacts your employment is central to maximizing eligibility for tax-free monthly compensation payments. 

The Impact of Depression on Employment

The purpose of VA disability compensation is to provide you with the medical services you need to address your service-related condition and also to make up for any lost earnings due to it. When your depression impacts your ability to maintain steady employment to support yourself and your family, you are entitled to monthly tax-free compensation payments. The amount is determined by your depression VA rating.

Discuss Your Depression VA Rating with a VA Disability Lawyer Now

The symptoms of depression can be detrimental to your ability to maintain gainful employment and can negatively impact your overall quality of life. When mental health services and medication are insufficient to address your symptoms, and your work and home life are suffering, VA disability benefits are available. 

Making the most of your depression VA rating requires evidence and the know-how on how to present it to the VA. To learn how we can help, call us at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.


What is the average VA rating for depression?

The depression VA rating that is assigned to your disability claim depends upon the extent to which your depression impacts your life in social and occupational environments. While the rating differs depending on the symptoms experienced by the veteran and their severity, 30 percent is assigned in many cases. A VA disability lawyer can advise you on what options are available in your unique situation. 

Can you get a VA disability rating for depression? 

You can get a VA disability rating for depression and other mental health conditions so long as they are service-related. This means that your current diagnosis must be linked to an event, injury, or illness experienced during qualifying active service, as stated in an expert medical opinion. The VA disability rating you receive for your depression depends upon the medical and other supporting evidence submitted with your claim. 

What is the VA rating for mental health? 

Mental health conditions may receive a VA rating of 0 percent, 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, or 100 percent. Healthcare benefits are available for any veteran with a diagnosis of depression, and any veteran experiencing depression is encouraged to seek out immediate medical attention. When your depression VA rating meets or exceeds 10 percent, you are eligible to receive monthly tax-free payments to cover the impact your depression has upon your ability to work.