Common Challenges and Solutions for Depression VA Ratings

A veteran who files a VA disability claim for depression must have a current diagnosis of depression or any other acquired psychiatric condition which began or was aggravated as a result of their military service. There must also be a nexus between their depression diagnosis and their military service. This is called a service connection, which the veteran must prove for a successful VA claim. Although it makes for a more straightforward case, the veteran does not need to be diagnosed with depression while in service.

Assuming the VA has service-connected you for depression, their next task is to assign a percentage rating ranging from 0 (formal diagnosis, but symptoms do not impair your social or occupational functioning or require continuous medication) with intermediate steps at 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and up to 100% (total social and occupational impairment). Your assigned rating depends on your symptoms, frequency of symptoms, duration, and severity of depression. It also establishes your monthly, tax-free disability compensation.  

Challenges for a VA Depression Rating

Many military members are reluctant to seek professional help for their depression while in service. Some still view seeing a mental health provider as a stigma because of a lack of understanding of mental illness and the negative connotations of the diagnosis of a mental health condition or taking medication for such a condition. This is despite our society and armed forces working diligently to dispel such stereotypes in recent years. Some members are also worried seeking professional help will affect their security clearance, which is not true as long as the individual follows proper reporting procedures. So, the challenge is that without a diagnosis of depression in service, it may be more challenging to link one’s post-service diagnosis to their military service, which is the service connection necessary for a VA disability claim. 

Furthermore, some veterans are too proud, reluctant, or may not be able to sufficiently describe their symptoms and level of occupational or social impairment to their mental health professional. They may also provide insufficient evidence to support the level of severity of their depression. Your level of occupational and social impairment determines your overall VA rating, so it is essential to get it right. The VA must assess the criteria in their general rating formula for mental disorders to assign your rating. You actually can be service-connected for depression and receive 0% disability depending on your symptoms. 

Proposed New VA Rating Schedule

The VA has proposed to amend the rating schedule for mental health disorders more in favor of the claimant, expected to take effect sometime in 2024. Changes include a minimum rating of 10% for any diagnosed mental health condition. The amendment will also change how the VA evaluates mental health disorders for assignment of a rating more in the veteran’s favor, replacing the current system of assigning a rating based on the number and type of symptoms present, which possibly can be detrimental to the claimant.

Speak with a VA Depression Attorney to Learn About Your Options

What if you filed a VA claim for depression, and the VA denied it or assigned a lower-than-expected rating for your condition? This happens all too often. Common reasons include no diagnosis, no in-service evidence that your condition occurred or was aggravated by your military service, or no nexus between your disability and service. Another reason is that the VA did not correctly assess your rating due to missing evidence or error. These reasons for denial or a low rating may be fixable on appeal. Remember, you have one year from the date of your decision letter to file your appeal.
You may also file a new claim for an increased rating if your service-connected disability worsens. Contact us for a free review of your case to ensure you receive all your entitlements for your claim.