Quick Guide: VA Disability Criteria for Depression

When you have service-related depression, the depression VA rating you receive will determine the amount of compensation benefits that you are eligible to receive. As we’ll discuss, any veteran with a current diagnosis of a service-connected disability is eligible to receive medical coverage, but only certain veterans qualify for tax-free compensation. You must have a rating of 10 percent or more to receive financial compensation each month.

If you or a loved one is suffering from depression as a result of an event, injury, or illness experienced during active service or as a secondary condition to another service-related condition, you could qualify for coverage. Free resources are available to help you file an initial VA disability application. 

To add depression to your VA disability rating or to appeal a denial of your earlier claim for depression, one of our VA disability lawyers can help. 

Symptoms of Depression 

As detailed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, depression is “a common but serious disorder and typically requires treatment to manage.” At its most basic definition, depression is sadness that is significant enough that it begins to interfere with your daily life. 

Signs and symptoms of depression include: 

  • Feelings of intense sadness and/or hopelessness
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt 
  • Beginning to avoid social situations and prior relationships 
  • Difficulty sleeping, whether sleeping too much or not enough on most days
  • Changes in appetite whether overeating or not eating enough food
  • A decrease in energy and motivation nearly every day 

The management of depression is important to minimize the negative impact of related symptoms on your day-to-day life and ability to work. Mental health care and treatments are available to veterans through the VA when depression is service-related or secondary to a service-connected condition. 

Depression as a Secondary Service-Connected Condition

When you can prove that your depression, or any other acquired psychiatric disorder, is linked to your qualifying service in the U.S. Armed Forces ,  you will generally be entitled to r VA disability benefits. This is known as “direct” service connection.  If for example, your depression begins in service, that would be “direct” service connection.

However, it is also important to understand secondary service-connection:  when you develop a disorder, such as depression, as a result of a different service-related condition. For example, there is a high incidence of depression secondary to pain. If you are service-connected for a physical disability, say a back disorder, and as a result develop depression, that would be “secondary” service-connection.  

Securing VA disability benefits requires that you submit evidence from a qualified medical professional in support of your claim. The VA may schedule you for an examination after you file your initial application. We hope it’s not, but if your claim is denied, our VA disability benefits attorneys can help with the appeal process. 

VA’s Rating for Depression

VA rates depression according to its “General Rating Formula for Mental Diseases.” Essentially, VA has identified certain psychiatric symptoms that it believes are reflective of a specific degree of social and occupational impairment. Naturally, the more severe your symptoms, the greater the impairment in social and occupational functioning.

General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders

Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.

Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships. 

 Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships.

Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events).

Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled by continuous medication.

A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.

VA Disability Compensation Replaces Lost Income 

The purpose of VA disability compensation is to make up for lost earning capacity resulting from your service-connected disability. When you have a diagnosis of depression at even a 0 percent disability rating, you will be able to receive medical benefits from the VA for your condition. Once you reach a rating of 10 percent, you qualify for VA disability compensation payments in the form of monthly tax-free payments. 

When veterans have a disability rating of 10 percent for depression, their symptoms can be managed and do not significantly impact their day-to-day lives. As the percent rating increases, the impact on day-to-day life, including personal relationships and professional/work performance, also rises. To compensate for the drop in income, the VA provides the following amounts in tax-free monthly payments based on your depression VA rating: 

  • $171.23 per month for 10% disability
  • $338.49 per month for 20% disability
  • $524.31 per month for 30% disability
  • $755.28 per month for 40% disability
  • $1,075.16 per month for 50% disability
  • $1,361.88 per month for 60% disability
  • $1,716.28 per month for 70% disability
  • $1,995.01 per month for 80% disability
  • $2,241.91 per month for 90% disability
  • $3,737.85 per month for 100% disability

These are the amounts provided to a veteran alone without any dependents. And so long as you have a combined disability rating of 30 percent or higher, your VA disability compensation increases based on your number of dependents. This can include your spouse, dependent-children, or even dependent-parents. 

Statements Can be Submitted to the VA in Support of Your Depression Claim and Rating

It is essential to provide the VA with sufficient information to completely and accurately rate your disability. You are able to provide information from your own medical professional in support of your claim. However, you can also secure and submit statements from family members, co-workers, friends, or fellow service-members that can speak to your depression and its cause or onset.  

Connect with a VA Disability Lawyer for Help with Your Appeal

To discuss how we can help you collect the compensation you deserve, give us a call at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule your free initial consultation.