One of the most challenging topics a military veteran can express is their experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many military personnel witness traumatic events while serving. Due to the stigma around counseling, many service members avoid PTSD treatment in and out of uniform. If your PTSD resulted from your military service, you might still be eligible for VA disability benefits.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is when there is a chemical imbalance in the part of the brain that controls emotional responses. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by exposure to highly stressful situations. It is NOT an untreatable processing disorder for those that “can’t take” the stress. PTSD stressors include natural disasters, combat, car accidents, and sexual assault.
The majority of PTSD cases do not go away on their own. It is important to seek treatment from a medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, like flashbacks, hypervigilance, depression, and anxiety. Symptoms may not occur right after a stressful event; it could take months or years for symptoms of PTSD to show up. Other symptoms include:
- Agitation, irritability, and hostility
- Self-destructive behavior
- Social isolation
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Guilt and loneliness
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Emotional detachment
- Intrusive and unwanted thoughts
Without a treatment plan, PTSD can affect your personal and professional relationships and daily routines and rob you of your quality of life.
According to the VA, the number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era. In any given year, for example, up to 20% of military personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD, and up to 30% of Vietnam veterans have PTSD.
What Evidence Does The VA Require for PTSD Claims?
As a military veteran, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits for PTSD if the traumatic event you experienced occurred during your military service and you are currently experiencing symptoms.
To prove a service connection for PTSD and receive VA disability compensation, you must provide evidence of the following to the VA:
- A current, formal PTSD diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional or mental health professional like your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist.
- A statement written by you about the service-connected stressful event that caused your PTSD. Sometimes, you may be required to provide corroborating evidence through a buddy letter, military records, police reports, newspaper articles, etc.
- A medical nexus opinion from a VA psychologist or psychiatrist (or one under contract with the VA) linking the current diagnosis to the in-service stressor.
Once the VA is satisfied that your PTSD is service-connected, you will receive a rating under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic Code 9411. Our team can work with you to help you understand whether or not you have enough evidence to pursue a PTSD claim.
PTSD Disability Rating
The VA rates PTSD at 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. You should be as honest as possible with the VA about the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing. To be rated at a certain level, you do not necessarily have to meet all of the symptoms at that level.
10% Disability Rating
A 10% rating means that your symptoms are either sporadic, less severe, or more severe but controlled or eliminated by medication.
30% Disability Rating
A rating of 30% means that your symptoms are more severe or frequent but still manageable. The symptoms of PTSD may interfere with your job performance or social interactions, but you are generally able to function at a satisfactory level; this is the most common rating for most veterans.
50% Disability Rating
At a rating of 50%, you face symptoms like speech impairment, a lethargic outlook, memory, thought, or judgment impairment, weekly panic attacks, difficulty maintaining healthy social relationships, or difficulty understanding complex instructions.
70% Disability Rating
A 70% rating means you struggle to maintain employment, experience suicidal thoughts, frequent panic attacks, depression, emotional outbursts, and irrational anger, have an obsessive focus on rituals, cannot manage stressful situations, and often neglect your hygiene. At this rating level, you may be able to claim Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability, which rates you at 70% yet pays you at 100% due to unemployability.
100% Disability Rating
At a 100% disability rating for PTSD, you generally cannot leave your house and may need constant supervision. You may experience gross thought impairment, delusions, hallucinations, disorientation, and near-complete memory loss. You may also be deemed a danger to yourself and others.
How You Are Rated
The basis of your rating is generally the highest level of symptoms you are experiencing. For example, if you have six 30% symptoms, three 50% symptoms, and two 70% symptoms, you should receive a rating of 70%. The VA cannot downplay your symptoms and give you a lower rating.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions are some we often receive from veterans looking to receive a disability rating for PTSD.
I’ve never seen a doctor or psychologist for my PTSD. Am I still eligible for VA Benefits?
A lack of treatment records doesn’t mean VA benefits are unattainable. If your PTSD resulted from your military service, you may still be eligible for VA disability benefits.
Can I submit a PTSD claim if I was never combat deployed?
Yes. Because the military is a unique work environment that exposes service members to various dangerous work conditions, the battlefield isn’t the only triggering event for PTSD in veterans. Due to the nature of the job, veterans face stressful cause them to develop PTSD more so than the average American.
PTSD can be caused by exposure to direct or indirect fire, Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and other training situations within non-combat zones.
Why would I live through my trauma again just to have my claim denied?
If you experience a traumatic event and can provide a verifiable account of the incident, you will have an easier time building your case. However, the key is verifying that a stressor occurred while you were in service and that you suffered directly or indirectly. You must also have a verified PTSD diagnosis from a qualified medical professional.
Many people with PTSD suffer in silence and do not seek help. They don’t always seek veteran disability compensation because they feel uncomfortable sharing or re-living their stressors.
You deserve to receive compensation for illnesses and injuries caused by your military service.
I don’t want to risk being rated for PTSD because of work restrictions. What should I do?
Having PTSD does not automatically result in workplace restrictions. As per SF 86, mental health treatment and counseling in and of itself is not a reason to revoke or deny eligibility for access to classified information. This also includes holding a sensitive position. Seeking or receiving mental health care for personal wellness and recovery may contribute favorably to decisions about your employment eligibility.
You are not Alone
If you have PTSD, seek help and keep up with your appointments. There are support options and treatment for PTSD. If you are in crisis, please contact the VA Crisis Hotline. The new veterans’ crisis line phone number is simple: dial 988, then press 1 to reach a caring, qualified responder for 24/7 support.