Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs considers a traumatic event as any event that causes a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, or sexual violation or threatens you with injury, sexual assault, or death. For example, being deployed in a war zone, military combat, training accidents, or military sexual trauma may lead to PTSD. When you experience extreme stress, the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotional responses, enlarges. This creates an imbalance that can cause the arousal of depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and/or hypervigilance.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, approximately 7% of veterans will have PTSD. However, this number may be underestimated because the brain often hides injuries to protect people, so many veterans are unaware of the full extent of their condition. While veterans who suffer from service-related PTSD are likely to qualify for VA disability benefits, many veterans do not receive the full compensation to which they are entitled because of how the VA examines benefit applications. An experienced VA disability lawyer from Disability Law Group can fight for the full benefits you deserve.
What Is a VA PTSD Disability Rating?
A VA Disability Rating is a percentage the VA’s Rating Authorities assign to a veteran’s service-connected medical conditions during the VA disability process. VA disability ratings are based on statutes that outline which symptoms are associated with each level of disability. The percentage rating represents the severity of the disability and is determined by the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from the conditions and their effects. The more severe the disability, the higher the disability rating.
The VA considers many factors regarding your symptoms when assigning a disability rating due to a mental condition, including:
- Their severity
- Their frequency
- Their average duration
- Their impact on your ability to function
- Length of remission
- Your ability to adjust during periods of symptom remission
What Are the Levels of PTSD That You Can Be Rated At?
The VA assigns disability ratings of 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100% for mental disorders, including PTSD. Ratings may be higher with severe symptoms or when they significantly impact the veteran’s ability to work. The VA considers many factors when assigning a rating, including social and occupational impairment, the frequency of PTSD symptoms, and the duration of PTSD symptoms. A veteran does not have to meet all of the symptoms in a rating level to be rated at that level.
Here is more information about each possible rating level and what it means:
A 0% VA rating means that you have been diagnosed with PTSD. However, the condition does not interfere with your work or social life. The condition does not require continuous medication.
At a 10% VA disability rating, you suffer mild or transient symptoms that decrease your work efficiency and ability to work, but only during periods of significant stress, or your symptoms are controlled by continuous medication.
A 30% rating means you have moderate symptoms that impair your work efficiency and ability to complete job tasks. These symptoms may worsen with stress. You may take medication and receive therapy for the condition.
Your symptoms might include:
- Recurring nightmares
- Mild memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Chronic sleep impairment
These symptoms may occasionally interfere with your ability to work or perform occupational tasks, but you are “generally” able to function “satisfactorily.”
A 50% VA disability rating applies when your mental disorder causes more pronounced problems at work and in your everyday life. You may have symptoms such as:
- Panic attacks more often than once a week
- Difficulty understanding complex instructions
- Short-term and long-term memory loss
- Impaired judgment
- Difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships at work and in your social life
- A flattened affect
- Speech impairment
- Impaired abstract thinking
- Motivation and mood disturbances
These symptoms make you less reliable and productive at work.
Federal law requires that you be assigned a 50% disability rating if you are released from active service because of a mental disorder that develops during service because of a highly stressful event. You will be reexamined after six months for any adjustment in your rating.
At a 70% VA disability rating, you are likely experiencing problems in most areas of your life, including work, school, family life, and social relationships. You may be experiencing symptoms such as:
- Suicidal ideation
- Obsessive focus on rituals that interfere with your work or everyday life
- Near-continuous panic attacks or depression that make it difficult to function independently
- Inability to establish or maintain relationships with others
- Illogical speech
- Difficulty adapting to stressful situations
- Violent outbursts
- Unprovoked irritability
- Neglect of personal hygiene
A 100% disability rating means total occupational and social impairment. This rating means you are totally disabled and unable to work due to symptoms you experience, such as:
- Gross impairment in thought processes and communication
- Persistent delusions or hallucinations
- Representing a danger to yourself and others
- Extreme memory loss
- Disorientation to time or place
- Grossly inappropriate behavior
- Inability to perform activities of daily living at times
How Does Your PTSD Rating Affect Your Benefits?
The PTSD rating you are assigned directly impacts the amount of VA disability benefits you receive. The VA disability rating determines the compensation you can receive each month, as well as your eligibility for other VA benefits. The higher your rating percentage, the more compensation you will receive for the condition. A 100% VA disability rating can ensure that you receive the maximum benefits allowed and can translate to thousands of dollars in added benefits each year.
What if My Symptoms Are Consistent with More Than One PTSD Rating?
According to federal statute, if you exhibit symptoms of more than one PTSD rating, the VA must assign the higher evaluation if the disability picture more closely resembles the criteria for that rating. If this is not the case, the lower rating is assigned.
How Can a VA Disability Attorney Help with My Disability Benefits?
Because your PTSD rating is tied directly to the amount of VA disability benefits you can receive, it is critical that you receive the highest rating possible for your situation. A VA disability lawyer from Disability Law Group can help to build your claim by taking the following appropriate actions:
- Sending your doctors a Disability Benefits Questionnaire to complete
- Coordinating independent medical examinations to demonstrate the higher level of symptoms or to combat an unfavorable Compensation and Pension exam finding
- Working with medical specialists to obtain medical evidence in your favor
- Assisting with your application for VA disability benefits
- Appealing adverse findings
- Gathering additional evidence to demonstrate the disabling effect of your symptoms
- Submitting supporting statements from military colleagues, friends, and family members
- Arguing for a finding of Individual Employability if your symptoms do not align with the 100% rating but your PTSD renders you unemployable
- Developing an individualized strategy to determine the type of evidence that can support your claim and working to develop it
We can also help veterans assigned a lower rating file for an increased rating.
For help with your PTSD and VA rating, contact the experts Disability Law Group. We provide a free case review to discuss your situation. We are dedicated to helping our country’s heroes receive the full extent of compensation to which they are entitled.