VA Disability Ratings for Depression and Anxiety

good afternoon and welcome to C CK Facebook live at home today we're going to be talking about depression and anxiety before we dive in we do want to know if you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran a friend and our experiencing crisis please reach out and call the veterans places crisis line at one eight hundred two seven three eight two five five and press one this is not just for veterans who are having a mental health crisis but really any life crisis they can get you assistance and and point you in the right direction again that's for veterans or friends or family members of veterans with that I just wanted a quick moment to introduce ourselves I'm Anna Peterson and today I'm joined with Bethany cook and with Nicholas Briggs and we're going to be talking like I said about depression and anxiety depression is probably the most one of the second most common service-connected mental health disorder among veterans so we wanted to talk a little bit about how you go about getting service-connected and how about VA goes about rating that disability so Nick how would a veteran establish service connection for depression or anxiety as always there are three basic elements to service connection first and foremost the veteran needs to have a current diagnosis of the condition then there needs to be some kind of in-service event disease or injury and then there needs to be medical evidence linking it to so oftentimes we see situations where a veteran is diagnosed with depression and anxiety but they're still they still need to establish that the condition is related to something that happened in their service that can come through a number of different ways that we'll talk about later but one of the most important distinctions is that it doesn't need to involve a stressor one of the more common mental health disabilities that we see is post traumatic stress disorder and in those situations VA requires credible evidence of a stressor that incurred in service but a stressor isn't required to establish service connection for depression we're really talking about any specific psychological symptoms that manifested during the veterans service that they still experience now the what are some examples you mentioned the three elements one which being in service and Curren what are some examples of you know in service causes of depression or anxiety does it have to be due to service or due to a military activity no absolutely not it just needs to have happened during service again there are some situations where there might be a stressor that depression and anxiety could be related to you but oftentimes we see that a veteran is experiencing problems that aren't directly related to the military that still affect their functioning during service for example if the veteran is deployed to another country and they're experiencing problems with their family at home they might become depressed and anxious over their inability to do anything to help their family while they're stationed abroad so even if the factors causing their symptoms and service are in and of themselves related to that service as long as the symptoms manifested during their period of active duty they're still a means through which they can get service connection granted now what if your depression was caused by let's say your service connected for a really bad back disability you know you're in constant pain you can't walk and that leads to depression is that something that veterans can file for service connection absolutely that's what's called secondary service connection where the underlying service-connected condition that's causing the depression basically serves as a placeholder for the typical in-service and currents so as long as there's some kind of medical and lay evidence supporting the connection between the hypothetical veterans severe back disability and their depression arising from maybe their inability to do activities that they used to enjoy things like that that certainly a means through which service connection can be granted as well um now sometimes you might not know you know what condition you exactly have I know we have a lot of clients and there a lot of folks out there who my be diagnosed with multiple conditions sometimes depression anxiety go hand-in-hand do you have to file claims for both can you just file generally you know if you have two conditions so I have to get two claims going what kind of veteran do if they one don't know what they have or two they've got a lot of different diagnoses in their record for sure obviously veterans typically aren't you know qualified psychological experts so from a certain perspective they're not going to know what their exact diagnosis is all they can really test to are the symptoms that they experience I mean how they affect them and because of that VA has a duty to liberally construe a veteran's claim this was covered in the courts Clements decision which basically says even if the veteran files a service connection point for a particular disability like PTSD if there are other psychological diagnosis of record the board is still required to consider whether or not those diagnoses are related to service even if the one this veteran specifically claims isn't shown in the medical evidence okay does VA you know diagnose or evaluate how do they go about diagnosing and evaluate the severity of a veterans you know depression or anxiety sure so from a diagnostic perspective they rely on the dsm-5 so for PTSD there's obviously the criteria requiring a stressor that's criterion a but major depressive disorder other depressive disorders and other anxiety disorders all have their own separate diagnostic criteria and as long as the veterans particular symptoms meet the frequency and duration requirements outlined for those conditions in the DSM they can still be diagnosed with those conditions and then from there once the diagnosis reached the VA will apply what's called the general formula for rating mental health conditions which will go into more detail on obviously right so Bethenny we've gotten service connection for our veteran for question or anxiety how does VA go about using that general rating criteria that Nick has talked about how do they go about doing that and assigning a rating for a veteran win one of these mental health conditions sure I sovetnik said how the VA rates depression and anxiety is using the general rating formula for mental health conditions this is the reading criteria that the VA uses for all mental health conditions the ratings range from zero ten thirty fifty seventy or a hundred percent and the VA bases these ratings on the occupational and social impairment that the conditions costs so the VA is going to assign a reading based on the severity the zero percent rating is the least severe if the VA Awards a zero percent reading you know they're saying that the veteran has a diagnosis that the condition is due to service and the condition is due service but the symptoms don't impair social or occupational functioning at all or require any medication so a zero percent rating of course some isn't going to result in any compensation for the veteran and then moving from there the ten percent rating is the next least severe so with a ten percent reading the symptoms of depression and/or anxiety or mild periods of high stress might cause minor social or occupational impairment but essentially the VA is saying the condition isn't severe enough to cause any major occupational or social impairment so it goes at that point from 30% to 50% the 30% is just a step above 10% the symptoms might be a little bit more severe but the VA is still saying that the condition doesn't cause major occupational or social impairment and the 50% reading is where the bees think that as a condition has causes regular impairment of work or social skills so with a 50% reading a veteran might still be able to work but the condition is causing some impairment the next type is reading is the 70% reading this is where of the reading criteria says that the condition is causing impairment in most areas such as work school social relationships judgment thinking and or mood reading my manifest would would be suicidal ideation obsessional rituals that interfere with routine activities near continuous panic and/or depression and these symptoms are causing interference and independent functioning so a 70% rating is still not the most severe even though it is causing impairment in most areas the highest reading is 100% reading and that's what the VA is saying the condition is causing a total occupational and social environment so based on the reading criteria a veteran who has 100% disability reading the VA is saying that you know they would essentially not be able to have any kinds of social relationships or be able to function in a work environment how the reading criteria works is beyond just how the VA is saying what level of social national impairment the condition causes each rating criteria also includes a list of symptoms that the rating kind of correlates with but there is a case law also in these regulations that this list of symptoms are not exhaustive so if it's more probable rate disability as what rating would best approximate the severity of the veterans disability now I'm gonna take a quick commentary here on that zero percent criteria because this has always bothered me and I don't that bothers you eunuch but for those criteria for diagnosing someone with anxiety or depression one of the criteria that it causes clinically significant distress I believe I'm using the right term or something along those lines so in my opinion I'm not quite sure how you have a diagnosis and it's not causing you any impairment whatsoever at all but that's just me I would certainly suggest that you reach out to a veteran's service organization and a credit representative or attorney whoever you're working with on your claim if you do get created service connection for one of these conditions and are assigned of zero percent rating that's just my two cents on the issue all right moving right along Nick if I have two conditions like we talked about I've got depression and anxiety is V going to award me two ratings am I gonna get you know a 30% for my depression and a 30% for my anxiety how does that work so like we talked about at the beginning VA uses for most mental health disabilities a general formula and because the formula is meant to apply to all sorts of different diagnoses you're not going to get separate ratings for depression on the one hand and anxiety on the other rather you're gonna get a single disability rating under the formula that accommodates and considers all of your particular symptoms if you look back at the 30 percent criteria that Bethany mentioned you'll see both depressed mood anxiety and panic attacks listed under the same part of the rating schedule so it's not a matter of getting separate ratings for each condition is really a matter of figuring out what the severity of those symptoms are and then from there determining what the rating should be based off of the occupational and social impairment they cause that's not to say that there aren't certain mental health conditions that can be rated separately VA does have a separate set of criteria for eating disorder specifically so there are certain circumstances where there might be separate rating involved but they're pretty few and far between for the most part of the conditions are going to be rated together now Bethany what if depression and anxiety prevent you from working what happens then yep so you might have noticed when I was talking about the reading criteria that how the VA is is thinking when they are kind of defining the different readings themselves is talking about occupational and social impairment so the hundred percent reading was totalled social and occupational impairment and it might be difficult to show that so veterans depression and anxiety could be extremely severe but only get the 70 percent reading because maybe there are still able to kind of have have social relationships so that's where you can apply for a different benefit so with the total disability reading based on individual unemployability shortname tdiu that's the benefit that gets a veteran compensated out the 100% rate if they are unable to work obtain substantial gainful employment due to their service-connected disabilities so in theory a veteran could you know be maybe they're under rated at 30% or 50% but if they can show that they're unable to work due to their depression and anxiety even if it is pretty a lowly rated TDI you would be in an alternative way to get compensated up to 100% rate with a 70% reading on based on the severity of those symptoms it's a little bit it can be a little bit more kind of straightforward obtaining the TDI you benefit based on on the requirements for TDI you but it is an option for a veteran to get compensated up to 100% rate even if their disability isn't really that at 100% now what is some evidence you know both Bethany and Nick practice at our agency as accredited reps where is some evidence that is helpful for our that are seeking depression and anxiety a service connection or increased rating with some evidence that you all look for and try to develop so one of the most important oh go ahead Bethany I was just going to say medical evidence that's probably the one of the one of the most important how the VA will often rate disability as it's based on their VA compensation and pension exams so having your private medical records or on your records from your treating physicians at the VA Medical Center's that can be a way to kind of show that the severity that your condition manifests with on a daily basis absolutely in addition to that we often find many of the veterans that we work with and represent don't treat as often as other veterans do for whatever reason often times they might be isolating and living in remote areas that make it difficult to seek treatment regularly and for that reason in addition to the usual medical evidence that you can get from treating doctor we also like to gather lay evidence from both the veteran themselves as well as any family members or friends that know them and know how their symptoms affect them on a day-to-day basis because oftentimes like Bethany mentioned VA is gonna rate the condition based solely off of the four corners of the VA examination but oftentimes the veteran might be downplaying or otherwise failing to report certain symptoms at the time of the VA exam and at the end of the day that's just a single snapshot of the veterans functioning during that particular examination on that particular day so any evidence that you can provide from friends and family regarding your functioning over the course of months or years is going to go a long way in making sure that VA rates your condition properly and piggybacking off of what Nick said the friends and family statements are very important because you know this stuff can be hard to talk about with a stranger at a VA exam that you know you've never seen before they're not there to treat you necessarily and so opening about these very personal issues is not an easy thing to do so having a statement from your spouse sibling a parent whoever's in your life your neighbor who sees you and can provide a really clear accurate picture of what your symptoms are like and how it impairs you day to day can be really helpful and often provide a more realistic picture of what's going on rather than as Nick said a snapshot of you know how we were with a stranger for a few minutes in an exam room on one day do you all have any closing tips or thoughts for folks out there that are listening to this broadcast it's worth keeping in mind that just like with other service-connected disabilities getting that 100% rating or getting TDI you might not necessarily be the end of the question or all of the benefits that you could be entitled to there are certain situations where the veteran might need the aid in attendance of another person either because there are threats of themselves a threat to others or because they need the assistance from another person to do even some of the most basic activities like bathing and dressing and in those situations it would be worth considering pursuing special monthly compensation so there there's always that additional benefit to keep in mind if you think that your condition is even more severe than tdiu or a 100 percent rating by encompassed any any closing back to chips I would just echo I think you said it earlier and that if you believe that the VA did underrate if you got service connection you did believe that the VA is under reading your your psychiatric disability that can be a really good time to seek representation whether it be with a with a VSO or with a private law firm to assist you in getting the evidence that you need to combat the reading that the VA has a sign or as well as an assisting you and I'm obtaining a higher benefit like tau or or SMC as Nick said be great so one more time I'm just gonna tell you all the Veterans Crisis Line in case any needs it it's one eight hundred two seven three eight two five five again that's for you as a veteran or if you are a friend or family member of a veteran that's in crisis please reach out to them and then would be happy to assist you in whatever way they can if you have any questions or thoughts about our Facebook live today please feel free to post them in the comments and we will try to get back to you just as soon as we can in the meantime feel free to check out our web site at C CK – low calm look at our blog we have a lot further and more in-depth discussion about these various mental health disabilities but with that we are going to sign off once again I'm Emma Peterson joined today by Nicholas Briggs and Bethany cook and thank you for joining us for another episode of CCK live you

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