Depression is known to be one of the most common disabilities veterans are facing today. It is more than just a feeling of sadness. It can alter a person’s mood, cause disturbances in concentration, sleep, activity level, interests, appetite and social behavior. Depression is a disability that can be treated; however, it is more often a life-long condition making it hard for veterans to live daily life.
Veterans suffering from depression may be eligible for service-connected disability benefits. The VA lists depression under the category of “Mood Disorders”. There are two types of depression that the VA recognizes under this category: major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.
Major Depressive disorder
A diagnosis of major depressive disorder requires at least two major episodes of depression lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of major depression need to significantly impair daily functioning. Some of these symptoms include:
- A lack of interest in most activities
- Feeling depressed most of the day
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
- Feeling very fatigued and /or low energy
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Dysthymic Disorder is characterized by mildly depressed or irritable mood. It requires feeling depressed for two years or more with symptoms that greatly prevent everyday functioning, creates low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness and difficulty in decision making and/ or concentration.
Eligibility for VA Compensation
It is important for a veteran looking to obtain VA compensation for depression to know the eligibility requirements. The veteran would first need to show that their depression is connected to their time in service. The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- A current diagnosis of depression
- Evidence of an incident in service that caused depression
- Medical evidence of a link or nexus between the current diagnosis of depression and the incident in service
Depression Aggravated by Service
There are some cases where a veteran may have suffered from depression before their time in service. There also may have been some events that caused the depression to worsen due to military service. This is called aggravated service connection – an event in service that made a pre-existing condition worse.
Aggravated service connection for a pre-existing diagnosis of depression requires:
- A current diagnosis of depression by a VA doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist
- Evidence of an incident in service that worsened the depression
- Medical evidence of a link between the worsening of the depression and the incident in service.
Understanding how the VA Rates Depression
The VA has a rating schedule for every condition a veteran can apply for. Depression falls under the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. Depression is rated based on how much the veteran’s occupational and social ability becomes impaired due to depression. It is the effects of the veteran’s symptoms which impair the veteran’s ability to function that the VA looks at.
The rating formula for mental disorders goes from a 0 percent to 100 percent disability rating. A 100 percent rating is warranted only where a veteran has absolutely no ability to function socially or at work. A 0 percent rating is assigned where, despite depression symptoms, a veteran’s ability to function is not actually impaired. However, a 0 percent rating, while low, will entitle a veteran to heath care at the VA for that condition.