Anxiety in American veterans is a real and pressing issue. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, mental health conditions like anxiety are among the most commonly claimed service-connected conditions in veterans.
In addition, roughly 12 percent of veterans who served in the Gulf War have been diagnosed with mental health conditions like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and more.
In truth, that number is likely higher but many veterans choose to self-medicate and never tackle their mental problems head-on.
VA Diagnostic Codes for Anxiety
The VA’s diagnostic codes for anxiety disorders, as well as other related disorders, are as follows:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (9400)
- Phobias and social anxiety disorder (9403)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (9404)
- Other specified anxiety disorder (9410)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (9411)
- Panic disorder and/or agoraphobia (9412)
What Rating Does VA Give for Anxiety?
The VA rating schedule for Anxiety ranges from:
- 0 percent (no compensation)
- 10 percent
- 30 percent
- 50 percent
- 70 percent
- 100 percent (Totally Disabled)
Many say 30% is the most common anxiety VA rating, but from our practice’s experience, we’ve seen many veterans stuck at 50% and 70% ratings for anxiety.
The VA Rating Criteria for Anxiety
0% VA Rating: No Compensation
Veteran is diagnosed, but does not show enough symptoms to impair work or social situations, or require medication.
10% VA Rating
Veteran has mild symptoms that impair work or social situations in periods of high stress. Symptoms are managed by continuous medication.
30% VA Rating
Veteran is regularly functioning with occasional decreases in work performance due to symptoms from diagnosed disorder. At times, they may be unable to do certain tasks due to certain symptoms. These symptoms could include:
- Depressed mood
- Weekly or less frequent panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping
- Mild memory loss
50% VA Rating
Veteran has regular impairment of work and social situations due to symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Flattened effect (not being able to show emotions)
- “Talking in circles”
- Panic attacks more than once a week
- Trouble understanding complex commands
- Poor short and long term memory
- Impaired judgement
- Trouble with abstract thinking
- Disturbances in motivation and mood
- Trouble making and maintaining relationships
Impairment in most, if not all, of the following areas:
- Family Relations
Symptoms may include:
- Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide)
- Obsessive rituals interfering with daily activities
- Illogical, obscure, or irrelevant speech
- Continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function on ones own
- Impaired impulse control
- Spatial disorientation (getting lost/disoriented)
- Neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
- Difficulty adapting to stressful circumstances
- Inability to make or keep up with professional and personal relationships
100% VA Rating: you are qualified to receive individual unemployability benefits
This is the highest possible rating and means that the veteran is Totally Disabled.
A veteran with this rating must be totally impaired due to symptoms, such as:
- Overall impairment in thought processes or communication
- Persistent delusions or hallucinations
- Inappropriate behavior
- Persistent danger of hurting self or others
- Recurrent inability to perform activities of daily living
- Disorientation to time or place
- Memory loss to the degree of forgetting names, occupation
How to Get 100% VA Rating for Anxiety
To reach a 100 percent VA rating for anxiety, a veteran must have extremely severe symptoms and prove an inability to work.
These symptoms may include:
- delusions and hallucinations
- inappropriate behavior in public
- danger of hurting oneself or others
- inability to perform activities of daily living
- memory loss
Can you get benefits for both anxiety and depression?
The simple answer: No, you cannot get VA benefits for both anxiety and depression at the same time.
It is important to note that all mental health conditions are evaluated using the same VA rating criteria for service connection compensation. So, the VA rates anxiety in the same way it rates depression or PTSD or OCD.
This means that a veteran can only be rated for one specific mental condition to avoid the VA’s rule against pyramiding; in simple terms, you cannot double dip benefits for several mental health conditions.
How Do You Prove Anxiety is Service-Related?
In order to prove service connection for your anxiety, you will need to show three important things to successfully prove your VA Disability claim.
- A current diagnosis of anxiety from a healthcare provider,
- An in-service event or incident that caused your anxiety disorder,
- And a medical nexus statement (evidence linking your anxiety to service) from a medical professional that connects your condition to the in-service incident.
This medical evidence will be imperative in your veterans disability claim no matter if it’s for anxiety or for back pain or any other medical issue.
There is also the possibility of a different service-connected condition causing you anxiety. Let’s talk about that below.
Secondary Service Connection for Anxiety
As with other mental disorders, it’s also possible to receive secondary service connection for anxiety. This is the case when a veteran has another condition that causes anxiety.
For example, a veteran with back pain may have trouble completing tasks in a work-like setting or at home.
Perhaps the veteran’s service-connected back pain forces you to take days off from work or have to leave work early from the excruciating pain. This inability to complete tasks then leads to anxiety because your work performance is deteriorating. This is a situation where anxiety can be service-connected as a secondary condition caused by your primary back pain condition.
However, the burden of proof is still on the veteran here. It’s important for the veteran to obtain medical records that show the connection between their back pain and anxiety.
VA DBQ for Anxiety and Depression
Veterans can use the mental health DBQs to submit medical evidence from their health care provider to support their anxiety VA claims for disability benefits.
The DBQs are intended to be completed by the Veteran’s health care provider, and all clinician information blocks at the bottom of the DBQs must be completed and the form signed and dated by the clinician completing the DBQ.
Common Types of Anxiety Disorders in Veterans
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder / Panic Attacks
- Social Anxiety
Below, let’s cover each of these anxiety disorders a little more in-depth.
General Anxiety Disorder VA Benefits
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD, sometimes known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is most common among veterans who were involved in a conflict.
This anxiety disorder is characterized by:
- excessive, persistent worrying that is hard to control
- psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety
Together, these can cause significant personal distress and impairment to every day functions.
Some symptoms of GAD include:
- Poor sleep and sleep impairment
- Being irritable
- Difficulty concentrating, and/or mild memory loss.
- Physical pain in the neck, shoulders, and back
Such symptoms of general anxiety disorder can often make it difficult to complete tasks on a daily basis.
Disruption in thought processes, as well as physical symptoms, cause domestic and occupational tasks to be more challenging.
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder VA Benefits
Panic attacks are intense periods of fear or feelings of doom that develop over a short time.
Panic attacks are associated with:
- sudden overwhelming fear
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- a feeling of being detached from the world
Panic disorder involves recurrent panic attacks along with the constant fear of having continuous panic attacks in the future and avoiding situations in which a panic attack may arise.
Veterans with Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder can also be referred to as “social phobia”.
Veterans who experience frequent and unending fear of social situations or situations where they are expected to perform in some way may be suffering from a social anxiety disorder. Veterans may also experience fear in appearing anxious or acting in a way that will produce embarrassment or humiliation.
These social impairment symptoms can considerably interfere with a veteran’s work life, relationships, and normal day to day living.
Help for veterans with Phobias
A specific phobia typically involves a strong fear and avoidance of one particular type of object or situation.
Unlike panic disorders and social anxiety, there is no fear of a panic attack occurring or fear of humiliation or embarrassment, rather a fear of direct exposure to the phobia causes a panic-like reaction. With a specific phobia, the fear is always out of proportion to the real danger posed by the object or situation.
Typically, fear and avoidance are strong enough to interfere with a veteran’s normal routine activities, work efficiency, and social relationships.
Agoraphobia, common amongst veterans, is the extreme or irrational fear of entering an open crowded place, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in a place from which escape is difficult.
This can also make things difficult for the veteran and his family relations. There are also issues such as adjustment disorders that merit its own discussion.
Getting Help on VA Disability Claims for Service Connection
If you are a veteran or know of a veteran who is suffering from an anxiety disorder, the good news is that there are help and resources available to receive disability compensation. Click this link for a list of resources provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. If your VA claim has been denied for Anxiety or other mental conditions, do not hesitate to contact us!
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