An Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Veterans
Some veterans and service members develop anxiety disorder after experiencing trauma, or during high-stress situations, such as the transition from military to civilian life. This trauma can also occur during active duty.
Feeling anxious from stress is a normal part of life, and everyone endures stress from time to time. However, severe anxiety in veterans is not temporary. Anxiety after military service can be a long-lasting medical condition.
Severe anxiety in veterans is common and there are help and treatment for anxiety and anxiety-related issues. There are also VA disability benefits available to veterans as well for anxiety disorders. In today’s post, we will go over some of the different types of anxiety disorder and their symptoms along with how the VA rates these conditions for VA benefits.
General Anxiety Disorder
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, and by psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety that together, can cause significant personal distress and impairment to everyday 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
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, and shortness of breath, sweating, and sometimes 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.
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.
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 is a common specific phobia that most veterans with an anxiety disorder encounter. Agoraphobia 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.
Service Connection for Anxiety Disorder
If you have one of the above anxiety disorders, it’s important to prove service connection to be eligible for disability benefits. To do so, you will need a current diagnosis from a healthcare provider, an in-service connection that caused your anxiety disorder, and a medical nexus from a healthcare provider that connects your condition to the in-service incident. This medical evidence will be imperative in your veterans disability claim.
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 worklike setting or at home. This inability to complete tasks may lead to anxiety. It’s important for the veteran to obtain medical records that show the connection between their back pain and anxiety.
VA Disability Ratings for Anxiety Disorders
The VA uses a schedule of ratings that determines compensation for mental disorders called the general rating formula for mental disorders. This disability rating schedule for mental disorders ranges from 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100 percent ratings. These VA ratings are based upon severity and occupational impairment. We break down how the VA rates mental disorders in another blog post.
To reach a 100% rating, a veteran must have severe enough symptoms to show unemployability. These symptoms include delusions and hallucinations, inappropriate behavior, danger of hurting oneself or others, inability to perform activities of daily living, disorientation, and memory loss.
It is important to note that all mental health conditions are evaluated using the same rating criteria for service connection compensation. So, the VA rates obsessive compulsive disorder under the same ratings schedule as anxiety and depression. This means that a veteran can only be rated for mental health disability to avoid the VA’s rule against pyramiding.
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)
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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