If you served in the military, you may have been exposed to different traumatic events than a typical civilian. The war you served in may also affect your risk because of the types of trauma that were common. War zone deployment, training accidents and military sexual trauma (MST) may all lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is slightly more common among Veterans than civilians. 7 out of 100 veterans (or 7%) will develop PTSD at some point in their life. In the general population, it is roughly 6%. PTSD is also more common in female veterans (13 out of 100) versus male veterans (6 out of 100).
The VA estimates that 11-20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may deal with PTSD in a given year.
There are effective treatments and resources available for veterans suffering from this mental health disorder.
VA Individual Unemployability is also available to those diagnosed with PTSD. This benefit is designed to help veterans struggling to keep a job due to symptoms.
If a veteran is eligible to receive this benefit, it can provide financial support while you work toward recovery.
You may be able to get disability compensation or benefits at the same level as a Veteran who has a 100% disability rating.
Symptoms of PTSD
- Re-experiencing the event/trauma through flashbacks, nightmares and other recollections that impact day-to-day function.
- Avoidance of places, people and activities that remind one of the trauma they experienced.
- Increased arousal, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating, feeling jittery and on edge, and being easily irritated or angered.
Service Connection for PTSD
To obtain service connection for PTSD, the veteran has to have demonstrated three things:
- A current diagnosis of PTSD. This must be formally diagnosed by a practitioner who utilized the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
- A statement from the veteran about the stressor that occurred during their time in service. Veterans will need to provide evidence to corroborate the stressor – be it via buddy statements, military records, etc.
- A medical opinion that the stressor caused PTSD and establish a medical nexus (link) between the stressor and the event. This medical nexus will demonstrate that the PTSD is at least as likely as not related to an in-service stressor.
How the VA Rates PTSD
VA rates PTSD under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic Code 9411, General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.
- 100% – Rating is for veterans who experience “total occupational and social impairment.” Symptoms may include persistent delusions, gross impairment in thought processes, inappropriate behaviors, persistent danger of hurting themselves or others, inability to perform activities of day-to-day living, disorientation, memory loss.
- 70% – Veterans experience occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas. Symptoms may be similar to 100 percent. Impairment may affect day-to-day activities.
- 50% – Veterans experience occupational and social impairment, with “reduced reliability and productivity.” Symptoms include panic attacks, memory issues, impaired judgement, disturbances in mood, and difficulty with day-to-day activities
- 30% – Veterans experience occupational and social impairment with “occasional decrease in work efficiency” and periods where they can’t perform day-to-day tasks. Symptoms include shifts in mood, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep issues, and memory loss.
- 10% – Veterans with occupational and social impairment that is mild, that can occasionally decrease work efficiency or the ability to perform occupational tasks during periods of high stress.
- 0% – This rating establishes service-connection for the condition, and can still help increase the rating later on, but it is non-compensable (no financial compensation).
Eligibility for Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
There are two general criteria Veterans must meet to receive TDIU benefits.
- Disability Rating. To receive TDIU, your PTSD must be rated 60% or higher, if it is your only service-connected disability. If you have two or more service-connected disabilities, then they must have a combined rating of 70 percent or higher, with one that is rated 40 percent or higher.
- Earnings. TDIU requires that a veteran be unable to hold substantially gainful employment – which is defined as earning a wage that exceeds federal poverty level ($12,000 per year). If you are working in a protected position that provides accommodations for PTSD, your application may still be reviewed.
Proving Your PTSD Impacts Work
Obtaining a Secondary Medial Opinion
While you will likely take a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination to determine your VA disability benefits for PTSD, you can also get a secondary private medical opinion, to help further substantiate your claim.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Veterans can use their receipt of SSDI or SSI as a means of evidence to support their VA claim for individual unemployability (IU) benefits.
The VA is required to consider this as evidence, as both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are required to determine if a person is unable to work. The VA is only concerned with service-connected disabilities.
Vocational/Job Related Evidence
Someone with vocational expertise can also provide evidence to consider factors such as reliability, concentration and productivity, in regards to a veteran being able to function in a regular work environment.
This type of evidence can be useful because it can give a better idea of a veteran’s limitations in regards to work, which may be less evident in medical examinations.
100% PTSD Disability Rating vs Individual Unemployability (TDIU) – What’s the difference?
- 100% PTSD Rating – there are no restrictions involving work when you receive a 100 percent PTSD rating.
- 100% Rating TDIU – while you may receive the same benefits as if you were at the 100 percent PTSD rating level, you must also be unable to sustain gainful employment.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim to get PTSD benefits.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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