Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a frightening or life-threatening event. Active combat, sexual assault, natural disasters, and car accidents are common examples of events that can trigger PTSD.
With PTSD, people can experience memories and flashbacks that make it difficult for them to complete everyday functions like working and managing a household. Since nightmares and insomnia are also common with PTSD, people who experience them can suffer the physical and emotional effects of not getting enough sleep.
Military veterans are especially vulnerable to developing PTSD. The world feels unsafe to them, and they no longer participate in activities they used to enjoy. Veterans with PTSD have difficulty working when the symptoms go on for months or years.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an automatic 50% PTSD rating for some veterans. When is this the case? This blog outlines when and how that occurs.
When Do Veterans Receive Automatic 50% PTSD Ratings?
It is a common misconception that any veteran with PTSD receives an automatic 50% rating. However, this is not the case. The VA awards automatic 50% PTSD ratings to veterans who were discharged from the military because of their PTSD.
Although the VA assigns the 50% PTSD rating automatically after this type of medical discharge, it will re-evaluate the veteran in six months to see if this rating should still apply. Factors the VA considers at the re-evaluation appointment include:
- Duration, frequency, and severity of psychiatric symptoms
- Whether the veteran has experienced any remission periods
- Whether and how much capacity the veteran has to readjust to civilian society during remission periods
- Extent of social impairment
How Does the VA Rate PTSD?
The VA uses the Schedule of Ratings for Mental Disorders based on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
PTSD is among about two dozen mental disorders, and the VA uses the same ratings scale for each of them.
Disability ratings for psychiatric disorders are as follows:
- 100%: Veterans with this PTSD disability rating have complete occupational and social impairment. Examples include significantly inappropriate public and private behavior, gross thought impairment, persistent hallucinations or delusions, ongoing danger of harming themselves or others, occasional inability to care for hygiene needs, memory loss, and sense of disorientation towards place and time.
- 70%: This rating represents veterans with a high but not persistent degree of occupational and social impairment. Veterans demonstrate deficiencies in most life areas, including family relationships, work, school if applicable, thinking, judgment, or mood. At this disability level, veterans with PTSD are likely to display symptoms such as obsessive rituals, suicidal thinking, illogical speech, or an ongoing sense of panic or depression that makes independent living difficult. Other problems could include reduced ability to control impulses, neglect of hygiene and appearance, disorientation, and inability to manage stress.
- 50%: The automatic rating veterans receive when discharged from active military service due to PTSD assumes moderate occupational and social impairment. Common symptoms at this level include having panic attacks one time per week or more, impairment with long-term and short-term memory, flat affect, difficulty with abstract thinking, lack of motivation, mood disturbances, and struggle to initiate and/or maintain social relationships.
- 30%: Veterans at this rating level experience occasional problems with occupational and social impairment. Other symptoms include the occasional inability to regulate behavior, care for appearance and hygiene, and participate in normal conversations. These difficulties can stem from anxiety, mild paranoia, depressed mood, mild memory loss, and chronic insomnia and/or nightmares.
- 10%: A 10 percent rating equates to mild or transient symptoms that can impact the ability to work or manage home responsibilities effectively. These veterans may require prescription medication to continue functioning during times of significant stress.
- 0%: Although the veteran has received a PTSD diagnosis, symptoms are not severe enough to require medication or interfere with occupational or social functioning.
When veterans do not meet the criteria for an automatic a 50% PTSD rating, they will need to meet the criteria listed here to receive a disability rating at this level.
Have Questions About Your PTSD Rating?
In summary, the VA will automatically grant you a 50 percent PTSD rating if the military discharged you because of the condition. You will undergo re-evaluation in six months to determine if that rating is still appropriate. You are still eligible to apply for disability benefits if you have PTSD but did not receive a discharge because of it.
If the VA denied your PTSD claim, or awarded a lower rating than you anticipated, the attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to help. Please complete this brief claim evaluation and we will follow up with you shortly.
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