Does it matter whether the Department of Veterans Affairs finds that a veteran is service-connected for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as opposed to some other psychiatric disorder? For purposes of VA benefits compensation, no, it does not. The VA rating schedule provides one general rating formula which it applies to every mental disorder, whether the diagnosis is for PTSD, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or for any other psychiatric diagnosis. (A diagnosis of personality disorder is an exception where VA has determined that personality disorders do not qualify for compensation as they are not capable of being caused by service). The compensation rate will be the same, regardless of the diagnosis. The key question for a mental disorder, then, is whether the condition was caused by or began during military service, not whether the veteran has a panic disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or PTSD.
Service Connection for PTSD, Anxiety, and other Mental Health Conditions Secondary to Trauma
For purposes of treatment, of course, it is important that the veteran’s treating mental health professionals understand the condition so that they can offer the proper medications and/or therapy. Getting the appropriate care is the most important consideration. It is frustrating and extremely upsetting, however, when a C&P examiner does something like disregard the treatment a veteran is receiving for PTSD secondary to a traumatic event such as military sexual trauma and, instead, diagnoses an anxiety disorder. Understandably, the veteran wants the VA to acknowledge what happened to him or her in service and admit fault. If the examiner finds that the improperly diagnosed anxiety disorder is caused by or began during service, though, the veteran will receive the same compensation as if the examiner had properly diagnosed PTSD. Sometimes, the best that we can do is to make sure the veteran is properly treated for the condition and that he or she is receiving the proper amount of disability compensation for his or her symptoms, regardless of the diagnosis and medical opinion.
VA Disability Rating for Anxiety Disorders and PTSD
Based on the VA’s General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders, compensation will be based on the symptoms from which the veteran suffers rather than a diagnosis of PTSD or other diagnosis assigned to the veteran’s disorder. VA is concerned with how much occupational and social impairment is caused by the veteran’s symptoms, not with the diagnosis. The rater will look at factors such as how often the veteran suffers from ptsd and depression, PTSD symptoms and or panic attacks, whether the veteran suffers from suicidal or homicidal thoughts, whether the veteran has problems with memory loss, or whether the veteran has problems with irritability, anger, delusions or hallucinations. In addition, the rater will consider how the veteran deals with stressful situations and whether the veteran is able to make and keep relationships with loved ones such as friends, family members, or co-workers. They will also consider other symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, substance abuse, and more.
In other words, a veteran who experiences social and employment impairment because of symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, near-constant depression, a violent temper, or an inability to get along with co-workers or deal with stress, will be entitled to a 70% disability rating, whether he is diagnosed with PTSD or with a Major Depressive Disorder. A veteran who cannot work and cannot function in society due to persistent hallucinations is entitled to a 100% rating, whether he is diagnosed with schizophrenia or PTSD. Ensure that you are receiving the proper treatment from your treating doctors and the proper compensation for the symptoms from which you suffer, but do not be concerned if the VA service-connects you for something other than PTSD.
Getting Help With Your PTSD VA Claim
If you or a family member have had a VA disability claim denied and are unable to work due to mental illness, the team at Hill & Ponton is here to help. Our experienced veterans’ disability lawyers can assess your case and help with your appeal for VA Disability Benefits. Contact us today to get started.