Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Depression is something that we now know can affect anyone at any time, including veterans. It’s more than just feeling “blue” or down for a few days. If depression continues long term, it can be debilitating, and most people can’t just “snap out of it.” Veterans can be particularly susceptible, especially if they’ve served in a combat zone or another high-stress service connected work environment. If you’re a veteran who’s suffering from or has been diagnosed with service-related depression that impacts your life, you can apply for disability compensation through the Veterans Administration.

Getting Veterans Disability Compensation for Depression

Is It Service Connected?

The VA has two classifications for depression: dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder, collectively called “mood disorders.”

The first thing the VA will do is determine how and if your depression is directly service connected. You’ll need to produce medical records and other documentation that point to the depression stemming from military service, or from a service-connected injury. Any documentation that proves the depression was service-related will be helpful. If there is nothing in the service medical record, the VA may request statements from individuals who served with the veteran that can corroborate the claim.

If depression existed before enlistment and was worsened by an event or activity during military service, the VA calls it an “aggravated service connection.” The veteran must prove that his or her depression existed before enlistment, and will need to back it up with a statement from his or her physician or mental health professional. Again, if there is no medical notation in the veteran’s service record, statements from fellow service members may be requested.

A veteran must also not have a dishonorable discharge or have any medical condition caused by the veterans’ own intentional misconduct.

Establishing Proof of Depression

In order to process an application and approve (or deny) a veteran’s benefits based on depression, the VA will require various forms of proof. This proof may include:

·         Current diagnosis of depression (from a VA doctor for aggravated service conditions)

·         Evidence of an incident during active duty that triggered or aggravated the depression

·         Medical evidence establishing the link between the current depression diagnosis or aggravation and the episode that occurred while on active duty.

·         A service-connected physical disability that has a direct connection to the diagnosis of depression (called “secondary service connection.”)

An attorney with experience filing VA claims for disability can help identify all the documentary proof needed for a successful benefits application.

Schedule of Ratings

The VA uses a schedule to rate disabilities, including various mental disorders. They rate psychiatric conditions at  0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% depending on the symptoms and the limitations of the individual’s condition. These ratings are assigned once the disability of the depressive episode has been established. To diagnose and rate these conditions, the VA uses the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard for counselors and psychiatrists and published by the American Psychiatric Association. The higher the rating, the higher the disability, but a 0% score also opens up eligibility for health care later.

The Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale is also used to determine disability ratings for a veteran’s mental conditions. Scores are awarded after the VA’s Compensation & Pension Exam. Ranging from 1-100, the GAF includes one’s ability to function at work, home, and in social situations, with the highest score being the highest functioning. The lower your score, the higher rating from the VA.

We’re Here To Help

You can apply online for VA benefits, or by visiting your local VA office.

If you’ve been denied benefits, or don’t know where to start, call us today at (713) 682-8194 or (800) 529-7707 to schedule your free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in helping veterans successfully navigate through the application and appeals process, and we can help you too. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t have to pay any fees until you start receiving benefits.