VA Ratings For Depression And Its Connection With Your Military Service

VA Ratings For Depression And Its Connection With Your Military Service

Posted On: May 04, 2023

If any veteran is diagnosed with depression, there's a possibility they could qualify for VA disability benefits from the VA. Categorized under Mood Disorders and rated under the Psych Rating System, major depressive disorder, also called clinical depression, is present under Code 9434.

Explaining Depression and How to Qualify for Disability Benefits

Clinical depression is characterized by low motivation, low self-esteem, lack of interest in social activity, and low energy levels. It's a common problem for veterans after they are discharged from their service. Veterans sometimes feel hopelessness and any or all of the following symptoms:

  • The inability to sleep
  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Sleeping most of the day
  • Frustration, irritability, and angry outbursts
  • Frequent thoughts about death and suicide
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Anxiety

Veterans have more chances of getting an approved claim when applying for VA disability compensation for depression if:

  • Their depression is due to an event or incident during their service.
  • Their depression is the result of a debilitating or disabling physical injury.
  • Their depression is a secondary condition resulting from another mental problem, such as anxiety.

Connecting Your Service With Depression

To display that your depression is linked to your military service in any way, a physician or medical professional must build that connection. To get eligible for VA disability benefits, you have to meet these requirements:

You should have a current diagnosis of depression—either major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder.

You should provide evidence that displays an event or incident that took place during your service likely resulted in your depression.

You need to provide medical reports, evidence, and documentation that display "causation" between your service-connected event and your current diagnosis of depression. Mostly, your current doctor has to add a written letter of medical opinion that connects your diagnosis of depression to your military service-connected disability.

How Does VA Rate Depression?

Mental health conditions are rated at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100% by General Rating Formula for Mental Health Disorders.

These VA ratings are according to the level of occupational and social impairment a veteran encounters and the severity of symptoms VA applies to characterize the impairment.

For instance, veterans having mild symptoms or whose symptoms are controlled by proper medication can get a 10% VA disability rating for depression.

Veterans with severe symptoms, including hallucinations and persistent delusions in which they hear voices or perceive things that aren't there, can receive a 100% VA disability rating.

Self-injurious behaviors and suicide attempts are consistent with a 100% VA disability rating.

Most importantly, a veteran does not have to endorse all listed symptoms in each rating criterion.

A Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims established that the all the symptoms listed under Diagnostic Code 9411, such as for post-traumatic stress disorder, are not intended to constitute the exhaustive list. However, it only serves as examples of the kind and degree of the symptoms, and their effects, that would justify a specific rating.

A similar case law applies when considering a VA disability rating for depression. Therefore, veterans can experience any number of the symptoms available in the VA rating criteria for depression and still can meet the level of evaluation.