What VA Disability Rating should I expect for Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder in veterans is all too common. Approximately 5.2 million veterans have experienced a behavioral health condition according to the US Department of Health and Human Service. frequently an unfortunate result of their military service. Are you one of them? Have you filed (or are you considering filing) a psychiatric disability claim for bipolar disorder? There is no average VA rating for bipolar (or any other VA psychiatric disability claim), but this article gives you some guidance on how the VA disability claims process works for these claims and what you might expect when the VA reviews your claim, and what VA disability appeals may be available.

What does the VA consider when evaluating bipolar claims? 

The VA recognizes that bipolar disorder can be caused by (or more frequently aggravated by) military service. There is a “presumption of soundness” in federal law that basically says that you are assumed to have been in sound condition when you were enlisted or drafted into military service. Thus, if you exit your service and suffer from some condition that was caused or aggravated by that service, the VA may be required to pay you disability compensation.

The VA disability process starts when you file an initial claim. VA claims for bipolar disorder, as with other medical or mental health conditions, are reviewed for three basic things – (1) did something happen to you during your qualifying military service? (2) do you have a current condition or diagnosis? (3) is there a connection (or nexus) between the two?

Assuming that the VA can find those three basic elements to qualify you for compensation, the VA will then proceed on to compare your symptoms and the impact of your bipolar on your life.  The VA has a single rating schedule for all psychiatric disability claims, including bipolar. Yes, it seems odd that they would lump together a lot of different types of mental health conditions, but that is how they do it.

Most of the time if the VA finds a service connection for your bipolar, they will schedule a Compensation & Pension Exam (also known as a C&P exam) with a local medical office to evaluate your condition. 

For service-connected bipolar claims, the VA will assign a rating number that loosely indicates how serious your condition is. VA disability ratings are on a scale of 0-100% as reflected on rating schedules for various types of conditions. For bipolar disorder, the VA will rate it at 0% (diagnosis but no significant symptoms), 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100% based upon how closely your symptoms match their rating schedule.

What VA Disability Rating should I expect for bipolar disorder

There is no average rating for bipolar. Your rating will be based upon comparison of each available level of rating and your documented symptoms. Some of this information will come from either your service records, medical records, other documentation submitted to the VA, and/or from your C&P exam report.

For a 10% rating, symptoms are transient or sporadic (they come and go). Or, if your symptoms are more severe, medication can control or eliminate them.

For a 30% rating, symptoms are worse than 10% but still manageable. Your symptoms might interfere with social interaction and job performance, even though you are “generally” able to function “satisfactorily.”

For a 50% rating, symptoms may include lethargy, speech impairment, memory and/or thought impairment, weekly panic attacks, difficulty in understanding complex instructions, or trouble maintaining healthy social relationships.

For a 70% rating, you are likely finding it difficult to keep a job. Specific symptoms include suicidal thoughts, near-continuous panic attacks or depression, inability to manage stressful situations, and neglect of personal hygiene.

For a 100% rating, you either are unable to leave your house or need constant supervision. Your symptoms may include gross thought impairment, hallucinations and/or delusions, disorientation as to place, time, and situation, and possibly being a danger to yourself or others.

Can you adjust your claim if things get worse? 

Yes. If the VA has acknowledged that your condition is service-connected (even at a zero percent level) and your condition gets worse, you can file a request for an increased disability rating. This may involve a new C&P exam and the need to submit updated medical information.

If your condition worsens during the appeal process on a denied or underrated claim, you may be able to file a supplemental claim. 

What happens if your claim is denied? Or if the rating is lower than expected? 

If your initial disability claim for bipolar disorder is denied, or rating lower than you believe is correct, there are things that you can do. You can appeal (there are three different types of VA claim appeals available) and get the VA to reconsider its decision. Portions of VA disability decisions that are: (1) denial of service-connection; (2) too low of a disability rating; or (3) incorrect effective date for the start of benefits. You have one year from the date of your ratings decision to file an appeal.

Are you ready to talk to a VA Disability claim attorney about appealing your claim decision?

Veterans Law Group has been helping veterans like you since 1996, recovering over $100M in backpay benefits for veterans. If you don’t like the VA’s decision on your VA disability claim, contact us for a free review of your case. We may be able to help you.

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