What are common signs of adjustment disorder for veterans?

Adjustment disorder is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in active duty service members, accounting for nearly one third (30.8%) of incident mental health diagnoses in the period from 2016 to 2020, far more than post-traumatic stress disorder (7.7%), anxiety (16.7%), or depressive disorders (16.5%). (see source).

Adjustment disorder in veterans is also common, sometimes triggered by a specific event in service, or sometimes in trying to adjust from military life to civilian life. Are you a veteran having difficulty adjusting to civilian life or after some other service-connected traumatic event? You may be entitled to disability benefits.


What are common early signs of adjustment disorder?


Adjustment disorder is, in layman’s terms, a state of mind where, in upsetting situations, a person experiences an exaggerated reaction to stressors. This psychiatric disability, as explained by the Mayo Clinic, “adjustment disorders affect how you feel and think about yourself and the world and may also affect your actions or behavior.” 

Some symptoms of adjustment disorder order include: 

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or not enjoying things you used to enjoy
  • Frequent crying
  • Worrying or feeling anxious, nervous, jittery or stressed out
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty functioning in daily activities
  • Withdrawing from social supports
  • Avoiding important things such as going to work or paying bills
  • Reckless behavior
  • Withdrawal or isolation from people and social activities
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Think of adjustment disorder as frequently  reacting disproportionately, emotionally or behaviorally, to stress. Military veterans who have chronic adjustment disorder may make a disability claim with the VA, requesting that monthly benefits payment be made. This may be appropriate for you if your adjustment disorder negatively impacts your daily life, especially if it affects your ability to maintain regular employment. VA disability ratings range from 0% to 100%.


Is adjustment disorder actually different from other psychiatric disorders? 


Technically, yes, but for purposes of a VA disability claim it doesn’t matter that much. Many people with adjustment disorder also have anxiety and depression, maybe even PTSD, which may be considered different diagnoses from a psychiatric/medical perspective, but the VA doesn’t focus on those distinctions as much in the VA disability process. VA adjustment disorder claims are handled in similar fashion to all other mental illness claims.

All psychiatric claims, including adjustment disorder, are evaluated according to a single set of rating criteria. See that Rating Schedule here. The rating schedule lists symptoms and also levels of impairment and interference with your daily personal and work life. If you have multiple mental illness diagnoses, it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish symptoms between your conditions. Upon making a rating decision, however, the VA will only recognize a single mental illness claim (combining several medical diagnoses, if necessary) and apply a rating of either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%.


Can you make a disability claim for adjustment disorder?


Yes, as with other mental illness, you may make a VA disability claim for adjustment disorder.  If the VA finds that you have a current disability and a nexus (or connection) between your military service and that current condition, you may be approved for benefits. The VA would then rate the severity of that condition at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%. There is no average VA rating for adjustment disorder. 


What should you look for in a good VA claim attorney?


Because federal law prohibits anyone from charging a veteran to prepare an initial claim, attorneys usually aren’t involved in the VA disability claims process unless the VA issues a rating decision that improperly denies a claim or underrates it. At that point in the VA claims process it is wise to consider hiring a VA disability attorney to help you file and handle an appeal.

Good attorneys can sometimes be hard to find, especially in the highly specialized niche of VA disability claim appeals.  Beyond the basics of confirming that a prospective attorney is accredited by the VA to handle VA claim appeals (you can check here), you want a law firm that is experienced in handling claims similar to yours. 

Although prior results for other clients cannot be guaranteed in your case, prior experience gives them a wealth of knowledge to be used to create a path for appeal success.   

Whatever the attorney’s credentials, make sure you understand what their services will cost you and when. Some VA disability claim attorneys (like Veterans Law Group) work on a contingency basis – they get paid only when and if you get paid and will not require any upfront payment.  Some law firms will also foot the bill for any necessary independent medical examinations (IMEs) or vocational rehabilitation reports; some don’t. Carefully read the proposed fee agreement before signing.

Has your VA disability claim for adjustment disorder or other mental health condition denied or underrated? Veterans Law Group has helped thousands of veterans with successful appeals of rating decisions. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your claim decision to see if Veterans Law Group can help you too.

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