What is adjustment disorder and why do many veterans experience it?

Adjustment disorder is a recognized psychiatric disability condition shared by many veterans. It often has profound impacts on their day-to-day work and personal lives.  Monthly VA disability benefit payments are available for veterans who have service-connected adjustment disorder, or related conditions such as anxiety, depression, or even PTSD. If these conditions are preventing you from work, additional TDIU benefits may also be available. This article overviews adjustment disorder in veterans and VA disability claims that can be made. 

What is adjustment disorder? 


A common mental health disorder diagnosed in veterans is adjustment disorder, a condition related to stress. By way of a short explanation of what adjustment disorder is, it is a state of mind where, in upsetting situations, persons experience more stress than normal and have exaggerated reactions to stressors. 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.” It can manifest itself in terms of more stress than normal and exaggerated reactions to stressors. This is common for veterans, including relating to transitions between military and civilian life.


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

When faced with a stressful situation, a veteran with adjustment disorder reacts disproportionately, either emotionally, behaviorally, or both. As you might imagine, these symptoms or seeming overreaction to everyday stresses have the potential of dramatically impacting your everyday life, including your ability to maintain a steady job.

Military veterans who have chronic adjustment disorder may make a disability claim with the VA and may obtain monthly benefits if  their condition impacts their daily life and their ability to support themselves, and the VA agrees that it was caused or aggravated by their military service.

Why do many veterans experience adjustment disorder? 


Military service and later return to civilian life is full of changes, change of locations, change of work conditions, change among family and friends, and sometimes change from constant threat of harm in a war zone to the more mundane peace time civilian world. Change frequently triggers stressful reactions, but for some people it’s more serious than common stress and instead is considered adjustment disorder. 

Can you make a disability claim for adjustment disorder?


Yes, a veteran who is experiencing symptoms of adjustment disorder may make a VA disability claim. Whether you actually have an official diagnosis of “adjustment disorder” or not, the VA disability process will still involve evaluate your claim in similar fashion to other disability claims for any type of mental health condition. Assuming they find a nexus or connection between your military service and your current condition, the severity of that condition and resulting rating number will be based on the Rating Schedule also used for PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental conditions. 


There is no average VA rating for adjustment disorder. VA disability ratings for adjustment disorder may be at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100% depending on the severity of symptoms and impairment of your work and social relationships.

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


Although you cannot hire an attorney for filing your initial VA claim (there’s a federal law prohibiting anyone, including lawyers, from charging a veteran for that service), you can hire one if you need to pursue VA claim appeals if the initial ratings decision is not what you think it should be.


A good VA claim attorney will be experienced in handling VA disability benefit appeals. Although prior results for other clients cannot be guaranteed in your case, prior experience gives them a wealth of knowledge of similar cases to help plot a course for success for your VA disability appeal.  


VA disability attorneys are required to be state-licensed (as with all other attorneys) and also be accredited by the VA (you can check status here). 


Whatever the attorney’s credentials, make sure you know what their services will cost you. 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 from their veteran clients. If the contingency amount does not exceed 20%, that amount can be sent directly from the VA to your lawyer when you receive a backpay award. Other contingency fees may require you to pay your lawyer directly. Some law firms will also foot the bill for any necessary independent medical examinations (IMEs) or vocational rehabilitation reports; some don’t. 


Get a consultation now

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.

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