What VA Disability claim documentation is needed for bipolar disorder?
Published August 18, 2023
Documentation that will be needed to support a successful VA disability claim for bipolar disorder is similar to that of other psychiatric VA disability claims. This article discusses VA claims for bipolar disorder, what the VA considers when evaluating those claims, and what documentation you will need to collect and submit for a successful outcome. It also notes the availability of VA disability appeals to correct any incorrect decision by the VA on your VA claims.
What does the VA consider when evaluating bipolar claims?
Bipolar disorder in veterans is painfully common. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2020, approximately 5.2 million veterans experienced a behavioral health condition. The VA recognizes that bipolar disorder can be caused by (or more frequently aggravated by) military service.
The VA disability process starts when you file your initial claim. All VA claims for disability compensation 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?
If the VA finds those three basic elements to qualify you for compensation, the VA will then proceed to compare your symptoms and the impact of your bipolar disorder on your personal and work life against their rating schedule for all psychiatric disability claims.
To do this, the VA will often schedule a Compensation & Pension Exam (also known as a C&P exam) with a local medical office to evaluate your present condition and review your medical history.
For service-connected bipolar disorder 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% – 0% (diagnosis but no significant symptoms), 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100% based upon how closely your symptoms match their rating schedule. There is no average VA rating for bipolar disorder; it all depends on your unique situation.
What documentation do I need for a VA disability claim for bipolar disorder?
For all disability compensation claims, including for bipolar disorder, the VA looks for a current condition (and at some point, a formal diagnosis), evidence that something happened in service, and then a nexus (connection) between the two. The evidence of these three elements comes in different forms and will be unique to your case.
Types of evidence that the VA reviews will include your service treatment records and post-service treatment medical records (VA or civilian). The VA is looking for something that happened in service, such as a report of injury or symptoms, and a current diagnosis that is connected to that.
Sometimes your service records and medical records do not fully demonstrate the whole story of what your condition is or what caused it. Other records can be used to supplement the evidence, including records from battle buddies, family, close friends, sometimes even clergy or civilian therapists who have first-hand knowledge of what happened to you. Employment records may also be used to show that your condition and symptoms are affecting your daily life, at work, at home, or in social situations.
What happens if your claim is denied? Or if the rating is lower than expected?
Unfortunately, your initial VA disability claim may be denied. Don’t give up. There is assistance available for filing an appeal and getting a better outcome on your claim.
The rating decision on your initial claim can be appealed within one year. There are three different types of VA disability appeals available.
A Higher-Level Review appeal asks for a more experienced examiner to review the file. Sometimes all of the evidence needed is in the file, but the VA reviewer missed something.
A Supplemental Claim appeal asks the VA to consider new evidence. If there is some missing information that kept you from getting the desired outcome, you may be able to submit the missing information on this type of appeal.
A Board Appeal asks for a live hearing (either virtual or in-person) before a real person, a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington, D.C. Some cases are better explained in conversational form (board appeal hearings are not adversarial like court hearings).
You can appeal an outright denial of service-connection for your condition, the disability rating percentage, or improper effective dates. Statistically, VA claim appeals are successful on some level at least 70% of the time, with the highest success rate among veterans represented by private attorneys.
Are you ready to talk to a good VA claim attorney?
If you are considering filing an appeal, it is a good time to talk to an experienced VA disability claims attorney. Explore your options of having a lawyer to advocate for you with the VA, and help you line up the necessary evidence to convince them to agree with you.
VA disability attorneys are also required to be state-licensed (as with all other attorneys) and also be accredited by the VA (you can check status here). You will also want an attorney 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 you succeed as well.
Many VA disability claim attorneys work on a contingency basis – they get paid only when and if you get paid – so don’t let the fear of cost get in the way of getting the help you need. T
Have you been denied or underrated for bipolar disorder or other mental health claim with the VA? Veterans Law Group may be able to help you with an appeal. Request your free consultation now and see if VLG an help you get the full VA disability compensation you deserve.