What VA Disability Rating should I expect for Anxiety?
Published March 10, 2023
Veterans can obtain VA disability compensation for anxiety that is connected to their military service. The VA psychiatric disability claim and VA disability appeals processes can be confusing, but this article explains how the VA reviews anxiety disability claims and what you can do when they make mistakes in handling your claim.
What does the VA consider when evaluating anxiety claims?
Anxiety that is connected to your military service is one of a wide range of psychiatric disability conditions that can entitle you to VA disability compensation.
Within this wide range of psychiatric disability conditions for which VA claims are filed, veterans suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even bipolar or schizophrenia. The VA uses the same rating schedule to evaluate all of them. (Eating disorders have a separate rating schedule). This fact may leave veterans unwilling to file a psychiatric disability claim, being unwilling to be lumped in with more serious types of mental illness, but don’t let the imprecision of the VA keep you from filing an anxiety claim.
VA disability ratings for anxiety claims range from 0% (formal diagnosis, but symptoms are not severe enough to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication), with intermediate steps at 10%, 30%, 50%, and 70% up to 100% (total occupational and social impairment).
Notwithstanding the use of the identical rating schedule for anxiety and other psychiatric claims, they are processed differently by the VA. For example, an anxiety claim will be evaluated using a DBQ (disability benefits questionnaire) for “Mental Disorders (Other Than PTSD And Eating Disorders).” By contrast, a PTSD claim has a separate “Review Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Initial Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” DBQ that asks different questions, including whether you have anxiety.
What do you need when making an anxiety disability claim?
The VA disability claims process starts with your filing of a disability claim. (You can file an Intent to File form to preserve your start date for benefits up to a year earlier, but that is optional.)
Whether you have compiled all of this information before you actually file your claim or whether you get it later, before the VA can grant your disability compensation claim, you will have to provide service and medical records (and sometimes other types of records or testimony) that will demonstrate the three basic elements of all successful VA disability claims: (1) proof of a current diagnosis of anxiety; (2) proof of an in-service event, condition or stressor; and (3) proof of a nexus, or connection, between the two.
Something important to note here again is that Anxiety can be a standalone diagnosis, but can also be a symptom of PTSD. Work closely with a VSO to decide how to properly list and document your condition(s) in your anxiety disability claim.
What should you expect as a VA Disability Rating for anxiety?
The VA uses the same rating schedule for all service-connected mental health-related claims, including anxiety. (You can see a rating schedule here). As with all other psychiatric claims, the VA’s process for rating an anxiety claim focuses both on symptoms and the level of interference with your work and social functioning. Minimal interference with your daily life will be rated lower than more serious and frequent impairments.
For example, mild memory loss falls within the 30% rating criteria, but impairment of short-term and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material and forgetting to complete tasks) is listed within the 50% symptoms. Panic attacks that are no more frequent than weekly fall within the symptom list for 30%. More than once a week is listed under 50%, and near-continuous panic is listed under 70%.
The VA assigns the rating level that it believes most closely aligns with your symptoms and effect on your life, even though few people have every single symptom listed at any one level. You can look at the general rating sheet for mental disorders here.
What happens if your claim is denied? Or if the rating is lower than expected?
If your initial claim was denied or underrated, you are not alone. Many veterans have the same experience, but especially with the assistance of an experienced and accredited VA disability attorney, that unfavorable decision can be turned around with VA claim appeals.
Don’t just refile your claim and hope for a different outcome. If you do that, there is the off chance that you will get a different outcome, but an experienced VA disability attorney can help you better advocate for yourself.
You have one year from the date of your Ratings Decision letter to appeal the decision. There are currently three types of appeal that you can file – Higher Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and Board Review. The right appeal type for you will depend on the specifics of your case.
If all of the necessary information for making a correction is already in your claims file, but was just overlooked or misunderstood, you may want to pursue a Higher Level Review where a more experienced VA reviewer will look at your file.
If your Ratings Decision lists some missing information, a Supplemental Claim may be the appeal route to pursue. This procedure allows you to add new evidence to add to your claims file, evidence that might then support a better rating decision. Sometimes this is getting a medical diagnosis. Sometimes, it is providing evidence to support the connection between your anxiety and your service.
You may want a live hearing if your claim and circumstances are best explained to a real person. You then may ask for a Board Review. In this type of appeal, a Veterans Law Judge will allow you to appear in person or via video conference to present your claim. Sometimes your anxiety claim can best be explained this way rather than on paper.
Don’t go it alone when you decide to file an appeal. An experienced VA disability claim attorney can be your most effective advocate with the VA. Use their wealth of experience to compile and line up the necessary evidence to get you the maximum benefit amounts to which you are entitled.
What should you look for in a good VA claim attorney?
There are several qualities you should look for in a good VA disability claim attorney. You will need someone who is accredited, knowledgeable, and experienced in VA disability law. You can verify VA accreditation here, and you can verify that they are in good standing with their state bar association by checking those state bar websites directly.
In terms of experience, look at whether they exclusively practice VA disability law or whether they just dabble. You want a lawyer who knows the VA disability process inside and out because they have successfully navigated a lot of prior cases. You need a lawyer that has the patience and tenacity to work through the bureaucratic process of a government agency.
You do not need an attorney who presents themselves as aggressive and confrontational, qualities you may look for in a trial lawyer in a court case. The VA process is different. It is specifically non-adversarial. What that means is that the VA is not trying to “win” by denying your claim (though admittedly, it sometimes feels that way). Instead, your lawyer’s job will be to provide the VA with the roadmap of evidence towards granting your disability claim at the appropriate ratings level and starting from the earliest permissible effective date.
Are you ready to have your Ratings Decision reviewed by an experienced VA disability benefit attorney? Veterans Law Group’s experienced legal team has handled hundreds of anxiety claims and may be able to help you too. Request your complimentary case review now.