What VA Disability Rating should I expect for schizophrenia?
Published September 1, 2023
More than 5 million veterans have experienced a behavioral health condition according to the US Department of Health and Human Service. Schizophrenia in veterans is part of those statistics. Are you or a loved one a veteran diagnosed with schizophrenia? Have you filed (or are you considering filing) a psychiatric disability claim for schizophrenia? There is no average VA rating for schizophrenia (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 VA disability appeals may be available if your initial claim isn’t properly decided.
What does the VA consider when evaluating schizophrenia claims?
The VA recognizes that schizophrenia can be caused by (or more frequently aggravated by) military service. If your condition can be connected to your military service, you may be eligible for monthly tax-free benefits. (Note that the term paranoid schizophrenia is an outdated term for a subset of schizophrenia.)
The VA disability process starts with filing an initial claim. It’s against the law for someone to charge a veteran for helping them file this initial claim, but there is free help available from VSO (veteran service officers) throughout the country.
VA claims for schizophrenia and all other medical or mental health conditions, are reviewed by the VA for three basic things – (1) did something happen to you during military service? (2) do you have a current condition or diagnosis? (3) is there a connection (or nexus) between the two?
Assuming the VA finds those three basic elements, they will agree that your schizophrenia is service-connected. Most of the time if the VA finds a service connection for your schizophrenia, they will schedule a Compensation & Pension Exam (also known as a C&P exam) with a local medical office to evaluate your condition and get more details.
The VA will then proceed on to compare your symptoms and how they are impacting your work and personal life against a rating schedule. The VA has a single rating schedule for all psychiatric disability claims, including schizophrenia and it focuses on what types of symptoms you have and what types of impact it has on your ability to work in an ordinary job, how you interact with your friends and family, and how you take care of yourself.
For service-connected schizophrenia claims, the VA will assign a rating number that loosely aligns with the seriousness of your condition. VA disability ratings for schizophrenia range from 0% (diagnosis but no significant symptoms), 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100% based upon how closely your symptoms match their rating schedule. No veteran has all of the symptoms at any one level, but the VA looks for the closest match.
What VA Disability Rating should I expect for schizophrenia
There is no average VA rating for schizophrenia. The VA disability rating for service-connected schizophrenia will be based upon comparison of each available level of rating and your documented symptoms. This information will come from your service records, medical records, your C&P exam report, and/or other documentation submitted to the VA.
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. As with all VA disability claims, if the VA has acknowledged that your condition is service-connected (even at a zero percent level) and your condition then gets worse, you can ask for an increase in your disability rating.
If your condition worsens during the appeal process on a denied or underrated claim, you may be able to file a supplemental claim. Otherwise, you can file a request for an increased disability rating.
What happens if your claim is denied? Or if the rating is lower than expected?
If your initial disability claim for schizophrenia is denied, or the disability rating applied is lower than you think it should be, you don’t need to give up. There are steps you can take to change the decision. You can appeal (there are three different types of VA claim appeals available). Most frequently appeals challenge (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.
If you choose to appeal, you can hire an experienced VA disability claims appeal attorney to help you with your case. They often work on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless and until you succeed in getting more money from the VA.