How the VA Rates Mental Illnesses
Veterans are eligible to receive disability compensation for both physical and mental health conditions caused by their military service. However, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs rates mental health issues differently than physical ailments, and not all mental health-related illnesses qualify for disability compensation under the VA rules and guidelines. As a veteran, it is important to understand which mental health conditions qualify for disability benefits in addition to how they are rated for compensation purposes.
What Mental Health Conditions are Eligible?
In order to qualify for disability benefits, a veteran’s mental health condition must be directly attributable to their military service. Examples of mental health issues considered ratable by the VA include, but are not limited to, the following conditions:
- Anxiety disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Psychotic disorders, such as Schizophrenia
- Cognitive disorders
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
- Mood disorders
- Residual effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and more.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, the VA also does not consider some mental health issues to be related to military service due to the nature of the disorder. Psychiatric and other mental health conditions that are not eligible for disability benefits include the following:
- Personality disorders
- Substance abuse, with the exception of substance abuse that is connected on a secondary basis for disabilities caused by a service-related condition. Example: opioid addiction following pain pill prescription for service-related physical injuries
- Impulse control disorder
- Cognitive delays
- Developmental disabilities, and more.
How Does the VA Rate Mental Health Conditions?
On the exception of eating disorders, the VA rates all mental health conditions in the same way and using the same diagnostic criteria. Mental health conditions are rated at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% using VA’s General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. The rating a veteran receives for a mental health condition depends on the level of social and occupational impairment caused by the mental health condition. For example, a veteran experiencing only mild symptoms of a mental health condition might be rated at a 10% or 30%, whereas a veteran with mental health issues that make it difficult to perform tasks of daily living or cause the vet to have suicidal ideation may quality at 70% or 100%. Veterans are not required to meet all, or even any, of the criteria of a particular rating level to qualify for that rating.
For veterans that suffer from multiple mental health conditions, they will receive only one combined rating for all issues. This is because the mental health conditions are all rated on the same scale and with the same criteria. However, this also means that veterans do not need to submit more than one application for benefits for mental health conditions related to their military service.