VA Disability Rating for Anxiety Disorders
Veterans are at a high risk of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders after the high stress and trauma of their service. The anxiety VA disability ratings changed in 2022 and now consider a specific disorder’s impact on five factors of functioning in daily life. The new system aligns with modern science on mental illnesses and their diagnosability. Veterans Guide can help you understand how anxiety disorders are rated and the benefits available to you.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs uses anxiety disability ratings to decide how much monthly compensation a veteran with an anxiety disorder can receive. To be eligible, you must have diagnosed anxiety that noticeably interferes with your daily life and can be linked by a doctor directly or indirectly to your service.
If you have an anxiety disorder after retiring from the military, you can seek services and file a compensation claim at your local VA office or online. If your anxiety stems from another service-related physical or mental disorder or you’re unable to work due to your symptoms, you may be eligible for greater compensation.
Veterans and Anxiety Disorders
In general, anxiety refers to worry about a potential future outcome. Clinical anxiety is associated with symptoms such as muscle tension and trouble breathing. It usually results in avoiding situations that might trigger these symptoms, which can deeply affect your life.
What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
There are several different types of diagnosable anxiety disorders the VA may recognize, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing anxiety that interferes with your ability to live daily life. Worries often center around everyday activities like work, interactions with family and friends, or household responsibilities.
- Social anxiety disorder is anxiety that appears in—or while thinking about—social situations. You may hyper-fixate on possibly being rejected or humiliated in a social setting, causing you to isolate yourself or experience extreme worry during social events.
- Panic disorder is anxiety that results in frequent panic attacks, with distressing physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, sweating, and nausea. With these symptoms, you may think you’re experiencing a life-threatening medical event rather than a panic attack.
- Phobias involve any hyper-specific fear of an object or activity not considered regularly harmful or dangerous, resulting in excessive, potentially irrational actions to avoid it. For example, agoraphobia, the fear of being in a public or unfamiliar situation without a clear escape plan, may cause you to avoid places or stop you from leaving your house altogether.
How Can Time in Service Cause Anxiety Disorders?
Heightened or distressing conditions in the military can contribute to mental health conditions, such as severe depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorders. These can often stand in the way of a veteran’s successful reintegration into society after serving.
Military service can cause or contribute to lasting mental health disorders such as anxiety in several ways:
- Separation from loved ones: Living far away and sometimes being unable to contact loved ones regularly can cause extreme anxiety and long-term stress.
- Combat trauma: Experiencing trauma while serving, such as combat injury or witnessing injury or death, can trigger longer-term anxiety or other mental disorders.
- Reintegration stress: After operating in a completely different environment at a higher stress level for a long time, it is understandable that veterans often have trouble transitioning back into everyday civilian life. This lingering heightened anxiety can interfere with your ability to interact with loved ones and attend school or work.
How Does the VA Rate Anxiety?
The VA rates physical and mental disorders by increments of 10 on a scale of 0 percent to 100 percent. VA disability ratings depend on how much a specific disability, including its symptoms and necessary treatments, interferes with a veteran’s ability to participate in daily life.
Anxiety disorders are rated under the schedule of ratings for mental disorders. Diagnostic code 9400 is assigned to veterans with generalized anxiety disorder. Diagnostic code 9403 is assigned for specific phobias and social anxiety disorders. Diagnostic code 9410 is reserved for other specified anxiety disorders, while dialogistic code 9412 can be given for agoraphobia and panic disorders. Diagnostic code 9413 covers unspecified anxiety disorders.
The schedule for anxiety VA disability ratings was updated in February 2022 to include modern science and medical advancements that better diagnose mental disorders. In the new system, an assigned score of zero to four rates the severity of the disorder’s impact on different factors of daily life, including the frequency and severity of its symptoms. The five factors evaluated are:
- Cognition: This is the ability to understand, recall, and clearly communicate thoughts, memories, and information with others.
- Interpersonal interactions and relationships: This refers to the ability to interact with strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family and actively participate in your community.
- Task completion and life activities: This involves the ability to complete normal, daily tasks, such as assignments at work or in school, and responsibilities in your life, such as parenting.
- Navigating environments: This refers to the ability to get from place to place successfully without mental or physical impairments interfering. This includes navigating through crowds, driving yourself to and from work, and finding your way in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Self-care: This is the ability to care for yourself, including eating and hydrating, dressing, and maintaining personal hygiene.
The zero-to-four scoring system considers how the disorder’s effect on the specific factor of functioning has negatively impacted your daily life to the following degrees:
- Not at all: A score of “none” or zero.
- Mildly: A score of one defined by “slight” difficulties in that specific domain that “do not interfere with tasks, activities, or relationships.”
- Moderately: A score of two defined by “significant” difficulties in that specific domain that “interfere with tasks, activities, or relationships.”
- Severely: A score of three defined by “serious” difficulties in that specific domain that “interfere with tasks, activities, or relationships.”
- Totally: A score of four defined by “profound” difficulties in that specific domain that “cannot be managed or remediated” and “completely interfere with tasks, activities, or relationships.”
The resulting ratings from the scores of zero to four in the five factors are:
- 100 percent: Score of four in one or more domains or three in two or more domains
- 70 percent: Score of three in one domain or two in two or more domains
- 50 percent: Score of two in one domain
- 30 percent: Score of one in two or more domains
- 10 percent: Minimum rating, which requires only the clinical diagnosis of a mental disorder
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Anxiety
The VA offers a Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating to veterans who cannot work due to a service-related injury or condition. This can allow you to receive 100 percent disability compensation regardless of your initial disability rating.
To prove you are unemployable, your current or former employer and your doctor must corroborate your inability to work due to symptoms of your condition. For example, you may be granted a TDIU rating if your panic attacks have caused your employer to let you go and your doctor has recommended retirement or an extended break from work to mitigate stress.
To be eligible for TDIU, you must have one condition with a VA disability rating of at least 60 percent or multiple conditions with a combined rating of at least 70 percent, with one rated at least 40 percent.
Anxiety Disorders as a Secondary Disability
Anxiety disorders can also develop from other service-related injuries or diseases and their symptoms and treatments. These include the following:
- Combat injuries
- Chronic pain
- Other mental conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease
- Diabetes or thyroid problems
If you have developed anxiety from these service-related issues or other conditions that your doctor can connect back to your time in service, you may claim anxiety as secondary condition.
Thus, you can apply for a secondary anxiety disability rating from the VA on top of the rating for your other disabilities. The VA will combine these ratings using a combined ratings table for a higher overall rating. This often results in increased monthly compensation to help you cope with the service-related health problems you’re experiencing.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Anxiety?
Getting VA disability compensation starts with submitting an intent to file form, collecting evidence from your doctor—such as their official diagnosis and notes regarding the connection to your service—filing online or by mail, and submitting any additional specialty forms your situation requires. Expect to wait 100 days or more for a response depending on the time of year you file.
Your care provider can fill out a Disability Benefits Questionnaire, or DBQ, detailing your condition and symptoms that you can submit to the VA. You can also request a qualified physician or care provider to write a nexus letter that you can submit to the VA. A nexus letter is a medical opinion drafted by a physician or other care provider that explains how your disability is connected to your military service.
You may also have to undergo a Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam. During your C&P exam, a VA medical care provider will review your medical and service records to determine which disability rating you should be assigned.
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