Bipolar VA Rating
Veterans can obtain a VA disability rating for bipolar disorder, giving them access to monthly compensation. VA-eligible bipolar disorder can be a primary condition or secondary to post-traumatic stress disorder or other medical issues connected to your service time. If your bipolar disorder results in severe symptoms, such as psychosis or major depressive events, the VA may assign you a 100 percent disability rating. Veterans Guide can assist you with any questions about bipolar VA ratings and filing for VA disability benefits.
It’s not uncommon for military service members to develop mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. Extreme mental stress brought on by ongoing tense situations, such as combat, can contribute to the condition. So can physical injuries, such as head trauma from explosions or accidents.
It’s possible to file a claim for a VA disability rating if you can connect your bipolar disorder to your military service. Your VA disability rating will vary depending on the severity of your condition. Hospitalizations, frequent manic or depressive events, and inability to work can increase your rating. The maximum bipolar VA rating is 100 percent.
To obtain a bipolar VA rating that aligns with the severity of your condition, you must provide the VA with evidence documenting your symptoms and their impact on your everyday life and work capability. You must also establish a clear link between your bipolar disorder and military service.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that can impact mood, concentration, and energy. It is typically marked by extreme mood swings between emotional highs and lows. In severe cases, it can cause delusions, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder overlap those of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and many veterans may suffer from both conditions. However, living a full and rewarding life with treatment and ongoing counseling is possible.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. They are:
- Bipolar I: Includes manic episodes lasting a week or longer. Hospitalizations can occur, and depressive symptoms may be present.
- Bipolar II: Manic episodes are less severe, known as hypomania, combined with symptoms of major depression.
- Cyclothymic disorder: This type of bipolar disorder involves multiple instances of hypomania and depression. However, the symptoms are not severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar I or II.
A doctor will assess your symptoms to determine which diagnosis applies.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Some signs of bipolar disorder include the following:
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Anxiety and irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rapid speech
- Suicidal ideation
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Panic attacks
Keep in mind that symptoms of bipolar disorder can be similar to other mental health conditions. It’s essential to see a health care professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
How Does Military Service Cause Bipolar Disorder?
One in three veterans who served in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars received a mental health diagnosis of some type, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia. The tremendous stressors of combat can take a long-term toll on a service member’s mental health. Veterans who experience traumatic brain injuries due to bombings, explosives, IEDs, and other events may also develop the condition.
In some cases, military service can aggregate a pre-existing bipolar disorder diagnosis. For instance, a childhood diagnosis of bipolar disorder that was previously controlled may worsen due to a veteran’s military experiences.
How To Establish a Service-Related Connection to Bipolar Disorder
To qualify for VA disability benefits for your bipolar disorder, you must prove there is a service connection. To do so, you must provide a doctor’s diagnosis of the condition and have served in the military as an active duty service member or in an active or inactive duty for training. You must also receive an honorable discharge or a discharge under honorable conditions.
If you meet the criteria, you must further demonstrate at least one of the following:
- You received a bipolar disorder diagnosis while serving in the military.
- Before joining the military, you had bipolar disorder, which worsened during your service.
- Your bipolar disorder arose from your military service, but a diagnosis didn’t occur until after your discharge.
A specific traumatic event you experienced or witnessed can help you establish a service-related connection. For instance, seeing a fellow service member die in combat or being around loud blasts and explosions is traumatic. These types of experiences commonly lead to a mental condition such as bipolar disorder.
It’s critical to have medical evidence to back up your claim. If you experienced physical injuries from a service-connected event that led to your bipolar disorder, it can help demonstrate a service connection. Other supportive evidence includes statements from fellow military servicemembers who witnessed the event with you or family and friends who can attest to the symptoms you experience. If a doctor prescribes medication for bipolar disorder, it can help support your claim.
How Does the VA Rate Bipolar Disorder?
The VA rates all disabilities on a scale of 0 to 100 percent. Each type of condition or disability has a different rating schedule, and bipolar disorder falls under the ratings given in 38 CFR § 4.130. The more severe your bipolar disorder is, the higher the rating you will receive.
VA Rating Schedule for Bipolar Disorder
- 0 percent: The veteran is diagnosed with the condition, but symptoms don’t impact daily functioning or work activities.
- 10 percent: Transient symptoms only appear during times of severe stress or symptoms controlled with medication.
- 30 percent: Symptoms such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suspiciousness impact daily living or the ability to work. However, most of the time, the individual can function normally.
- 50 percent: Marked symptoms impact daily functioning and work activities, such as memory impairment, poor judgment, motivational disturbances, weekly panic attacks, and difficulty understanding work and social relationships.
- 70 percent: Severe symptoms impact daily activities in most areas, including work, family, and school. Symptoms include suicidal thinking, continuous panic attacks, and poor impulse control. The individual may be unable to establish or maintain relationships.
- 100 percent: This rating denotes a complete inability to work or socially function. Symptoms include persistent delusions or hallucinations, danger of self-harm, severe memory loss, and failure to maintain personal hygiene.
Bipolar Disorder as a Secondary Disability
If you suffer from another service-related condition that led to your bipolar disorder diagnosis, you can apply for a secondary disability with the VA to increase your VA disability rating.
For instance, bipolar disorder sometimes coincides with other conditions, including PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD can be quite similar to bipolar disorder, including low mood and irritability. However, manic episodes are not associated with PTSD.
Occasionally, a doctor may diagnose a veteran with both conditions. If that’s the case for you, and both conditions arose from the same incident, the VA may combine both into a single disability when determining your rating. Doing so may increase your rating and the disability benefits you receive.
To qualify for a secondary disability rating for bipolar disorder, you will need to prove that:
- You have a current diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
- Your bipolar disorder is connected to another service-related disability, or your military service worsened the condition.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Bipolar Disorder
To obtain disability benefits for service-connected bipolar disorder, you must submit a claim to the VA. There are three ways to do so:
- Complete an online application yourself or with an advocate’s assistance.
- Fill out VA Form 21-526EZ and mail it to the Department of Veterans Affairs Evidence Intake Center.
- Complete VA Form 21-526EZ and take it to your closest VA regional office.
You must include all evidence documenting your bipolar disorder, including VA and private medical records. A qualified physician should complete the Disability Benefits Questionnaire form for Mental Disorders (Other than PTSD and Eating Disorders) on your behalf, which you can submit with your claim. Including statements from friends and family members who can attest to your symptoms and their severity can help prove your case.
Some applicants may need to undergo a Compensation and Pension exam. A C&P exam helps the VA understand the severity of your condition, particularly when they don’t have enough evidence to assess your claim thoroughly.
If you have further questions concerning VA benefits for bipolar disorder, don’t hesitate to contact Veterans Guide for assistance.
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