OCD VA Rating
Military service members face significant risks while protecting our country. Many veterans develop physical and medical health conditions as a consequence of their experiences during their time on duty. One such condition is obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can impact an individual’s ability to function normally at home and work. Veterans Guide explains how veterans can obtain an OCD VA rating for disability benefits.
As a military service member, you have one of the most demanding and stressful jobs—protecting the country. Your duties may take you far from home and put you in dangerous, high-stakes situations, including combat. Many veterans develop medical conditions directly resulting from their service, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.
The Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes the risks that military service members face and provides disability benefits to veterans who qualify. If you have service-connected OCD, you may be eligible for an OCD VA rating.
To obtain VA disability benefits, you must submit a claim and documentation connecting your OCD with your military service. The evidence you submit must demonstrate OCD’s impact on your daily living and ability to work.
What Is OCD?
OCD is a form of anxiety disorder that leads to repetitive and intrusive thinking. People who suffer from it adopt coping skills that cause them to act compulsively to relieve anxiety. For instance, they may repeatedly check windows and doors to ensure they’re locked before going to bed. Some individuals may count things, such as the tiles on the ceiling or the silverware in a drawer. The repetitious behavior can help calm their thoughts but also impacts their ability to function normally.
Some veterans may suffer from other mental health conditions since symptoms can overlap. However, it’s possible to live a healthy and long life with medication and therapy.
Symptoms of OCD
A few common symptoms of OCD include the following:
If you develop symptoms of OCD due to your military service, seeking medical attention is critical. A qualified health care provider will ensure you receive an accurate diagnosis and care plan. Without treatment, your condition may worsen, and further complications may develop. Typically, treatment includes a combination of medication and counseling.
How Does Military Service Cause OCD?
Being in a war zone can take a tremendous toll on your physical and mental health. The stress of being on high alert and experiencing traumatic events puts military service members at increased risk of developing mental disorders, including OCD.
Some veterans spend months or years in hazardous environments. They may see daily shootings, bombings, and explosions. Some witness their fellow service members die or experience severe wounds on the battlefield. Those experiences can weigh heavily on their minds, eventually leading to extreme mental health conditions.
Other factors, including genetics and brain abnormalities, can play a role in the development of OCD.
How to Establish A Service-Related Connection to OCD
To obtain VA disability benefits for OCD, you must first obtain a diagnosis from a qualified physician. You must also have served on active duty, which includes active or inactive duty training.
If you meet both criteria, you must prove at least one of the following to establish a military service connection for VA disability benefits:
The VA will not approve benefits for prior service members with a discharge under less-than-honorable conditions. However, you can apply for a discharge upgrade if needed.
Can PTSD Cause OCD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and OCD are separate mental health conditions but often co-occur. Among the general U.S. population, nearly one in four individuals with PTSD also have OCD. Co-occurrence among military veterans is even higher. According to one study, up to 70 percent of veterans with PTSD also have OCD.
Individuals with PTSD experience intrusive thoughts based on their previous trauma, while those with OCD worry excessively about future adverse outcomes. However, both conditions can cause the individual to engage in repetitive behaviors to reduce stress. They may also explicitly avoid situations or stimuli that cause intrusive thoughts.
Veterans with OCD may suffer from other conditions besides PTSD, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders.
How Does the VA Rate OCD?
The VA has established rating schedules to evaluate the severity of a veteran’s service-connected disabilities. Based on their assessment, they will assign a rating between 0 percent and 100 percent in increments of 10. The VA uses Schedule of Ratings—Mental Disorders, 38 CFR § 4.130, to evaluate OCD. The ratings are as follows:
It’s essential to provide evidence to support your OCD VA rating claim. Keeping a journal of the symptoms you experience and the time and day they occur is helpful. You can also ask family, close friends, and other service members to give statements to support your claim. If there is documentation of a specific event that occurred during your service in your military records, provide a copy or request the VA to include it in your claim.
You can request your doctor to complete the VA’s Disability Benefits Questionnaire for mental health disorders. While it’s not required, it includes specific questions that help the VA ascertain the severity of your OCD. Including the form may reduce the time it takes for the VA to rate your condition.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability TDIU and OCD
Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, is a special program for veterans who don’t have a 100 percent disability rating but cannot hold steady employment. To qualify, you must have either of the following:
If you meet the VA’s requirements for TDIU, you’ll receive the disability benefits for a 100 percent rating, even if your total rating is lower.
To start the TDIU evaluation process, submit the Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability, VA Form 21-8940, and the Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits, VA Form 21-4192. Provide evidence to support your TDIU claim, such as a physician’s statement confirming your inability to work.
OCD as a Secondary Disability
There is an established connection between OCD and PTSD, as well as other mental health conditions such as anxiety and major depression. Your health care provider will evaluate your symptoms to determine which apply to you. During your assessment, they will inquire about your experiences in the military, which can help them identify specific events that triggered your condition. They may also examine your military service records to find evidence to support your diagnosis.
To qualify for a secondary disability rating for OCD, you will need to prove you have a current OCD diagnosis that is either connected to another service-related disability or that your military service worsened the condition.
How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for OCD
If your OCD stems from military service, you can apply for disability benefits to start the claims process. Obtaining a VA rating OCD will entitle you to monthly benefits. There are three ways to submit your claim:
- Complete an online application by yourself or with an advocate’s assistance
- Complete VA Form 21-526EZ and mail it to the VA’s Evidence Intake Center
- Fill out VA Form 21-526EZ and submit it at your local VA regional office.
Include all available evidence, such as medical and military service records, to support your claim. You can also submit written statements from individuals who can attest to your condition, such as a spouse, relative, friend, or fellow service member.
Once the VA reviews your claim, they may ask you to undergo a Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam. A C&P exam provides additional evidence the VA can use during the rating process. However, if the VA finds your submitted evidence satisfactory, they may not require the C&P exam.
If you have further questions about VA disability benefits for OCD or other medical conditions, reach out to Veterans Guide for assistance.
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