Mental Illness and Long-term Disability for Veterans

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PTSD - post traumatic stress disorder. Mental health issue. Word cloud sign.

Veterans often come home in shock, suffer from PTSD or live with mental illnesses related to their time in service. When it comes time to evaluate a veteran for a mental illness, they will be referred to the VA.

The VA has its own Schedule of Ratings Disabilities to be able to diagnose if a veteran has a mental disorder or not.

Compensation may be provided in a variety of cases, including a veteran who suffers from:

  • Amnesia
  • Cognitive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Eating disorders

Each one of the items above, if a veteran is diagnosed with them, will result in one disability rating. But the VA will also consider family history. If a veteran’s family has a history of mental illness, the illness will be considered genetic or developmental.

The VA will not permit disability compensation for a disorder that is genetic or developmental. However, if the VA finds that a person is suffering from any condition that is not related to their family history, benefits will be approved.

Mental illness is rather common. Statistically, 50% of Canadians alone have a mental illness by the age of 40.

How Previous Mental Illness Impacts Service

If a veteran suffered from a mental illness prior to service, this will impact their disability rating, too. The mental illness will need to have been “aggravated” by service. The burden of proof is on the veteran and their medical team to be able to prove this connection.

What needs to occur is a connection must be made between service and the condition. Was the condition worsened by service? Is the condition the same after service? Would the condition have worsened without the person being in service?

This will be determined by:

  • Receiving a recent diagnosis at the VA doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Evidence that service contributed the condition worsening
  • Evidence that an event in service is connected to the mental illness worsening

Proof that a mental illness was present prior to service needs to also be provided.

VA Rating System for Mental Illness Benefits

The VA’s system for rating mental disorders will determine how the disability will impact your work and social life. A rating system is available that has the following percentages:

  • 0%
  • 10%
  • 30%
  • 50%
  • 70%
  • 100%

A 100% rating is for those veterans who can no longer function at work or in social settings. This is the worst-case scenario. Cash benefits are not provided for someone with a 0% rating, but this veteran may be able to receive health care and other benefits even at a 0% rating.

If an event occurs, such as a head injury that led to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the VA will determine if the injury is connected to the veteran’s mental illness if the symptoms started to develop within a specific time period after the injury.

For example, if a veteran suffered from severe depression following a TBI, it’s a connection that the VA will make to link the time in service with the depression the person is dealing with.

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