For many people, the words “disabled veteran” bring to mind the image of a person in uniform using a wheelchair. However, this is a very narrow definition of what it means to be disabled. Mental injuries can be just as, if not more damaging, than physical injuries. what makes this worse is that psychological injuries do not involve the same physical symptoms easily seen in other disabilities. This can make it more difficult for a veteran who has sustained a mental injury to successfully pursue a veterans disability claim for benefits.
Given the administrative demands of the veterans disability claims process, the challenge of acquiring evidence of your mental injury, and the stress of pursuing a claim while dealing with health issues, your veterans disability claim is most productively represented by a veterans disability lawyer. Our VA-accredited attorneys have helped disabled veterans navigate the VA benefits system to secure the support they need to offset lost income, afford medical bills, and regain stability. For additional information about filing a veterans disability claim, give us a call at (866) 481-5347 or fill out our online contact form today.
Veterans With Mental Injuries Can Be Eligible for Disability Benefits
After being discharged from the military, you may continue to or begin to suffer from the effects of an injury you sustained or developed. Just like with physical injuries, veterans with mental injuries from their time in the military can potentially receive compensation in a veterans disability claim. Mental injuries may require you to take medication, force you to accept a lower-paying job, cause you to lose relationships, and generally diminish your quality of life.
To qualify to receive disability benefits like Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), you must have a diagnosed mental injury. You must also be able to show that your mental injury was caused or exacerbated by a specific illness, injury, or event that occurred while you were on active duty. Veterans who had a mental injury or illness prior to joining the military may also qualify for disability benefits if they find that their condition was aggravated beyond what would have been its natural progression by their military service.
If a service-related mental injury interferes with your ability to work, capacity to care for yourself and your family, or compromises social functioning, it may rise to the level of a disability. The next step is determining the appropriate disability rating. The VA uses increments of 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100% for mental injury disability ratings. Veterans with severe mental disabilities may also be able to claim Special Monthly Compensation on top of other benefits.
What Mental Injuries Qualify For Compensation in a Veteran Disability Claim
Mental injuries can be the direct result of a physical injury, like a traumatic brain injury, or a consequence of experiencing an unrelated physical injury, such as the amputation of a leg. In many cases, there is no physical component, and the mental injury was caused by witnessing or experiencing trauma. The VA only recognizes certain mental illnesses or injuries as presumptive conditions for a disability benefits claim. Personality disorders and intellectual disabilities do not qualify. Mental injuries that can qualify for veterans disability benefits include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Chronic adjustment disorder
- Cognitive disorders
- Eating disorders
- Mood disorders
- Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
- Somatoform disorders
Two veterans can have the same mental injury, but require significantly different levels of benefits depending on factors like how severe the condition is, whether or not they have a support system back home, if they have any additional injuries or illnesses, and their occupation. The mental injury may be the result of a single event, or the culmination of repeated trauma.
It is also important to understand that mental illnesses are often co-morbid, which means that they occur together. This is most commonly seen in veterans who have PTSD and anxiety, or PTSD and depression. When the VA evaluates the disability rating of a veteran with multiple diagnosed or presenting mental injuries, they look at the overall impairment that has resulted from all conditions and assign one disability rating that encompasses all the mental injuries.
Establishing a Service Connection With Veterans' Mental Injuries
One of the most complicated parts of a veterans disability claim is proving that there is a connection between a mental injury and an event or occurrence the veteran experienced during the course of their service. The first step is obtaining a medical diagnosis from a licensed provider. For many veterans, it can be tough to overcome the idea of having a mental injury, let alone one that warrants disability benefits. Additionally, mental health services are not always easily accessible.
Once a diagnosis has been secured, you need to make sure it is recognized under the VA’s list of qualifying mental injuries. Provided that it is, you will have to pinpoint an illness, injury, event, or repeated incident that caused your mental injury. The cause in question must have occurred while you were on active duty, even if your mental injury did not manifest until later on.
You may need to reach out to eyewitnesses to obtain statements verifying the circumstances of your injury. At this point, the medical diagnosis must be tied to the incident that you have identified as being responsible for your mental injury, using medical evidence. If the VA is satisfied that you have demonstrated a service connection, they will then determine your disability rating.
Contact Our Team About Your Veterans Disability Claim
There is a persistent stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health, especially in institutions like the military. Our VA disability attorneys are vets, too, so we understand that the prospect of seeking disability benefits for a mental injury can be daunting. As your representatives, we will unapologetically champion your right to obtain the benefits you deserve, whether that means filing a new claim or appealing a denied claim for benefits.
You can rest assured that we are well-versed in handling these types of claims and will treat you with the respect you deserve as we work to resolve your veterans disability claim efficiently and successfully. Our experienced attorneys are VA-accredited and have the knowledge, skills, and determination needed to navigate the disability claims process.
If your service-related mental injury has compromised your ability to live a fulfilling life, you should consider pursuing a veterans disability claim for the financial support you are owed with the help of our team. As members of NOVA and SWAN, we are active supporters of veterans and their rights. To learn more about how our comprehensive services can help you secure disability benefits for your service-related mental injury, call us at (866) 481-5347 or fill out our online contact form.