How The VA Evaluates Levels Of Disability
Once the VA has awarded service connection for PTSD, it will then review the most current clinical evidence of record to determine how the severity of your symptoms impairs your social and industrial (ability to work) capacity. The VA has a schedule of rating disabilities, located in title 38 C.F.R., Part 4. The VA has established “Diagnostic Codes” (DC) for various medical and psychiatric disorders, which include a description of the severity of related symptoms and a corresponding disability percentage (called a “rating” or “evaluation”). Although there are different DCs for covered psychiatric disorders, the VA evaluates the level of disability due to psychiatric disorders under the same criteria, regardless of the actual diagnosis. 38 C.F.R. §4.130, DC 9411, governs PTSD ratings. This regulation provides graduated ratings of 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%. A 0% rating is noncompensable, This means that you have service-connected PTSD, however, there is little or no impairment as a result. VA compensation payments begin at 10% and increase at each rating level.
The VA has adopted the criteria established in the DSM-5 as the basis for its psychiatric ratings, including PTSD. Although it is being slowly phased out in favor of more robust tests, there is a diagnostic matrix called the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF) that may be used to determine your level of disability. The lower the GAF score, the higher the level of social and industrial impairment. Section 4.130 is reproduced below. You can share this with your psychiatric provider of care, who can prepare a report or opinion letter for submission to the VA that describes your level of impairment.
Bear in mind that even if the severity of your symptoms do not satisfy the diagnostic criteria for a 100% (or total) evaluation under the rating schedule, if your rating is high enough, another VA regulation (38 C.F.R. § 4.16) allows the VA to pay you at the 100% level if medical evidence demonstrates that your are unable to obtain or maintain substantially gainful employment as the result of your service-connected PTSD. The technical term for this is a total rating on the basis of individual unemployability due to service-connected disability (TDIU or IU).
38 C.F.R. § 4.130, DC 9411
Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought process or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name …………………..100%
Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships ...................................... 70%
Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability
and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial,
circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than
once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment
of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly
learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment;
impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood;
difficulty in establishing and maintaining Effective work and social
Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled by continuous medication .................. 10%
A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication .............................. 0%
To find the current VA disability compensation monthly payment rates, please go to the VA website at www.va.gov. From the homepage, click on “Compensation”, then on “Rate Tables”. Additional monthly payments may be available based on the beneficiary’s number of dependents.
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