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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD, or simply anxiety) can be a crippling mental disorder for those who battle it daily. It can keep someone from being productive and present in many different ways. The disorder ranges in severity from mild to severe symptoms that can seriously impact day-to-day living.
Veterans who have served our country are not immune, and sometimes they return from deployment with a mental health condition that needs to be addressed. Nearly 10% of veterans experience and receive treatment for anxiety. This has led to questions of whether the government considers it a disability and if it qualifies as one of VA mental disorders for benefits under the outlined criteria.
Is Anxiety Considered a Disability by the VA?
Yes. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers anxiety a service-connected disability, which means those who suffer from this mental illness may be eligible for anxiety-related VA benefits.
However, the severity of the condition is critical in determining the anxiety disorder rating and whether or not you qualify to receive disability benefits. To make this decision, you’ll have to undergo testing, first for a diagnosis and second to determine the exact level of anxiety. Then, the agency will look at the documentation to determine how much of an impact it has on your life and issue a VA rating criteria for anxiety. Mild cases that don’t impact daily living may not qualify or may result in a lower VA rating, whereas more moderate to severe cases often result in more benefits.
Sometimes anxiety presents as a secondary disability, which means it’s connected to another service-related condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, chronic pain from injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or a traumatic brain injury. However, all of these service-related conditions and connections must be proven with proper medical evidence when filing the anxiety claim.
Understanding VA Ratings for Anxiety
The anxiety VA rating scale ranges from 0% to 100% disability when receiving veterans benefits. To apply, you must have a medical record, documentation, and other medical evidence proving this psychiatric disability. This means having a psychologist or psychiatrist formally diagnose you with the disorder and provide supporting paperwork that outlines the severity and how it affects your day-to-day life. There also must be a connection between the disorder and your military service.
The more you’re able to function with the diagnosed mental health disorder, the lower the number on the VA rating scale for anxiety. For example, if you suffer mild anxiety and any symptom experienced is well controlled, it doesn’t qualify for benefits. If your disorder requires medication, but you function well on it, you may receive a 10% rating.
The most common is 30%, which is issued for those who take medication but still have struggles, particularly with sleeping at night, which results in reduced mental functioning during job performance and social interactions.
If you have serious symptoms such as speech, judgment, memory or thought impairment, regular panic attacks, or a lethargic outlook, the VA considers this more extreme and may issue a 50% rating. The VA disability rating percentage may increase to 70% if you’re experiencing obsessiveness, consistent panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or problems maintaining your hygiene.
Anyone rarely receives a 100% rating for anxiety, but if you’re unable to leave your home, suffering severe memory loss, hallucinations or delusions, or present a danger to others and/or yourself, it may be possible.
Financial Assistance and Support Services for Veterans with Anxiety
If you receive a rating greater than 0% when seeking your disability benefit, you’ll likely be eligible for one or more financial or support benefits. These could include a monthly stipend as well as VA mental health care for anxiety to help you learn how to cope with the symptoms and live your life as much as possible. You may be prescribed medication and/or therapy as treatment. Therapy appointments may be available virtually for those who struggle to leave their homes.
The greater your disability rating, the more services and/or VA compensation for anxiety you’ll receive. This is why it’s incredibly important to ensure you document all of your symptoms and keep the paperwork handy for the application process.
Navigating the VA Disability Claim Process for Anxiety
To complete the Anxiety disability claim process to possibly receive VA disability benefits, you’ll need to apply using VA Form 21-526EZ, the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.
When filling out the form for VA disability for anxiety, be as detailed as you possibly can. The more information you provide, the better. Make sure you include all medical documentation about the disorder. This includes the timeframe surrounding when the symptoms first started. The VA will look for the symptoms’ connection with your service, so make sure you have all of the dates listed out, and establish how the two are related. Additionally, you’ll need to detail how your disorder impacts your ability to work and overall daily life.
Once you have all of this information and you’ve filled out the form, you can submit it virtually, by sending it through the appropriate VA portal or by mail to the VA office in your region.
Be prepared for follow-up questions and a Compensation and Pension exam to confirm the diagnosis or to gather more information about the disability. You can check the status of your claim for Anxiety veterans support services online or by contacting your local VA office.
Appeals and Updates to Anxiety VA Rating
Once the agency reviews your claim for Veterans Administration anxiety benefits, they will issue a rating based on the information you provided. If you disagree, you have the right to appeal. You can do this in several ways.
You can request a higher-level review, which opens a new review. Bear in mind that this VA disability rating appeals option doesn’t allow you to introduce new information. If you have additional information to add to help your case, it’s best to file a supplemental claim with the appropriate documentation.
If you’ve tried these to no avail, there are a few other options, including requesting a board appeal or escalating the matter to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The stronger your case, the more likely it’ll have a favorable outcome.
With the VA recognizing anxiety as a qualifying service-connected disorder, getting the help you need is just a few steps away. If you need extra help navigating the application process or you simply need more information about VA compensation eligibility for anxiety disorders, take our free assessment and see how we can champion your claim.