A Guide to VA Disability Benefits for Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, is the most common mental illness in the United States. It affects over seven million Americans, along with an untold number of friends, family members, and coworkers of these victims. Frequently, MDD co-occurs with other conditions, many of which are physical. Because of their military experiences, veterans suffer from MDD at a disproportionate rate. Symptoms like loss of appetite, fatigue, loss of interest, and hopeless negativism make it almost impossible for veterans to function on a day-to-day basis.
If MDD has a direct or indirect service-related connection and the symptoms are disabling, a VA disability attorney can obtain life-changing financial benefits. These benefits include monthly cash and, perhaps more importantly, free medical care at a VA medical facility. New breakthrough therapies and medications are constantly emerging. Therefore, there is a good chance this medical care can help veterans shed or manage their MDD symptoms and fully participate in life.
Deployment-related depression is extremely common. FaceTime visits with friends and family are better than nothing, but they get old fast. Frequently, veterans experience problems not directly related to the military that still affect their functioning during service. For example, if a veteran is deployed to another country and experiences issues with family at home, they might become depressed and anxious over the inability to be with family while stationed abroad. As long as the factors causing the veteran’s symptomatology, or the symptomatology itself, manifested during service, they are eligible for service connection.
Direct Service Connection
In other words, if the veteran was fine when they entered active duty, developed depression symptoms during deployment, and those symptoms persisted, there is a service-related connection. It is much easier to succeed on such a claim if the veteran sought treatment or made some notation of mental health issues while in service that he or she can use to pinpoint the onset of the condition. The problem with these claims is that service members rarely seek mental health treatment in service because of the stigma attached to such issues. Still, statements from family, friends, and fellow service members can attest to the onset of symptoms even if there is no medical evidence to back it up.
The connection could be completely indirect if an already service-connected condition aggravates or causes the veteran’s depression and/or anxiety. For example, if a veteran is service-connected for a debilitating back condition, she could easily develop Major Depressive Disorder as well, due to the chronic pain and limitations on activities of daily living. Compensation is available in these situations as long as the veteran’s primary service-connected condition and secondary condition is clearly established. This means there should not be evidence that this veteran’s MDD began at any point before her back condition, or that there was no another non-service-related cause for it, such as family issues.
“Clearly established” means something different in this area than it does in other VA disability cases. The VA recognizes that veterans are not qualified psychological experts. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect veterans to be certain of their exact mental health diagnosis when they apply for benefits. Meaning they may list one condition on their application but be diagnosed with another during the evaluation process. Veterans can only attest to their symptomatology and how it affects them on a daily basis. So, the VA is required to consider whether these symptoms are related to a veteran’s service. Even if their application for benefits did not specifically cite their mental health condition.
Major Depressive Disorder Disability Ratings
The MDD or Major Depressive Disorder disability rating system is also based on the veteran’s symptoms. As well as the resulting level of social and occupational impairment.
- 0% (MDD without debilitating symptoms or medication can control symptoms),
- 10% (mild periods of high stress resulting in minor social and occupational impairment),
- 30% (periodic missed work and occasional isolation due to MDD symptoms),
- 50% (more common impairment plus additional symptoms, like cognitive difficulties and a flattened affect),
- 70% (near-constant depression or anxiety which makes it impossible to hold a job or finish a class), and
- 100% (total impairment, inability to care for oneself, and suicide attempts).
100% benefits are available even if the Veteran is not 100% disabled. Available under the rating scheme known as “total disability due to individual unemployability,” or TDIU. As long as the veteran’s ratings meet other conditions. Veterans can seek a total disability rating if they can prove an inability to maintain gainful employment.
Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.