The Five and Five of VA Disability PTSD
Despite the research being done to understand post-traumatic stress disorder better, many people may still be surprised to learn that PTSD is a physical brain injury in addition to a psychological disorder.
Compensation and pension examiners may not be specialists or well-versed in new PTSD research. That’s especially true if they do not focus on these injuries in their everyday practices. Many times, examination results and corresponding medical opinions don’t reflect the severity of the injury veterans with PTSD experience.
So, in many cases, a VA disability attorney must overcome a subtle prejudice. If a doctor is not familiar with new research showing the physical changes to the brain PTSD causes, they may believe a patient is “faking it” or simply being dramatic.
That is especially true if their disabilities are rated less than 100% and they are functional in some areas but dysfunctional in others. These doctors also do not know how seemingly mild symptoms greatly affect everyday life. So, a VA disability attorney collects relevant evidence and advocates for these veterans.
Research has established there are five types of PTSD, increasing in terms of severity:
1. Normal Stress Response
2. Acute Stress Disorder
3. Uncomplicated PTSD
4. Co-Morbid PTSD
5. Complex PTSD
Under the VA rating scheme, there are five possible ratings that correspond to the levels of
the severity of the five types of PTSD.
Normal Stress Response (10% Rating)
Nearly everyone experiences post-traumatic stress at some point. Vehicle collisions that do not
cause serious injuries and minor training accidents may leave individuals “shaken.” Generally,
the flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms disappear in a few weeks, especially if the
victim receives external support such as that of a doctor, friend, or family member.
Sometimes, the trauma is longer lasting, especially in a combat situation. These veterans are far
from home and often without access to the support they need. Recently, the VA did away with
the 0% PTSD disability rating. So, if a victim has any lingering symptoms at all, the C&P doctor
must assign a minimum 10% disability rating.
Acute Stress Disorder (30% Rating)
Frequently, acute stress disorder is misdiagnosed as an “acute stress response.” That is an easy mistake to make, as a fine line separates the two.
Many events and injuries, like redeployment to a dangerous area or a severely broken leg, feel life-threatening. If these victims do not get immediate treatment, which is usually a combination of medication and therapy, their symptoms quickly worsen and PTSD’s physical changes to the brain can take place.
The 30% disability rating is for veterans who have a form of PTSD but who “generally” function “satisfactorily.” In other words, they have more good days than bad days, and medication or
therapy helps to manage their symptoms. These symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, depression, anger, and hypervigilance.
Uncomplicated PTSD (50% Rating)
The type of PTSD known as Uncomplicated PTSD is often caused by a single traumatic event.
U-PTSD symptoms are manageable, but the patients need more intensive therapy and
medication. Not everyone can accommodate more intensive therapy into their daily lives,
especially if they do not have access to it, as is commonly the case with service members.
Furthermore, not everyone can tolerate stronger medicine — powerful drugs have powerful side
As far as the VA is concerned, the first two ratings focus on overall effects. The higher three
focus on specific symptoms. A 50% rating is appropriate if symptoms include:
1. Flat or lethargic outlook
2. Speech impairment
3. Judgment, memory, and/or thought impairment
4. Weekly panic attacks
5. Difficulty in understanding complex instructions or maintaining healthy social relationships
It is worth noting here that a veteran with a 50% rating could still apply for a total disability
rating based on individual unemployability if their symptoms impact their life in such a way that
they are unable to work.
Complex PTSD (70% Rating)
Unlike Uncomplicated PTSD, Complex PTSD is caused by ongoing exposure to trauma, not just
a single event. It is more difficult to treat because of the layers of trauma to work through rather
than being able to focus on one event.
Common symptoms include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Obsessive focus on rituals
- Frequent panic attacks
- Emotional outbursts
- Neglect of personal hygiene
If a veteran has trouble finding or maintaining employment mostly due to personal hygiene
issues or panic attacks, a C&P doctor would likely declare that the veteran has Complex PSTD.
This veteran would qualify for a 70% disability rating.
Comorbid PTSD (100% Rating)
Usually, Comorbid PTSD is Complex PTSD in addition to a pre-existing condition, such as schizophrenia. At this point, PTSD is almost entirely debilitating. These veterans often need constant supervision, mostly due to hallucinations, time/place disorientation, gross memory loss, and suicidal tendencies.
Contact Tough-Minded 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