Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific kind of brain injury. The nature of brain injuries with emotional or mental symptoms can make them difficult to detect. Therefore, many brain injury victims, including people with PTSD, downplay or fail to report their symptoms to doctors performing examinations as part of a disability claim (compensation & pension, or C&P exams). This is especially true among veterans. Many of these individuals are very independent-minded and tend to refuse to let an illness or injury get the better of them.
To obtain maximum PTSD ratings for VA disabilities, a VA disability appeals lawyer may determine that independent medical evidence, in addition to the veteran’s medical records, is a necessary part of a claims file.
Additionally, attorneys often take statements from friends, family members, and others. These people cannot testify about legal or medical issues, but they can attest to their observations of how the symptoms of PTSD affect their loved ones daily.
VA PTSD Rating Scheme
Veterans with PTSD can be rated between 0% and 100% based on their symptoms and how well those symptoms can be managed with treatment. Veterans who believe they were assigned a rating lower than the VA disability status they deserve should enlist the help of a disability appeals attorney. Your attorney will gather evidence and file the necessary forms such as VA form 20-0995, Supplemental Claim, VA form 10182, Decision Review Request, or VA form 20-0996, Decision Review Request: Higher Level Review.
0% PTSD Rating
The Department of Veterans Affairs VA is currently phasing out the 0% PTSD rating. The veteran requires no medication and has no adverse symptoms at this level. A 0% PTSD rating is rare because, though PTSD coincides with chemical changes in the brain, it’s only observable by symptoms that impact the veteran’s life. This is different than, say, a VA rating for migraines, which is more concretely based on the number of attacks that occur.
30% PTSD Rating
A 30% PTSD rating is the most common PTSD rating for VA disabilities. The veteran has mild yet manageable symptoms, including:
Symptom management typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. Though treatment options exist, mild symptoms are not always manageable. There are very few effective PTSD medications available, and these medications usually have powerful side effects. And while therapy can be a powerful tool in symptom management, not everyone responds to individual and group therapy similarly. For these and many other reasons, some veterans avoid seeking treatment.
In other words, there is a difference between available medication and therapy and effective medication and therapy. Just because help is available doesn’t necessarily mean it will work.
50% PTSD Rating
Instead of overall effects, the 50% and higher PTSD ratings for VA disabilities focus on specific symptoms, including:
- Speech and communication issues
- Cognitive, thought, and memory impairments
- Issues with understanding and following complex instructions
- Intense panic attacks that occur at least once a week
- Problems maintaining positive social relationships
- Decrease in work efficiency
Medication and therapy effectiveness is essential as well. These symptoms must be so bad that medical treatment can help but not make the veteran a fully functioning person. In other words, if a person’s symptoms can be managed by medication, a 50% rating may be too high.
70% PTSD Rating
This rating is for veterans who have serious daily deficiencies due to persistent and severe symptoms, including:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Obsessional rituals that interfere with daily activities
- Intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant speech
- Near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function
- Impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence)
- Spatial disorientation
- Personal appearance and hygiene issues
- Difficulties adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a work-like setting)
These symptoms make it impossible to maintain social and vocational relationships. Someone who suffers from any combination of the above symptoms may be unable to describe the effects for an examiner coherently. It’s often helpful to enlist family members, friends, or coworkers to attest to the veteran’s behavior on a day-to-day basis.
100% PTSD Rating
A 100% rating is given when a veteran suffers total occupational and social impairment. At this level, symptoms may include gross impairment in thought processes or communication, persistent delusions or hallucinations, grossly inappropriate behavior, persistent danger of hurting self or others, time/place disorientation, and severe memory loss in areas like names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.
What You Can Do with a Low Rating
A 100% rating is reserved for veterans unable to maintain employment and other traditional relationships. For those who do not meet the 100% rating criteria but wonder how to get a 100% VA disability rating, a different avenue to 100% is available. Check out our deep dive into the Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating.
There have been many changes to the rating system. Before filing an appeal, it is a good idea to use a 2023 VA Disability Calculator to estimate your current rating.
Reach Out to Diligent Attorneys
VA disability claims and appeals can be difficult to navigate. An attorney is a valuable partner after an initial denial of a disability claim.
For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact on our website. We’re here to represent veterans in disability appeals nationwide. We’ll walk you through the appeals process step by step.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.