Are you wondering why your PTSD rating is so low? If you are unsatisfied with the VA’s decision, it may be possible to increase your PTSD rating.
The VA ratings for PTSD—and all mental health claims—are set at the following percentage increments: 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%.
But the reality is that far too many veterans do not get the PTSD and other mental health ratings they truly deserve. Veterans with severe mental health conditions, including PTSD, can and should obtain their appropriate 50, 70 or 100 percent VA disability rating.
Remember: when rating your VA disability benefits, the VA must consider both your mental health and physical impairments. The severity of your impairments and the more impairments you have, all contribute to a higher VA rating.
How Does a Veteran Request a PTSD Rating Increase?
Basically, you have 1 year from the date on your decision to request a decision review.
Note that veterans have new options when appealing a decision or asking for a decision review:
- choose a higher-level review,
- supplemental claim, or
- appeal to the BVA.
For help understanding the proper path in your case, do not hesitate to contact us.
Ways We Can Help Increase Your PTSD Rating
Every PTSD claim is unique, having its own social and occupational factors. VA laws apply to specific PTSD claims differently. The following examples show how our attorneys have helped thousands of veterans get the ratings they deserve when VA gets it wrong, or if the original claim was deficient.
VA Overlooks Symptoms, Causing Errors in Analysis
The rating criteria VA follows is basically a list of symptoms. The language used in the criteria is written using “such as” — as in, “due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical…” and so on.
Here is a key reality of PTSD claims: VA raters may sift through the veteran’s symptoms, only looking for those disorders that fit within the 50%, 70%, and 100% ratings. When those symptoms are not mentioned, the VA is dismissing the higher rating.
VA is not restricted to only those “listed” symptoms. To arrive at the appropriate rating percentage, VA must consider ALL symptoms in a complete, holistic analysis. VA case law including Bankhead, No. 15-2404 (Vet. App. 2017) has helped pave the way in these efforts.
To challenge a low mental health rating and emerge with an increased rating, in many cases we can demonstrate to the VA how the frequency, severity, and duration of those symptoms deserve a higher VA rating.
The 30% rating specifically states “anxiety” and “chronic sleep impairment” as criteria. Many of our clients, whether they were deployed in Vietnam or served in operations against al-Qaeda, have lived with anxiety and sleep deprivation ever since their deployment. Over time, these impairments strain and push the veteran to the limit, causing severe functional destruction and inability to cope.
But the VA often looks to tick off boxes on their form, and not look at the big picture. If they see that your impairments match the 30% rating criteria for “anxiety” and “chronic sleep impairment,” you may only be assigned the 30% rating. But in reality, your true mental health picture is much more severe when we consider how these symptoms ravage your life each and every day.
Fortify the Veteran’s Occupational Disabilities
Sometimes PTSD ratings are often focused more on social factors instead of occupational factors.
The challenges you face concerning your capacity to work and earn a substantial, gainful living is at the core of your VA disability claim. When we file for increased ratings, we develop a strong case centered on occupational factors in addition to social issues. Credible evidence that demonstrates the frequency, severity, and duration of psychiatric symptoms is what it takes to support a claim that your PTSD symptoms impair your ability to obtain and keep steady work.
Your Post Traumatic Stress has Worsened
PTSD is one medical condition that can worsen over time, which is an important component of a claim for increased benefits. As a veteran receiving VA compensation, it is your right to request an increase when your impairment causes your health to deteriorate.
To warrant an increased rating, you will need to demonstrate that your PTSD has deteriorated through medical evidence. VA will look at the medical records and any further evidence you can provide, to prove a higher rating is justified. Supporting evidence might be in the form of statements from friends and family substantiating how your symptoms have worsened over time.
Getting TDIU (100%) for PTSD Rating
If posttraumatic stress keeps you from being able to obtain or maintain employment, you may be able to get Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, or TDIU.
TDIU pays at the 100% rate when the VA finds that the veteran is not capable of working because of a service-connected condition.
Eligibility for TDIU may be schedular or extraschedular:
- Schedular TDIU: You cannot work, and you meet the 60-percent or combined 70-percent criteria.
- Extraschedular TDIU: You cannot work, and you do not meet the above 60-percent or combined 70-percent criteria.
TDIU is another path to 100% for veterans who do not qualify for the 100 percent schedular rating. However, many veterans are not aware that they may be entitled to these higher-paying benefits.
Rather than assume the VA will hand it to you, you must ask for TDIU benefits and thoroughly support your claim for it. By using VA form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability, you can file a VA Individual Unemployability claim.
It is important that you fill out and submit this form; without it, VA will view a TDIU claim as incomplete and will not decide the claim. This in effect results in VA administratively denying your claim.
We help veterans seek TDIU benefits by showing the VA how posttraumatic stress affects their ability to work, in the following ways:
- Ensure all existing mental health treatment and counseling records from the VA are well presented;
- Provide all existing reports of PTSD symptoms from the veteran’s VA medical providers;
- Gather and provide substantive lay statements from family, friends, spouse, military colleagues, employers and co-workers who have noted and watched the ways in which PTSD symptoms have limited the veteran’s life and ability to function occupationally, socially and personally;
- Substantiate how the veteran’s condition impairs his or her ability to work with further objective evidence, including private medical and expert opinions;
- Demonstrate indications of unemployability such as recent firings or the inability to hold a job, the need for special arrangements by the employer to accommodate the veteran’s PTSD, or complaints from employers and co-workers about job performance.
Unhappy with your PTSD rating? Let’s do something about it.
If you believe your current VA rating is unfair or inadequate, please contact us.
Helping veterans get full and fair percentage ratings is an important and rewarding part of our case work. We will present your case so that the VA is compelled to look at how post-traumatic stress genuinely impacts your life.
When you hire Marc Whitehead & Associates, you’ll have an experienced VA disability attorney to help you through every aspect of your case. We will review your C-file, clarify the issues and help you develop the competent evidence it takes to ensure your case is supported appropriately.