As of 2016, an estimated 20 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from anxiety, stress or depression.
From 2000 to 2012 the reports of anxiety disorders from service-members increased 327%.
In other words, if you’re suffering from anxiety, you’re not alone.
It’s believed that the main reason behind the increase of anxiety reports in the military and among veterans is that there has become a greater understanding of mental illness and the stigmas attached to them have lessened.
This is a promising trend. Not only because it means more veterans are seeking help for problems out of their control, but also because the VA is now more open to providing benefits for those experiencing these issues.
So what does this mean for you?
We will be going over the options available for you and what you can do TODAY!
AM I EXPERIENCING ANXIETY?
Anxiety is usually defined as persistence, intense, and excessive worrying or fear about average day-to-day situations. Suffering from anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Some of the most regularly occurring symptoms are:
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Nausea and stomach aches
- Feelings of fullness in the throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty catching full breaths
- Constant worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dependence on drugs or alcohol
By no means is this list comprehensive, but some or all of these will be present in the majority of cases.
If you are regularly experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be entitled to receive benefits from the VA for anxiety.
I BELIEVE I’M STRUGGLING WITH ANXIETY, WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
The first thing to do is to accept that there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and are fairly common among veterans.
As a Veteran, you are eligible to file for a VA claim to get the compensation and support you need for your disability. When filing for your claim, the VA Rating Formula for Mental Disorders included in 38 CFR § 4.130 will be used to assign a disability rating. This is the formula used for any service-connected anxiety disorders.
One of the following percentages will be assigned based upon the level of social or occupational impairment experienced, and the severity of symptoms used by the VA to characterize the impairment:
- 0%: No compensation is awarded due to symptoms not being considered severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functions. At this rating, continuous medication is not considered to be needed. However, a medical condition is formally diagnosed.
- 10%: It is recognized that mild or transient symptoms are contributing to a decrease in working tasks during periods of significant stress; or, that symptoms can be controlled by continuous medication.
- 30%: The VA recognizes social and occupational impairment due to symptoms such as depressed mood, mild memory loss, anxiety, panic attacks, or suspiciousness.
- 50%: There is considerable reduced reliability and productivity because of regular panic attacks, impaired judgment, difficulties with abstract thinking, lack of motivation, mood swings, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships, or trouble understanding anything more than most basic instructions.
- 70%: Major occupational and social deficiencies being experienced due to suicidal thoughts, obsessive rituals interfering with basic activities, frequent panic attacks, depression, neglect of hygiene, inability to deal with stressful situations, inability to establish or maintain effective relationships, or illogical speech.
- 100%: Complete occupational and social impairment due to; disorientation of time or place, frequent inability to perform daily activities, delusions or hallucinations, gross inappropriate behavior, major impairment of thought process and communication, and memory loss of close relationships, current occupation, and personal attributes.
These are the disability ratings applied to any mental health condition recognized by the VA, giving you an idea of what to expect in regards to the anxiety claim any veteran may be filing.
Because the VA has no set guidelines for mental health ratings according to specific diagnoses, it can be extremely difficult to make a successful prediction on what rating you may obtain. The VA will use discretion while examining all of the medical evidence of your symptoms and functional limitations. It is typical for the VA to provide a low rating for mental health conditions, which means that you should be well prepared in filing your claim to get the highest rating possible.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP ENSURE A HIGHER DISABILITY RATING FOR MY ANXIETY?
During your examination, work to avoid trivializing or exaggerating your symptoms. Remain straightforward, factual, and be sure to tell the truth. Avoid simple yes or no answers if at all possible. Continue to explain your answers with in-depth descriptions of your symptoms. Remember, no one knows your social and work deficiencies better than you do.
To prepare for this you may want to take notes of your daily issues for as long as possible before your exam. For, while your medical records should contain some details, only you know what it is like to live with your illness day in and day out. Be sure to track your symptoms.
Ideally, the more information you can provide, the better. Preparing a statement beforehand can be helpful with this. Specifically write down the details of your daily life living with anxiety. Include statements that explain your limitations. Be sure to include the frequency of your most severe symptoms. This gives the examiner more to add to your report.
Another helpful bit of evidence can be including performance evaluations from before your anxiety became an issue. This will provide a level of “before and after” comparison which is helpful for the VA’s discretionary decisions.
And finally, be sure to include statements from those relationships closest to you. The witness of friends and family to your illness and the impact they see it having on your life can be extremely helpful to understand your need for more assistance. An overview on how to get a spousal buddy letter can be found here.
Before you go into your C&P exam, watch this video from a FORMER C&P EXAMINER! She reveals all the tips and tricks you could need with it!
THERE’S HOPE FOR YOUR CLAIM
Despite the VA’s tendency to give low disability ratings in regard to mental health, there is still a chance for veterans to receive the benefits they deserve. The worst thing to do is to ignore any issues with anxiety you may be experiencing or to not even try. By being well prepared it is entirely possible to receive the benefits and care you need to live your life to the fullest.
Here are some options to get started TODAY!
VA Claims Insider Elite can help you win, service-connect, and get a higher VA disability rating from the VA. We can also help you with the medical evidence needed to WIN your appeal.
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