Of the complete list of VA disabilities, these 3 conditions stand out as possible guaranteed VA disability claims.
Now, I need to clarify something first.
There is no such thing as a “guaranteed VA disability claim,” because ALL VA disability compensation claims come down to medical evidence and can the veteran prove service connection on an “at least as likely as not” basis.
For example, it’s important for veterans to have (1) A current medical diagnosis of a disability, (2) A clear “Nexus” to prove service connection on at “at least as likely as not” basis, and (3) Current symptoms that are limiting or affecting your life in a negative way.
In this post, Brian Reese VA Claims Insider reveals and explains top 3 guaranteed VA disability claims based upon the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) Fiscal Year 2018-2019 report to Congress regarding VA disability compensation.
You might also like my post about the Top 10 Most Common VA Disability Claims.
List of Top 3 Guaranteed VA Disability Claims
- #1 Tinnitus, aka, “Ringing in the Ear Syndrome”
- #2 Musculoskeletal Conditions (e.g., Strains, Sprains, Joints, Painful Motion, Limitation of Flexion)
- #3 Mental Health Conditions (e.g., PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, Lifestyle Impact Claim)
#1: Tinnitus, recurrent
According to the 2018-2019 disability claims data, Tinnitus was the most commonly claimed disability and also the most compensated VA claim with 1,971,201 overall recipients.
93.6% of Veterans receiving disability compensation for Tinnitus were rated at 10%.
Tinnitus can only have one VA disability rating.
It is either rated at 10% or nothing.
Thus, we consider Tinnitus to be a “low-value” claim, because it is always rated at 10%, with no exceptions.
There is also no bilateral factor for Tinnitus.
VA Claims Insider defines a “high-value” claim as a VA disability condition that has a high likelihood of being rated at 30% or higher on its own.
In contrast, a “low-value” claim is a VA claim with a low likelihood of being rated at 30% or higher.
People most at risk of developing Tinnitus are those who work in loud environments including musicians, elderly, factory workers, and military personnel.
The most common type of Tinnitus or “ringing in the ear syndrome” is called Subjective Tinnitus, which is ringing in the ear that only the veteran can hear.
Tinnitus involves the sensation of hearing a sound when no external sound is present.
Tinnitus symptoms may include ringing, buzzing, roaring, buzzing, clicking, hissing, or humming.
If you’re thinking about filing a Tinnitus VA claim as a secondary disability for secondary service connection, the following conditions can cause or make Tinnitus worse.
List of Tinnitus Secondary Conditions
- Head and Neck Conditions
- Migraine Headaches
- Meniere’s Disease
- Depression and Anxiety
- Hearing Loss
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
- High Blood Pressure
#2: Musculoskeletal VA Claims (Strains, Sprains, Joints, Painful Motion, Limitation of Flexion)
Based on the 2018-2019 VBA data, musculoskeletal conditions were in the Top 3 most guaranteed VA disability claims for all Veterans, across all demographics.
92.2% of Veterans with musculoskeletal conditions were rated between 0% and 20%, once again making these low-value VA claims.
Musculoskeletal system VA disabilities include problems with joints and muscles and must involve (1) limitation of range of motion (flexion) and/or (2) painful motion.
Symptoms associated with musculoskeletal system conditions include limitation of range of motion (flexion), painful motion, arthritis, weakness, fatigue, loss of power, lack of coordination, and decreased movement control.
Musculoskeletal disabilities can also be filed as secondary VA disability claims for secondary service connection and can be caused or made worse any of the following conditions.
List of Musculoskeletal Secondary Conditions
- Medication Side Effects
- Depression and Anxiety
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
- Right side of body injuries affect left side of body (and vice versa)
- Spine, Neck, Back, Hips, Arms, Legs, and Feet, among many others
#3 Mental Health Conditions
The 2018-2019 VBA data reported to congress shows that mental health conditions, including PTSD, Somatic Symptom Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Adjustment Disorder were among the top 3 guaranteed VA disability claims for all Veterans, across all demographics.
For example, 90.7% of Veterans were rated at 30% or higher for mental health, while 41.1% of Veterans were rated at 70% or higher.
Thus, mental health conditions are “high-value” claims.
Brian Reese VA Insider calls mental health conditions high-value claims because they have a very high likelihood of getting rated at 30% or more.
Many mental health symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, anger issues, work problems and relationship issues.
All VA mental health claims fall into one of three categories: 1) PTSD Combat, 2) PTSD Non-Combat / Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and 3) All Other Mental Health Conditions.
You might enjoy my post on >> How to File a VA Claim for PTSD.
PTSD is a mental health condition, which is “triggered” by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or directly witnessing it.
PTSD always has in-service stressors, which cause or make the PTSD worse, such as exposure to death, threatened death (fear or hostility), actual serious injury, threatened serious injury, actual sexual violence and threatened sexual violence.
If you’re wondering whether your stressor is strong enough to warrant service connection, ask yourself this question: “Did I fear for my life?”
If the answer is no, your stressor may not be strong enough for VA rating purposes.
Non-combat PTSD stressors include things such as Military Sexual Trauma (MST), service-member suicide, serious car accidents, training accidents, victim of rape and witnessing a rape, getting beat-up, among others.
>> Trying to service connect Sleep Apnea secondary to PTSD? Read THIS! <<
Here are some mental health VA claim tips and evidence requirements for each:
PTSD First-Time Filer
If you are a Veteran filing a VA disability claim for PTSD for the very first time, you must meet the following evidence requirements: identification of in-service stress indicating the salient information such as dates, description, geographic location, unit assignment and dates of assignment; statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD; Statement in Support of a Claim – VA Form 21-4138; Buddy letter/s (highly recommended; and the C&P Examiner will complete the DBQ for PTSD Initial.
If you are already rated for PTSD by the VA, but believe you are underrated and deserve a higher VA rating based upon your symptoms, we highly recommend the following supporting evidence: DBQ for PTSD Review completed by a U.S. Board Certified Psychologist, Statement in Support of a Claim – VA Form 21-4138 and buddy letters.
These documents are important because you must show that your PTSD symptoms are worse, which means you qualify for the higher PTSD rating criteria under the law.
Other Mental Health Conditions
Anything that’s not PTSD falls under the category of “Other Mental Health Conditions and include things such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and somatic symptom disorder.
We recommend obtaining a DBQ for Other Mental Health Conditions completed by a U.S. Board Certified Psychologist, Medical Nexus letter for the first-time filer, Statement in Support of a Claim – VA Form 21-4138 and buddy letters.
Buddy letters are especially crucial if lay evidence is needed to further substantiate the approximate timeframe that your mental health condition was caused or made worse by your active duty military service.
This is legally referred to as the “Nexus” to prove service-connection.
In the absence of service treatment records, VA raters will consider first-hand witness testimony (buddy letters) to help make their decision.
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About the Author
Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).
Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start.
As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.
He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).