It’s no secret that veterans battle depression at a higher rate than the rest of the population. What some might find surprising is how high the rate actually is.
The VA estimates that up to 33% of Vets suffer some symptoms of depression. 20% have severe symptoms, and up to 12% suffer from Major Depression, meaning they need to be treated with psychotherapy or antidepressants.
What is depression?
Defined by the VA, depression is “characterized by low self-esteem, lack of motivation, lack of interest in social activities, and low energy levels.” It’s been found that veterans commonly experience this issue after being discharged. The following symptoms are the most reported:
- Sense of hopelessness
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Frustration and irritability
- Sleeping throughout the day
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’ve experienced any of these regularly, it’s time to strongly consider filing a claim. You are likely to be approved if your depression is due to a debilitating physical injury, caused by an event that occurred during your service, or the depression is a secondary condition caused by another mental issue (such as anxiety).
Because the transition back to civilian life can already be stressful enough, it is essential to make sure any symptoms of depression are acknowledged and treated. Depression can be very debilitating and render one incapable of maintaining the gainful occupation.
To do so, you must be prepared to face some barriers to your treatment. According to the USGAO (United States Government Accountability Office), obstacles to veterans receiving treatment for mental health issues, like depression, include:
- Long wait times
- Shame over needing help
- Fear of being seen as weak
- Personal embarrassment about mental disabilities
- Concerns over VA treatment
- Lack of understanding about mental health problems and treatment options
- The stigma associated with mental health issues
Recently, over 22 percent of veterans seeking health treatment in the private sector rather than the VA. This is according to the American Psychological Association.
Depression has led many veterans to turn to substance abuse to overcome their symptoms. Of course, this has its issues and ultimately only makes things worse.
How does the VA rate depression?
The available ratings for depression are 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. If there is absolutely no ability left to function socially or at work, you may qualify for the 100%. However, even if your condition only warrants a 0%, it is worth the claim as you will qualify for VA health care and other benefits.
To qualify for the highest rating, be prepared to prove the direct service connection with a current diagnosis, evidence of an incident during service, and medical evidence of a link between the current depression and the service incident.
It is also possible to receive a rating for depression experienced before service if you can prove that your time of service worsened it. In doing so, you will have to prove that it was a pre-existing condition and then retrieve the medical opinion that the in-service incident was responsible for the worsening of your depression.
Because depression is so prevalent in veterans, it is well worth your time to file your claim no matter how small the symptoms. Get the treatment you need to live your life to the fullest extent possible.