Many veterans suffer in some way, shape, or form from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The VA estimates that somewhere around 15% of Vietnam Veterans were diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study (in the late 1980s), but that up to 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD at some point in their lives. About 12% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans have PTSD in a year, and between 11-20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Veterans have PTSD in a given year.
The VA recognizes PTSD as a service connected disability, with potential compensable disability ratings of 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100 percent, depending on the severity of symptoms the Veteran is facing.
To receive VA disability compensation, the veteran must have a current disability (an actual diagnosis) that resulted either from an in-service injury or disease, or aggravation of a previous injury or disease known to the military, and a nexus (a causal link) between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the present disability.
To receive any compensation due to PTSD, the Veteran must currently experience some degree of occupational and social impairment.
A veteran with symptoms that are not severe enough either to require medication or that interfere with occupational and social functioning may be granted service connection, but will not receive any compensation under the VA Rating Schedule.
To qualify for the lowest compensable rating of 10%, the mental disorder must at least decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupationtasks only during periods of significant stress, or be controlled by continuous medicati
To receive an evaluation of 30%, the mental disorder must cause occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as:
- depressed mood;
- panic attacks (weekly or less often);
- chronic sleep impairment;
- mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)
Mental disorders are evaluated as 50% disabling when they cause occupational and social impairment due to such symptoms as:
- flattened affect;
- circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech;
- panic attacks more than once a week;
- difficulty in understanding complex commands;
- impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks);
- impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking;
- disturbances of motivation and mood;
- difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships.
To qualify for the next higher evaluation of 70%, a mental disorder must manifest with occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as:
- suicidal ideation;
- obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities;
- speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant;
- near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively;
- impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence);
- spatial disorientation;
- neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting);
- inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.
And, a 100% evaluation is warranted where the evidence shows that a mental disorder causes total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as:
- gross impairment in thought processes or communication;
- persistent delusions or hallucinations;
- grossly inappropriate behavior;
- persistent danger of hurting self or others;
- intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene);
- disorientation to time or place;
- memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.
It is important to note that these symptoms are non-exhaustive, meaning that the VA is not required to find the presence of all, most, or even some of the symptoms for the Veteran to be assigned a particular rating. The crucial factor in determining one’s rating is the severity of impact the symptom(s) have on the Veteran’s ability to function in society.
For example, a recent decision from the Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims held that a symptom may cause enough occupational and social impairment to warrant a Veteran receiving a higher compensation rating, even if the Veteran does not have other symptoms for that specific rating. In the case, the Veteran was seeking a rating greater than 50% due to suicidal ideations (one of the symptoms associated with a 70% rating).
The Board refused to grant the Veteran service connection greater than 50% because he did not have an intent or plan to show a high risk of self-harm. The Court noted that the presence or lack of evidence of a specific symptom does not guarantee a specific rating. Instead, the VA must look at the severity, frequency, and duration of the symptoms the Veteran is dealing with when it assigns a particular rating. More specifically, the VA is to look at all of the symptoms the Veteran is dealing with and how they impact the Veteran’s ability to function in a job or in his or her social life.
One thing to keep in mind is that even though a Veteran has received a particular rating, he or she may always challenge that rating if their disability worsens.
 PTSD Overview Link: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp
 See 38 C.F.R. § 4.130, Diagnostic Code (DC) 9411 (2016)
 Compensation 101: What is Service Connection? Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4vKqUlrdys
 Bankhead v. Shulkin, __ Vet.App. __ (2017).