PTSD Disability Rating: Your Guide to the PTSD Rating Scale
As a veteran, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD when working with the military. PTSD is among the most difficult service-related disorders for medical professionals to identify and categorize. Contrary to what the general public believes, PTSD is not a “processing disorder” that results from the victim’s inability to cope. Instead, a chemical imbalance in the brain is the cause of PTSD. No doubt, the brain is great at hiding its own damage. Therefore, many victims of PTSD never realize the full range of injuries they have suffered. Although VA Disability Compensation exists to give you monthly compensation in case you have PTSD as a veteran, obtaining a service-connected disability can be a complicated process that takes several years to complete. This guide can help you understand how to go about it and receive compensation based on your PTSD severity without unnecessary delays.

PTSD Diagnosis and Symptoms
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur if you encounter a traumatic experience or witness someone undergoing such an experience. Obtaining a service-connected disability can be a complex process that takes several years to complete.
When you visit a doctor due to PTSD symptoms, the doctor will most likely be using various diagnostic methods to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. They can:

  • Perform a physical exam to examine you for any medical issues that may be contributing to your symptoms.
  • Conduct a psychological assessment, talking about your symptoms and indicators as well as any experiences or events that have happened to you.
  • Use the DSM-5 criteria general for diagnosis.

Symptoms of PTSD usually appear within three months after the traumatizing event, but they can appear later as well. For the symptoms to qualify as PTSD, they must be present for longer than a month and severe enough to affect your relationships and day-to-day functioning. The symptoms considered during the PTSD rating include:

  • Lack of clarity of thought or inability to express one’s thoughts.
  • Unacceptable and inappropriate behavior.
  • Living with the consistent threat of hurting oneself or others.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Periodic impairment in the performance of activities of daily living (this includes self-care or maintaining minimal personal hygiene).
  • Minimal memory loss.
  • Depression or panic episodes that get so bad until they become incapacitating.
  • Limited impulse control (ability to lose control of emotions quickly).
  • Chronic sleep impairment.
  • Reduced work efficiency.

Stressors in Military Service
There are several stressors associated with military service that can cause PTSD. Examples of these stressors are experiencing traumatizing events, such as threats to safety, encountering human suffering or death, and perpetrating harm to others. Stressors can also result from deployment, including family separation, boredom, and austere living conditions.

PTSD Direct Service Connection
A direct service connection means that a current condition or disease is directly traceable to a military service injury, disorder, or aggravation. You might experience challenges when trying to complete the VA disability process. Therefore, you need to have a convincing case to enjoy the VA disability benefits.

After meeting the eligibility requirements to receive VA disability benefits, additional requirements are taken into consideration to establish a direct service connection to approve the claim. These include:

  1. For a military veteran to qualify for VA disability benefits, they must have a current diagnosis of PTSD. Failure to meet this criterion will disqualify you from receiving these benefits. A qualified healthcare professional, like a general practitioner, psychiatrist, or therapist, should also make the diagnosis using the DSM-5 criteria general.
  2. The veteran’s psychiatrist should have confirmed that PTSD is the result of exposure to the stressor (the traumatic event).
  3. The stressor triggering PTSD is associated with the anxiety of military aggression and terrorist acts.
  4. The stressor driving PTSD happened during the veteran’s service.

Compensation and Pension C&P Examinations
After filing for your disability benefits claim, you may be asked to complete a claim exam, which is called a compensation and pension exam. The exam will assist the Department of Veterans Affairs in determining if your PTSD is service-connected. Through this, the department will rate your PTSD based on its severity, which will impact your ultimate compensation.

Disability Benefits Questionnaire DBQ
The physician will then use the C&P exam to determine whether or not the veteran’s PTSD claims are “at least as likely as not” connected to their time in the military forces. When completing the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ), a medical examiner may perform a C&P evaluation for PTSD.

A DBQ expedites the process and guarantees that disability decisions are made accurately using checkboxes and standardized wording. More specifically, when characterizing a trauma, medical experts will tick the box next to the description that most closely matches the disability in issue (PTSD, for example). It is crucial to remember, nevertheless, that a veteran’s initial PTSD examination will not use a DBQ.

Occupational and Social Impairment Rating Criteria
The DBQ also rates veterans’ occupational and social impairments. Here, the spectrum of PTSD-related impairment varies from complete social and occupational impairment to no diagnosis, with multiple stages in between. Therefore, you should speak openly about how PTSD influences your life on a day-to-day basis. This will let the professional make a comprehensive diagnosis.

Rating Formula for Mental Disorders
10%
For a 10% rating, the PTSD symptoms mentioned earlier are occasional and usually temporary. For example, you might occasionally experience nightmares, but you are able to fall back asleep. You may also develop more severe symptoms later on. However, medication prevents or reduces the symptoms to a manageable level.

30%
Among all the VA disability ratings, this one is most likely the most prevalent. If the symptoms are worse but still manageable, they fall under this rating. Allow me to illustrate a nightmare for you. It may be harder for you to get a full night’s sleep, at least on a poor day, if you are experiencing more intense or frequent dreams. You consequently experience sleepiness the next day, particularly in the morning. When that occurs, while you can “generally” function “satisfactorily,” the PTSD symptoms will impact social interaction and work performance. This frequently yields a rating of 30%.

50%
The first two ratings are related to general effects. The other three, 50%, 70%, and 100%, deal with specific symptoms. A 50% rating is appropriate if symptoms include:

  • Pessimistic or slow mood
  • Speech impairment
  • Impairment of judgment, memory, or thought
  • Weekly panic attacks
  • Challenges in understanding complex directions and sustaining healthy social relationships
    Notably, if you have differing views on the compensation and pension doctor’s decision, you have the opportunity to appeal.

70%
At this point, you might be having trouble keeping your job. It can be challenging for you to hold down your employment. In this case, symptoms include

  • Having unending suicidal thoughts
  • An obsession with customs
  • Constant sadness and panic episodes
  • The illogical emotional outbursts, the majority of them rage-related
  • Incapacity to handle demanding situations
  • A disregard for personal hygiene
    A total disability owing to individual unemployability may be an option for veterans with a 70% disability rating since they may be experiencing difficulties maintaining work. In this instance, you would receive a rating of 70%; however, because you are unable to continue working, payment is issued as a 100% disability.

100%
This rating usually appears when you require constant monitoring or are unable to leave your house. Symptoms of total incapacity include:

  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Gross cognitive impairment
  • Disorientation about place, time, and circumstances
  • Near-total memory loss
  • Suicidal thoughts or remarks

PTSD Disability Ratings
The only ratings for PTSD are 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100%. It is critical that you tell the VA examiners the truth regarding the severity of your symptoms. Moreover, it would help if you kept in mind that you are not required to exhibit every symptom at the rating level in order to receive that rating.

VA Disability Compensation
The veteran’s monthly disability compensations as of 2024 are as follows:

  • For a 0% rating, you get $0.00 monthly
  • For a 10% rating, you receive $171.23 monthly
  • For a 30 % rating, you get $524.31 monthly
  • For a 50 % rating, you receive $1,075.16 monthly
  • For 70 %: you get $1,716.28 monthly
  • For 100 %, you receive $3,737.85 monthly
    Note that these amounts might change from one year to the next.

TDIU Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability

  • TDIU applies when a veteran is rated less than a 100% disability evaluation and is unable to find or hold substantial gainful employment, even with the assisting factors.
  • The TDIU benefit is calculated using the veteran’s disability rating or calculation, with severity being the main factor and the impact on the veteran’s employability being another primary consideration. To be eligible for TDIU, a veteran typically needs to have one disability that is rated at 60% or multiple disabilities that are appraised at 70% combined.
  • TDIU was created through a VA Secretary’s executive authority and is neither written in a legislative act nor a statute. Today, more than 4 million U.S. veterans are drawing VA compensation benefits either totally or partially, with around 350,000 of them receiving Total Disability and Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits, out of which approximately 200,000 are over 65.
  • There are continuing attempts from the Administration or other sources to prevent granting TDIU benefits based on the veteran’s age or their receipt of other earned federal benefits, which are not considered an obstacle to receiving the benefits by the VA.

Additional Benefits for Dependents
Veterans may be eligible to receive extra benefits if they live with dependents, such as a spouse, dependent parent, or dependent child, provided their conditions are evaluated as at least 30% debilitating. In the same manner, if a veteran is 100 percent disabled and has a spouse, they can receive additional monetary benefits.

FAQs

  1. What happens if the veteran’s PTSD prevents them from working?
    Unemployment (IU) for the veteran’s PTSD is another method of obtaining a 100% rating for PTSD. There is no mention of unemployability in the PTSD Schedule for Rating. Therefore, veterans can get a 100% rating through IU even if they don’t meet all the standards specified under the 100% rating.
  2. What happens if a veteran shows signs of two different PTSD ratings?
    In cases where two ratings are applicable, the VA will award the higher evaluation if the disability’s picture is more in line with the higher grade. Quite the reverse, the VA will assign a lower rating. For example, when a tested veteran satisfies both eligibility requirements for a 50% and 70% rating, the VA ought to provide him with a 70% rating instead. However, if the assessments align more with a 50% rating, the VA will give the veteran this lower rating.
  3. What other forms of proof may a veteran present to demonstrate a PTSD-related in-service event?
    The veteran should provide more documentation than just his self-statement if he were not actively serving in battle. The veteran’s military service records can offer the necessary evidence to back up the claim. In addition, the veteran may use additional resources to reveal details about the incident, including names, dates, locations, and an account of what happened. Supporting evidence can take the following forms:
  • Testimonies from other veterans who served alongside you.
  • Testimonials from friends or relatives who knew you before and after military service.
  1. What takes place when the VA approves a service connection for PTSD?
    The battle does not end when a veteran obtains a service connection for their PTSD claim. They must exert every effort to ensure that the VA pays them the appropriate amount. Payment is based on the veteran’s rating (for example, 50%) as assigned by the VA. The severity of the veteran’s PTSD symptoms determines this score. Having the veteran’s medical records is crucial because the ratings are determined by their symptoms. The veteran’s symptoms and their progression must be documented in these records.
  2. What About Cases of Inaccurate Rating Decisions?
    The VA’s decision may fail to reflect the veteran’s condition accurately. This indicates that the VA disregards other concerns in addition to refusing to accept PTSD cases. This might be common in cases where the veteran filed for a particular mental health condition insinuating PTSD but has a different one.

Even with a Ph.D. in psychology, veterans may be unable to diagnose their own mental disorders. For this reason, the VA has the right to deny a veteran’s claim for PTSD. However, the VA must determine if the veteran has further conditions. Therefore, the VA should investigate whether the veteran has received a second diagnosis, as they do not always do this. Veterans can get around this procedure by submitting a claim under a more general heading, like “acquired psychiatric disorder.” Alternatively, one could apply for a “service-connected mental health disorder.” If veterans file for benefits this way, the VA will be responsible for making diagnoses or using medical records for rating.