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Veterans disability benefits

VA Disability Rating for PTSD

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published June 28, 2024
3 min read
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See if you qualify

If you are a veteran with PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, you can qualify for disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In 2023, there were an estimated 2.56 million recipients of disability compensation due to service-connected mental health conditions such as PTSD.

Read on to learn more about this condition and how to get a PTSD VA rating, which determines the amount you'll receive in benefits. We'll then walk you through the steps to take if you have service-connected PTSD.


What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing a shocking, dangerous, or frightening event, such as those experienced in combat. While stress reactions in response to such events are typical, those with PTSD experience prolonged reactions that impact their daily life.

Common symptoms of PTSD

Typically, symptoms of PTSD emerge within three months of experiencing the traumatic event, though in some cases, they may appear later. For a veteran to qualify for disability benefits with a PTSD diagnosis, their symptoms must persist for more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with aspects of daily life. The symptoms must not be due to another condition, anxiety disorder, or substance abuse.

PTSD symptoms fall into one of four categories:

  1. Intrusive thoughts, or the re-experiencing of events

    • Flashbacks of the traumatic event

    • Recurring memories or dreams about the traumatic event

  2. Avoidance

    • Attempts to avoid thinking or discussing the traumatic event

    • Avoiding activities, places, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event

  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood

    • Ongoing negative emotions, like fear or guilt

    • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities

    • Issues with memory, including regarding the traumatic event

  4. Arousal and reactivity

    • Being easily startled or scared

    • Difficulty sleeping

    • Feeling constantly on edge

Common secondary conditions of PTSD

According to the VA, the average number of service-connected disabilities per veteran is 6.35. In other words, it is common to experience other conditions as well if you have service-connected PTSD. Veterans with PTSD may also experience:

  • Neurocognitive disorders

  • Chronic pain

  • Substance abuse

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Eating disorders

If you have any secondary conditions, it is essential to list those on your application. This will help ensure you receive appropriate compensation that considers the full extent of your service-related health issues.


How to get a disability rating for PTSD

To get VA disability for PTSD, you must have been diagnosed with PTSD and suffered the stressor during your service. The traumatic event might involve a severe injury, personal or sexual trauma, or violation you experienced, or it could have been a situation where someone or something threatened you with harm or sexual assault.

The VA will base your disability rating for PTSD on the criteria listed in the 38 CFR Book C Schedule for Rated Disabilities, also known as the Rating Schedule or VASRD. Also considered are the severity of your symptoms and the treatment and medical opinions you have received. PTSD is not a presumptive condition, meaning the VA does not automatically recognize it as service-connected.  Factors the VA considers when rating PTSD include:

  • The frequency, severity, and duration of your symptoms

  • The length of your remissions

  • Your ability to adjust during periods of remission

  • All available evidence of occupational and social impairment


VA PTSD rating chart

The disability rating you receive depends on a certain set of criteria. Your disability rating determines your basic monthly compensation:

Rating

Basic monthly compensation

0%

$0

10%

$171.23

30%

$524.31

50%

$1,075.16

70%

$1,716.28

100%

$3,737.85 If you have dependents, your payment amount can be higher. For example, the maximum compensation a veteran with a 100% disability rating, a spouse, and two parents can receive is $4,280.77.


General rating criteria

The VA uses a graded scale to determine your disability rating. The criteria is as follows:

0%

You have a PTSD diagnosis, but your symptoms aren't severe enough to interfere with occupational and social functioning or require continuous medication.

10%

Your mild or transient symptoms cause occupational and social impairment, such as decreased work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks, but only during periods of significant stress.  Or, you need to take medication to control your PTSD symptoms continually.

30%

You experience occupational and social impairment, with occasional decreases in work efficiency and intermittent periods where you cannot perform job-related tasks due to symptoms like depressed mood, anxiety, and chronic sleep impairment, You can function satisfactorily in routine behavior, self-care, and conversation.

50%

You experience occupational and social impairment due to PTSD that leads to reduced reliability and productivity as a result of symptoms such as weekly panic attacks, memory loss, and circulatory speech, among others.

70%

You have occupational and social impairment as a result of PTSD that causes deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family life, judgment, thinking, or mood. This is caused by PTSD symptoms including suicidal ideation, impaired impulse control, and spatial disorientation.

100%

Your PTSD results in total occupational and social impairment due to symptoms including persistent delusions or hallucinations, grossly inappropriate behavior, and persistent danger of hurting yourself or others.


Next steps if you have service-connected PTSD

Once you've determined your eligibility, it is important to apply for benefits as soon as possible to establish a service connection and begin the claims process.

To file a claim, you will need to provide the required documentation:

  • VA medical records and hospital records

  • Private medical records and hospital reports

  • Supporting statements 

Depending on your condition, you may also need to submit additional forms. For instance, if you file a PTSD claim based on a personal assault, it is also necessary to submit VA Form 21-0781a.


Get help applying for benefits

If you plan to apply for VA benefits, know you don't have to go it alone. Take our VA benefits quiz to see if you qualify. If you’d like, Atticus can also introduce you to an experienced veterans' benefits attorney to help you navigate the application process.

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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