If you are seeking a disability rating for PTSD, you must provide evidence to support your claim. This includes writing a journal and asking family members, friends, and coworkers to write lay statements on your behalf.
Occupational and social impairment can include problems with relationships and maintaining a social life. However, the VA also measures it in terms of how much it affects workability.
PTSD and Occupational and Social Impairment
PTSD symptoms like avoidance, adverse changes in feelings and beliefs, hypervigilance (being constantly on the lookout for threats), irritability, and memory disturbances can significantly impact a Veteran’s ability to perform in work or social situations. These symptoms are often cited in VA claims and used to determine an individual’s disability rating.
In disability evaluations, the determination of total occupational and social impairment considers the profound limitations an individual faces in both work-related tasks and social engagements due to various health or mental health conditions.
The VA rates PTSD based on the severity, frequency, and duration of the symptoms as they affect a person’s ability to function. These ratings are then used to determine how much a Veteran is entitled to in disability compensation. Symptoms that occur infrequently and for short periods generally receive lower disability ratings. The higher the severity, frequency, and duration of a person’s PTSD symptoms, the more likely they are to receive a higher disability rating.
As a result, veterans need to be as straightforward as possible when discussing their PTSD symptoms during their Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. Vague answers can lead the examiner to suspect that a person is not suffering from PTSD or exaggerating their symptoms to increase their rating.
During the C&P exam, the VA will also look at the official recommendation from a licensed therapist or other mental health professional. The therapist’s breakdown and description of your PTSD symptoms can be extremely helpful in determining the severity of your condition.
If you have a PTSD rating that is high enough, the VA will determine whether or not you are eligible for total disability from individual unemployability (TDIU). This benefit allows Veterans to receive full compensation if their service-connected conditions make finding and maintaining work impossible. To be eligible for TDIU, you must show that your PTSD symptoms cause substantial and ongoing occupational and social impairment. PTSD is a very common disability rating that can be very difficult to prove. This is why it’s essential to work with a skilled VA disability benefits lawyer.
PTSD and Social Impairment Ratings
When a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD, the VA assigns them a disability rating based on how much their symptoms interfere with daily life functions. The ratings range from 0% to 100%. The higher the rating, the more severe the impairment. If a PTSD symptom like insomnia keeps you from sleeping, you may be eligible for a higher rating. If your PTSD causes you to miss work, you may qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
In determining your PTSD disability rating, the VA considers the frequency, severity, and duration of your psychiatric symptoms, as well as the length of any remission periods. It also considers the impact of your symptoms on your daily activities and relationships and whether they impair your ability to live independently.
During your Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination, the examining psychiatrist or psychologist will ask you how your symptoms affect your daily function. In addition, the examiner will review the evidence of record relating to your occupational and social impairment. This includes any information you provide to the examiner regarding your symptoms and any medical records or test results from your treatment provider.
One of the most critical pieces of evidence in your claim for PTSD benefits is your therapist’s official recommendation or breakdown of your symptoms. This document is vital to your claim because it can help the examiner determine if you are likely to receive a particular rating.
Some veterans try to increase their PTSD rating by exaggerating their symptoms. This is called malingering. Malingering is a form of fraud that the VA takes seriously. As a result, the VA has developed a long list of rules that must be followed when conducting C&P exams, including testing for signs of malingering. The most common test used to detect malingering is the MMPI-2, which has two sections dedicated to seeing PTSD symptoms.