PTSD After Service

Everything Veterans Need to Know About PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. For veterans, this often means combat, assault, or other deeply disturbing experiences during military service. PTSD can haunt you for years or decades after leaving the military, impacting your relationships, career, and overall quality of life.


The good news is that if you're struggling with service-connected PTSD, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. These monthly payments can provide critical financial support as you manage your symptoms and rebuild your life. However, getting the benefits you deserve isn't always easy. In this article, we'll break down everything you need to know about VA disability for PTSD, from ratings to evidence requirements to fighting denials.

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PTSD is a Ratable VA Disability

First, it's important to understand that PTSD is absolutely a disability according to the VA. If your PTSD symptoms stem from a traumatic event or experience during your military service, you can receive VA disability compensation. Your PTSD doesn't have to be caused by combat. It could be due to military sexual trauma, training accidents, or any other service-related stressor.

The amount of compensation depends on how severely your PTSD impacts your occupational and social functioning. The VA rates PTSD from 0-100% disabling using criteria in the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders (VASRD §4.130).

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VA Disability Ratings for PTSD

To determine your PTSD rating, the VA will consider evidence like your C&P exam results, treatment records, and supporting statements. They are supposed to assign the rating that best reflects your overall level of impairment. Here's a simplified breakdown of the rating criteria:

  • 0% - PTSD has been formally diagnosed but symptoms are not severe enough to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication
  • 10% - Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication
  • 30% - 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)
  • 50% - Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity
  • 70% - Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood
  • 100% - Total occupational and social impairment


The 70% and 100% ratings involve specific severe symptoms like suicidal ideation, obsessional rituals, illogical speech, near-continuous panic or depression impacting function, impaired impulse control, spatial disorientation, neglect of hygiene, inability to establish and maintain relationships, and persistent danger of hurting self or others.

What is the Average VA Rating for PTSD?

According to recent VA data, the average PTSD rating is currently 50%, while the most common rating is 70%. Roughly 48% of vets with PTSD are rated at 70% or higher. However, 24% are rated at only 10 or 30%.


It's important to remember that no two cases of PTSD are exactly alike. Your rating may be higher or lower than average depending on factors like the severity and frequency of your symptoms, how much they impact different areas of your life, and the strength of your evidence.

How to Get VA Disability Benefits for PTSD

To establish service connection for PTSD, you typically need three things:

  • A current diagnosis of PTSD from a qualified professional
  • Credible evidence of an in-service stressor (the traumatic event that caused PTSD)
  • Medical evidence linking the current PTSD to the in-service stressor


The first step is filing a claim and submitting evidence. The VA will likely order a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam to assess your symptoms. If your stressor involved combat, fear of hostile military/terrorist activity, or captivity as a POW, your lay testimony alone may be enough to verify it. For other stressors like assault or accident, you may need additional evidence like police reports, medical records, or buddy statements.

The most helpful evidence for PTSD claims usually includes:

  • A current diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist
  • VA and/or private treatment records showing ongoing symptoms
  • A strong medical nexus opinion linking PTSD to the in-service stressor
  • Statements from you, friends, family, or fellow servicemembers about your stressor, symptoms, and impairments in different areas of functioning
  • Personnel records showing combat service, medals, or changes in performance around the time of the stressor

Can the VA Reduce Your PTSD Rating?

Your PTSD rating is not necessarily permanent. The VA can reevaluate your condition and potentially reduce your rating if they find evidence of sustained material improvement. However, they have to follow specific rules around reductions:


  • Ratings that have been in place for 5 years or longer have added protections and require more evidence for reduction
  • The VA must show sustained improvement in your ability to function under ordinary conditions of work and life, not just temporary or minor relief of symptoms
  • Reductions can only be based on a thorough C&P reexamination and review of your full medical history
  • You have 30 days to request a pre-determination hearing and 60 days to submit new evidence before a final reduction


To minimize chances of reduction, make sure you continue any prescribed PTSD treatment, document ongoing symptoms or worsening with your VA doctor, and consider appealing any reduction proposal with help from a skilled veterans advocate. Many unwarranted PTSD rating reductions are overturned on appeal with the right evidence and arguments.

What to Do if Your PTSD Claim is Denied

Unfortunately, the VA denies many PTSD claims on the first go-round. Common reasons include lack of a clear diagnosis, insufficient proof of an in-service stressor, or a negative C&P exam. But a denial is not the end of the road. You have the right to appeal in hopes of a better outcome.

The appeals process can be long and complex. You essentially have three options under the AMA system:


  • File a Supplemental Claim with new and relevant evidence
  • Request a Higher-Level Review by a more senior VA employee
  • File a Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veterans' Appeals


The best route depends on the specifics of your case. It's often helpful to have an expert in your corner to identify the gaps in your claim, gather the missing evidence, and present the strongest legal arguments. A veterans lawyer or advocate can be an invaluable asset in your fight for PTSD benefits.

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You Fought For Your Country, Let Us Fight for You.

If you're a veteran struggling with PTSD or other mental health related conditions and your disability claim has been denied, don't lose hope. Appeals are common, and with the right support, you can successfully navigate the process to secure the benefits you deserve. At Veterans Disability Aid, our experienced team is dedicated to guiding you through every stage of the appeals journey. We understand the challenges you face and the importance of obtaining a fair disability rating that accurately reflects the impact of your PTSD on your daily life. You fought for your country, let us fight for you.

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