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VA Disability Ratings for Anxiety: Maximize Your Benefits

Military service, especially during conflict, is inherently mentally and emotionally stressful. Technology advances have made warfighting even more intense: unlike earlier conflicts, today’s battlefield can be anywhere, and it keeps going 24 hours a day. What is more, the rate of foreign deployments for both active duty and reserve component personnel remains high, which can also contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

You can see the effects of modern-day service-related stress and anxiety in the statistics:

  • From 2000 to 2012, reported anxiety orders with the Veterans Administration (VA) more than tripled.
  • On average, one of every ten veterans suffers from depression after leaving the service. For veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq, 20 percent experience symptoms of stress, anxiety, or depression.

The good news is, the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) recognizes anxiety as a compensable service-related disability. Find out more below about how you might qualify for anxiety-related monthly VA disability benefits.

Anxiety as a Service-Connected Disability

Your eligibility for anxiety-related VA disability benefits depends on the meeting the same requirements as for most disabilities: 

  1. First, you need to have a current diagnosis from a healthcare provider for an anxiety disorder.
  2. Second, your current anxiety disorder must be traceable to an in-service event.
  3. A service connection made by a healthcare provider that links the disabling event to your current disability.

Some important points to remember when proving a service connection:

  • You do not need to prove that the cause was a specific stressor event, like participation in battle or a physical assault or accident. This is one way that an anxiety disability is different from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, many veterans who make anxiety-related disability claims receive treatment for anxiety-related symptoms during their time in service.
  • The anxiety-causing event does not need to be directly connected with your military duties. For example, anxiety-related symptoms that arise or become worse because of a deployment that adds separation onto an already stressful domestic relationship can qualify for disability consideration.
  • The VA will also consider your medical records from your separation examination to support the existence of an in-service qualifying event if it indicates that you are experiencing anxiety-related symptoms.

Anxiety as a Secondary Service Connection Disability

Sometimes, one service-connected disability can lead to another, secondary disability for anxiety. For example, if you have a service-connected disability to your legs that restricts your ability to move, you can make a primary claim for disability benefits for that. 

But what if the same disability causes you to experience anxiety because of worries about whether you will be able to land or keep a job? This could lead to a secondary disability condition.

One thing that makes a secondary service connection disability different from a regular disability is that because the connection to the initial service-connected disability is indirect, it is more important to provide supporting evidence to show that connection.

Proving Anxiety Disability Claims

Anxiety is not what the VA calls a presumed disability, like Agent Orange exposure. Instead, you must support your anxiety-related disability claim with proof. The more proof you have, especially medical evidence, and the better the quality of your proof, the better the chance that the VA will approve your claim.

One way to provide evidence of an anxiety condition is through a VA compensation and pension (C&P) medical examination. Another is to have medical records of your ongoing treatment for the symptoms of anxiety. A third way is to use a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ).

The Disability Benefits Questionnaire

A significant advantage of using a DBQ as part of your proof of a service-connected disability is that because the VA created the form, it covers questions and evidence points that the VA considers important. 

Medical records and healthcare provider notes are evidence, but they might not address the important proof issues the way a DBQ will. The DBQ can serve as a diagnostic of how strong your disability claim is before you make it, and areas of your claim that you might need to bolster with more or better proof.

DBQ form for a va rating for anxiety

You can download the DBQ form from the VA website. There are many kinds of DBQ, depending on the underlying disability. For our purposes, we consider the one for “Mental Disorders Other Than PTSD and Eating Disorders.” This form is used in about 5 percent of all DBQ form submittals.

The VA intends that your health care provider will complete your DBQ form. It is not meant to be filled out by veterans themselves. The form has several questions for your provider to provide medical opinions about your anxiety condition and its symptoms, including whether you have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, whether you are subject to any impairments in your work and social life, your mental health history, and whether you have any history of substance abuse or law enforcement actions that involved you.

The DBQ also provides a checklist of mental health conditions that gives you an idea of the many ways that anxiety or other mental health disabilities can affect your life:

DBQ symptoms checklist

Types of Compensable Anxiety Disorders

As the DBQ form indicates, there are many ways that a VA disability for anxiety can manifest itself. The VA has consolidated the many individual kinds of anxiety disorders into six groups:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorders / phobias
  • Panic disorder and/or panic attacks 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other mental disorders 

Of these six, we will cover the first three in more detail because they are most commonly associated with anxiety disability symptoms: GAD, social anxiety disorders, and panic disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

It is not uncommon for people to feel anxious sometimes. But when the sense of anxiety is persistent, it can interfere with your ability to live your life and become a disability.

Any veteran can experience GAD, but combat veterans seem to experience it more. 

Mental symptoms of GAD include:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a things in a way that is out of proportion to their seriousness
  • Overthinking plans and solutions, trying to account for every possible problem or anticipating worst-case outcomes
  • Feeling threatened in certain situations and events even when they are not dangerous
  • Having trouble coping with uncertainty
  • Feeling indecisive, and being afraid to make decisions for fear of making a mistake
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank” at times

Physical symptoms of GAD include:

  • Sleep impairment
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mild memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Disorientation
  • Physical pain in your neck, shoulders, and back (muscle tension)

How Does GAD Relate to PTSD?

It can be easy to confuse GAD with PTSD, because they share similar characteristics. 

  • Both conditions are brought on by similar experiences. A past traumatic event is an underlying reason why PTSD symptoms appear, but it can also be a contributor to GAD.
  • Both can be a source of feelings of worry and anxiety.
  • Another possible source of confusion is that GAD and PTSD can exist together at the same time and each can be a contributing cause of the other. 

About one of every six veterans who have PTSD may also have GAD.

Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks

Panic disorder describes a disability that consists of recurring panic attacks. 

The difference between feelings of anxiety like you might experience from GAD and a panic attack is in the intensity of the emotional and physical sensations. Symptoms of a panic attack can include:

  • A sense of sudden, overwhelming sense of fear, danger, or even death
  • A sense of extreme detachment or unreality
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Chest pains
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Chills

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as having a “social phobia.”  

In a way similar to how GAD is a persistent form of anxiety, social anxiety disorder describes a sense of fear of dealing with other people that is continuous and recurrent. This, in turn, can make it hard to live your life normally.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Fear of being in situations where others might judge you badly
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Being intensely afraid of meeting or talking with strangers
  • Fear of showing physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, like blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice
  • Avoiding activities or talking with others from fear of embarrassing yourself
  • Avoiding situations in which you might become the center of attention
  • Being anxious about a feared activity or event
  • Feelings of intense fear or anxiety in social situations
  • “Critiquing” your performance in social interactions after a social situation, focusing on mistakes you may have made

Disability Ratings for Anxiety-Related Disabilities

Although VA disability ratings generally range from 0 to 100 percent, not all of these rating levels are available for anxiety-related disabilities. Instead, the VA uses a stepped series of ratings: 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100 percent. 

If you already know your disability rating—individual or combined—you can use our VA Disability Calculator to get an estimate of what your monthly disability compensation could be.

We will consider each rating level below for the symptoms that evidence them and to give you an idea of what your 2024 monthly compensation amount might be.

0 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

A disability rating of 0 percent is a finding by the VA that, although you have a diagnosable anxiety disability, it is not serious enough in its effects to rise to the level of a functional impairment. At this level, you generally will not require medication and is otherwise under control enough that it does not affect your ability to work or to engage in regular life activities.

This rating does not qualify for VA monthly disability benefit compensation, but it can qualify you for other VA health benefits.

10 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

This is the lowest VA disability rating for anxiety that qualifies for monthly VA benefits.

At the 10 percent level, you might be suffering from intermittent levels of emotional stress sufficient to cause you some impairment in work and social situations, but these relatively mild symptoms can be managed by medication and do not result in any major functional impairments. 

The 2024 monthly compensation for a 10 percent disability rating is $171.23 for you as an individual veteran. It does not change if you have a spouse, dependent parents, or dependent children.

30 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

This is the most common rating for anxiety disorder disabilities. At this level of disability, you can be experiencing sporadic anxiety symptoms that, while you can still work, can cause you to have enough trouble to reduce your work efficiency or to miss work on occasion.

A 30 percent disability rating is also where your sense of anxiety can begin to cause you to isolate yourself sometimes, but not yet to the point where you cannot maintain relationships or perform occupational tasks. 

Anxiety symptoms you might experience at the 30 percent disability level include depression, suspicious feelings toward others, minor memory loss, difficulty sleeping, and sometimes panic attacks.

The 2024 monthly compensation for a 30 percent disability rating is $524.31 for you as an individual veteran. This amount can increase if you have a spouse, dependent children, or children older than 18 who are enrolled in an educational program.

50 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

While the 0, 10, and 30 percent disability ratings for anxiety focus on the overall effects of this disorder, at the 50 percent level the VA focus shifts more to specific symptoms that are regularly interfering with your work and social life.

Symptoms you might experience at the 50 percent rating include:

  • Problems with short-term and long-term memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty thinking in abstract terms
  • Mood swings
  • Lethargy and difficulty in staying motivated
  • Trouble understanding or following complex instructions or commands
  • Difficulty with personal and work relationships
  • Panic attacks two or more times a week
  • Problems showing emotions, also known as “flattened effect” (for example, speaking in a monotone voice with a blank facial expression)

The 2024 monthly compensation for a 50 percent disability rating is $1,075.16 for you as an individual veteran. As with the other 30 percent, 70 percent, and 100 percent disability ratings that can apply to an anxiety disability, your benefit amount can increase if you have a spouse, dependent children, or children older than 18 who are enrolled in an educational program.

70 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

At this anxiety VA rating the symptoms you experience are often the same as for the 50 percent rating, but they are more severe in their intensity, happen more often, and last longer when they occur. Panic attacks can occur frequently. Holding a job or staying in school can become very difficult or impossible. Relations with others might not only suffer, you can even experience emotions that lead to bouts of physical violence. 

Additional symptoms at the 70 percent disability rating level can include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Problems controlling impulses
  • Disorientation about your location
  • Difficulty speaking coherently
  • Neglect of personal appearance and personal hygiene
  • Engaging in repetitive or ritualistic behaviors in daily activities (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation)

The 2024 monthly compensation for a 70 percent disability rating is $1,716.28 for you as an individual veteran. This amount can increase if you have a spouse, dependent children, or children older than 18 who are enrolled in a qualifying school program.

100 Percent VA Rating for Anxiety

When you reach this level of anxiety disability your symptoms will prevent you from working and from being able to engage in normal life functions. At this rating, you can experience hallucinations or delusions on a persistent basis, have difficulty communicating at all, be disoriented not only about where you are but also “when,” and have trouble doing daily life activities to the point of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning or to take a shower and get dressed if you do.

Total disability from anxiety can be physically dangerous to you and to others around you. At the 70 percent level you might have suicidal thoughts; at the 100 percent level, you are more likely not only to attempt suicide but to have thoughts of harming or even killing others.

Additional symptoms you can experience at the 100 percent anxiety disability rating level include:

  • Persistent delusions or hallucinations 
  • Memory loss to the point of being unable to remember names of people
  • Inappropriate behaviors in public

The 2024 monthly compensation for a 70 percent disability rating is $3,737.85 for you as an individual veteran. This amount can increase if you have a spouse, dependent children, or children older than 18 who are enrolled in an educational program.

Hospitalization for Anxiety Disorders

If your anxiety disorder reaches a point where you must be hospitalized for it, and that hospitalization continues for more than 21 days, then the VA considers this to evidence a total disability but only for the duration of your hospital stay. 

100 Percent Disability Based on Individual Unemployability 

Like with many other disabilities, you can be totally disabled by an anxiety disorder without that disorder itself being 100 percent. You do this by qualifying for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).

TDIU provides you with the same monthly disability compensation as if your disability rating is 100 percent. If, for example, you have a 70 percent anxiety-related disability rating but cannot gain or keep substantially gainful employment, you can still collect total disability benefits under TDIU. “Substantially gainful employment” basically means employment that compensates you above the federal poverty level.

Or, if you have multiple disabilities, one of which is at least 40 percent, and cannot gain or hold substantially gainful employment, this might also make you eligible for TDIU.

FAQs about VA Disability Ratings for Anxiety

What is the difference between anxiety and depression?

Compared to anxiety, which generally manifests itself through fears or constant worry that you can have trouble controlling, depression is a general feeling of sadness that can express itself in a lack of energy and enthusiasm in its milder forms up to suicidal thoughts and behaviors at its most severe.

Can I receive disability benefits for an anxiety disorder that existed before my military service?

Yes, if you can show that your anxiety condition became worse during your service in a way that goes beyond what its normal progression would be. The VA refers to this as “aggravation” of your pre-existing condition.

Can I receive different VA disability ratings for multiple mental health disorders?

Generally, no. The VA will combine your anxiety-related disability to include all your symptoms. It does not rate individual mental health disorders separately, something the VA would consider to be “pyramiding.” Thus, for example, if you suffer from depression and anxiety, you will not receive separate disability ratings for each of them but a single rating for a service-connected anxiety disorder.

Your VA Disability Claims Advocates

At Stone Rose Law we are veterans’ disability lawyers first and foremost. We help veterans just like you to receive all the VA disability benefits they deserve, including benefits for anxiety-related disorders.

Anxiety-related disabilities can be more challenging to prove than physical disabilities because unlike an injured or even missing limb or other physical injury, anxiety often does not reveal itself in ways that are obvious to the untrained eye. This makes gathering and organizing your medical records and other supporting evidence even more important.

We help disabled veterans make initial claims and supplemental disability claims for all kinds of disabilities, including anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. We will help you at no cost to you to prepare your claim and will stay with you during the VA’s claim decision process.

If the VA denies your disability claim, we can help you with your appeal – you only pay us if we win your appeal, and then only from any back-due compensation the VA awards you.

Call us at (480) 498-8998 today to speak with one of our VA disability attorneys and to set up a free consultation. Or, if you prefer, you can contact us online to ask a question or to set up a free appointment to get your VA claim started.

Helpful Resources for Anxiety-Related Disorders and Related VA Benefits

Here are some links to VA resources for anxiety-related disorders, anxiety claims, and the disability benefits you might receive for them: