Does the VA Classify PTSD and Depression as the Same Thing?

If you consistently feel “down” or numb, or if your mood interferes with daily activities, you might be suffering from depression. Alternatively, you could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and both depression and PTSD share several symptoms. With either condition, you might struggle with sleep, feel irritable over small things, or lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. It is also possible to have both conditions simultaneously.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs uses similar criteria to evaluate disability benefits ratings for PTSD and depression, the process for establishing a service connection for each condition differs significantly.

How the VA Assigns Disability Ratings for PTSD and Depression

The VA’s rating process involves a detailed assessment of the Veteran’s medical history, symptoms, and overall impairment caused by the condition(s). This evaluation is typically conducted by a qualified VA healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. The Veteran’s medical records, including any evidence of a PTSD or depression diagnosis, as well as his or her service records, are reviewed to establish a connection between the mental health condition and military service.

 Establishing Service Connection for Depression

To prove a service connection for depression, Veterans need to demonstrate three key elements:

  1. Military service
  2. A current diagnosis of depression
  3. A link (nexus) between military service and the depression diagnosis

Many Veterans do not have documented mental health problems during their service. In such cases, you can provide evidence of depression symptoms that appeared after your discharge, such as school records, witness statements, employment records, or other evidence showing that you did not exhibit symptoms of depression before entering service.

Establishing a Service Connection for PTSD

To qualify for a PTSD benefits rating, Veterans must demonstrate the following three elements:

  1. Military service
  2. A current diagnosis of PTSD
  3. An in-service stressor

As with depression, obtaining a current PTSD diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional is necessary. An “in-service stressor” refers to a traumatic event or events that occurred during military service and caused the Veteran’s PTSD. These events can include combat, witnessing a traumatic event, military sexual trauma (MST), or harassment, among others.

To establish an in-service stressor, Veterans must provide credible evidence. This evidence can include military records, statements from fellow service members, or personal diaries or letters detailing the traumatic event. Collecting as much supporting evidence as possible is crucial. Additionally, Veterans who served in combat zones or have a combat action badge do not need to verify their stressor.

Get Help with Your PTSD or Depression VA Benefits

Navigating the VA claims process can be complex. If you need assistance with the filing process, speaking with a VA disability lawyer will be beneficial. We can help you gather the necessary documentation, complete the required forms, and build a strong case for your claim involving PTSD or depression-related benefits. Call us today for an absolutely free consultation to discuss your options.

Fight 4 Vets