According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), depression is the most diagnosed mental illness among US military veterans. A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study found that as many as 33% of former servicemembers exhibit symptoms of depression. While mental disorders can result directly from military service, many veterans develop depression after suffering a physical injury or other condition. When this occurs, they may file a secondary service-connected claim to receive disability benefits.
A veteran can file a secondary service-connected claim if he or she develops a new disability linked to his or her already existing service-connected disability. These claims may reflect physical as well as mental conditions. For example, a veteran who develops heart complications after receiving benefits for service-connected high blood pressure may be eligible for secondary benefits. Similarly, a former servicemember may be entitled to benefits if he or she develops depression due to a physical injury. By filing a secondary disability claim, a veteran can receive additional benefits to cover a new service-related condition.
Veterans need a medical diagnosis to receive secondary benefits for depression, which can be acquired from a VA psychiatrist or other healthcare professional. Additionally, applicants for secondary disability compensation will need to prove a nexus between their depression and their original service-connected impairment. An individual can use expert opinions, medical records, and lay evidence to establish a relationship between diagnosed depression and a physical injury.
The VA uses a general rating formula to evaluate the impact of depression and other mental disorders and determine the benefits a former servicemember may receive for their claim. This rating scale ranges from zero to 100%, with intervals at 10%, 30%, 50%, and 70%.
A veteran may receive a 100% rating in cases where their depression results in complete social impairment and inability to work. Conversely, the VA applies a 0% rating to cases where a mental diagnosis exists, but depression symptoms do not interfere with a veteran’s social function or work life.
If you or a loved one developed depression linked to a service-connected injury, you may be able to receive additional disability benefits from the VA. An experienced VA disability lawyer from our firm can help guide you through your claim. To speak to one of our skilled VA-accredited lawyers, contact us today.