VA to Overhaul Disability Evaluations for Mental Health, Other Conditions

Published by Justin Doubleday


(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Opal Hood)


The Department of Veterans Affairs will change its disability ratings criteria for mental health conditions, sleep apnea and tinnitus, part of a major overhaul of the review process to ensure that compensation matches veterans' medical conditions and needs, department officials say.


The VA plans to update its Schedule for Rating Disabilities -- its guide for determining how it evaluates and provides benefits for service-connected disabilities -- for mental health conditions, to include their impact on veterans' lives, and abolish the "0%" disability rating for any service-connected mental health diagnosis in favor of a 10% minimum, according to a notice published Tuesday in the Federal Register.

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For tinnitus, the department will get rid of its stand-alone rating and consider the condition a symptom of whatever underlying disease is its cause.


As for sleep apnea, ratings will be assessed based on the effectiveness of treatment and the condition's impact on "earning impairment," according to the notice.


Previously, most conditions were assessed on the number and severity of symptoms, but VA officials said the consideration of lost wages or productivity is needed to ensure that the department compensates veterans appropriately.


Officials say the changes, which would go into effect after a period for the public to comment and a final version is published, likely will result in higher disability ratings for veterans with mental health conditions, but fewer qualifying for disability compensation for tinnitus and sleep apnea...


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