What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a condition commonly characterized by manic or hypomanic (less severe than manic) mood highs and depressive mood lows. When an individual with bipolar disorder experiences mania, he or she may feel euphoric, energetic, and be unusually irritable. When experiencing depressive lows, he or she may feel hopeless, lose interest or pleasure in most activities, and possibly have thoughts of suicide.
An estimated 2.8 percent of U.S. adults had bipolar disorder in the last year. Among veterans, that incidence is around 4 percent. Due to this increased occurrence of bipolar disorder among veterans, the VA provides a variety of treatment programs for bipolar disorder. Another resource for treatment can also be found with private physicians, although cost can be a restricting factor for many. On average, less than 50 percent of veterans seek out treatment. This is a critical statistic, because some psychological studies have found that veterans diagnosed with bipolar disorder have an increased risk of commiting suicide.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you understand the complexities of this condition and how it can affect every aspect of one’s life. Thankfully, veterans with bipolar disorder may be entitled to compensation through the VA’s disability program, which can help alleviate some of the strain this condition puts on an individual’s finances.
Getting Service Connected for Bipolar Disorder
Through the VA’s disability system, veterans can receive a schedular disability rating for his or her disability. The severity of their condition determines the rating, and entitles them to different levels of compensation. For mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, the most important evidence a veteran can provide when applying for service connection for his or her condition are medical records. Medical records, either from in-service treatment or private treatment within one year of completion of service, can help establish the severity of his or her condition and help VA rating officers determine if the condition began or was made more severe by the veteran’s military service.
Another form of evidence that can help get service connection for one’s bipolar disorder are service personnel records. Incident reports, transfer requests, performance evaluations, and other similar documents can provide a picture of how the veteran’s bipolar disorder manifested in service or was made more severe during his or her service. In addition to this type of evidence, providing statements from family members or friends who are familiar with the veteran’s condition can supply additional support for the veteran’s claim. This type of information is particularly helpful if the individuals preparing the sworn statements knew the veteran before, during, and after his or her service because then their statements can establish a timeline of worsening severity of the veteran’s bipolar disorder.
How the VA Rates Bipolar Disorder
Under 38 CFR § 4.130, Bipolar Disorder can be rated based on the following criteria:
Diagnostic code 9432:
- Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name: 100%
- Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships: 70%
- Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships: 50%
- 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), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events): 30%
- 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: 10%
- A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication: 0%
Get Help With Your VA Claim for Bipolar Disorder
Whether it is your first time applying, or you are seeking help with an appeal, our experienced attorneys at The Veterans Law Office can help you get the VA schedular disability rating you deserve. Please contact us today at the phone number above or via our online form for a free claim evaluation.