What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Some of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia include experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking. The behaviors and symptoms associated with schizophrenia can severely impair daily functioning and acutely impact one’s ability to work.
Schizophrenia typically begins to present in late adolescence and early adulthood. This early presentation is part of why so many veterans start to exhibit symptoms while in service. Military service can also aggravate symptoms of schizophrenia due to the stressors associated with military life, like being separated from one’s friends and family, boot camp, and experiencing combat or combat-like situations. These stressors can worsen psychological functioning over time, especially if the individual does not begin treatment shortly after symptoms manifest. Getting an early and accurate diagnosis is crucial, but unfortunately, the diagnosis many service members receive in service is that of a ‘personality disorder’. It is important for veterans and active service members who suspect they may have schizophrenia to visit a specialist and get evaluated for their condition.
Veterans who are service connected for their schizophrenia have access not only to VA resources to treat their condition but VA disability compensation as well. Many individuals with schizophrenia experience varying symptoms over time, so having access to compensation for their condition is incredibly important. Types of symptoms can change or the severity of existing symptoms can worsen, necessitating different treatments so the veteran can continue to manage his or her daily functioning. The fluctuating nature of this condition can make it difficult to maintain steady employment or work a full-time job, so receiving VA disability compensation can help veterans with schizophrenia support themselves without having to compromise their treatment or the safety of themselves and others.
Getting Service Connected For Schizophrenia
The most important evidence a veteran can provide to the VA when he or she seeks service connection for schizophrenia is medical records. The medical records he or she provides will hopefully show that (1) symptoms of the condition began presenting in service and (2) a diagnosis was given in service or within one year of discharge from service. This type of evidence will prove to the VA that the veteran’s schizophrenia is service connected and entitles him or her to compensation. Additional kinds of evidence that can help prove service connection for schizophrenia are service personnel records showing a change in performance or behavior and any disciplinary action taken against the veteran that may have followed an onset of schizophrenic symptoms. Statements from friends and family members can be helpful as well by providing the VA with a more holistic picture of the veteran and how his or her condition has affected his or her daily life.
How The VA Rates Schizophrenia
As with other mental disorders, the VA evaluates schizophrenia under 38 CFR § 4.130.
Diagnostic code 9201:
- 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 work like 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%
Getting Help With Your Schizophrenia Claim
If you or a loved one are a veteran with schizophrenia and would like to get service connected for your condition, please contact us today. Our veterans disability lawyers have experience getting veterans service connection for schizophrenia and are ready to help you get the compensation you deserve.