Depression Secondary To Physical Injury

Physical trauma can cause a variety of chronic impairments, many of which are not simply physical. For example, depression is one of the most common secondary conditions caused by physical injury, along with anxiety and panic attacks. Among veterans in particular, depression secondary to physical injury is relatively common since the injury causing incident might have been traumatic as well, such as a gunshot wound or broken bone due to combat. 

In some cases, a veteran’s physical injury may not be the result of a single traumatic event but instead the result of repeated, minor physical traumas that can cause conditions such as degenerative disc disease, knee and leg problems, or issues with the feet. For example, a veteran who rode in a Humvee every day of their deployment could have developed a back condition as a result of the jostling he or she experienced while wearing heavy equipment. If that back condition is service-connected, and has contributed to the veteran’s depression, he or she could apply for secondary service connection for his or her depression.

Post-injury depression not only affects a veteran’s daily functioning due to lack of motivation, anhedonia, or other similar symptoms, but can also impact the veterans ability to recover physically. That is why it is so important that the VA offers service connection and compensation to veterans who develop depression secondary to a service-related injury.

How The VA Rates Depression

Under 38 CFR § 4.130, the VA rates depression based on the severity of the condition and the impact it has on the veteran’s occupational and social functioning.

Diagnostic Code 9433, 9434, 9435: Persistent depressive disorder, major depressive disorder, and unspecified depressive disorder

  • 100 – 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.
  • 70 – 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.
  • 50 – 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.
  • 30 – 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).
  • 10 – 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.
  • 0 – 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.

Veterans who are unable to work as a result of their depression or other service connected conditions qualify for a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating, which pays veterans 100 percent compensation if they are unable to follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of their service-connected impairment(s).

Get Help With Your Secondary Depression Claim

If you are a veteran with depression secondary to a physical injury or related condition and are looking for assistance with your veterans claim, please contact our office today for a free claim evaluation. Our experienced veterans disability attorneys are ready to get you the compensation you deserve.