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I am going to start this article with an extreme example. A member of the military is on a combat mission. He/She is attacked by the enemy. After running out of ammunition, the soldier kills two of the enemy with his/her bare hands and then is shot and then is hit by a rocket and a leg is blown off. He/She is medevaced and survives. Afterward, the Veteran has repeated nightmares and flashbacks from sounds and visions from that day. Of course, they get a PTSD award. Not necessarily.
Now this person does receive a myriad of VA Disability awards. But PTSD has two "secret" requirements: inability to maintain any relationship; inability to maintain a job. In other words, if you have one spouse and one job, you will not qualify. Anything in between is a flip of the coin.
Depression is different, and that is why they are evaluated separately, and never should be secondary to PTSD. However, just because you are clinically depressed, this doesn't mean it is service connected. So, the first thing you need to do is put a link to your depression to your service. This can be combat, sexual assualt or some other dramatic individual or series of events.
Let's say that you come home from a combat tour and leave the service. You're married, have two great kids and get a job that lasts for years. Your wife knows that you are changed and moody. You have a quick temper. But she sticks with you. Same thing with your boss. He/she isn't happy that you miss one or two days a month, but you do good work and you stay employed.
First, getting help at the VA is easy. Call any VA Clinic or Hospital, ask for Mental Health, and you are in. No referral is required. You will be asked if you want antidepressant drugs. Say yes, regardless if you actually want them (and you never know, they just might help). Why? This is a check off box during your Disability exam. No drugs means minor depression or maybe now you are cured. VA pays disability for CURRENT issues, not past ones. Start counseling - this goes in your VA Health records.
Now, the VA Doctor who does your Disability exam will recommend if you get a disability award. Think for a minute. Are you doing this for the money or to help yourself, your spouse and your family. Getting your head straight is what is important. If you struggle daily and there is no expectation of a cure, then a Disability award for depression is possible - even probable.
One last thought. If the Veteran already has an award for depression or PTSD, think long and hard about applying for an increase. The VA does and will reduce or totally eliminate the current award if they find that you are doing better or that the original award was done incorrectly. Talk to your VSO. If it's the right thing to do, as in you are much worse or the first time you were not correctly evaluated, then go for it. But if you lose your current award, getting it back is next to impossible.
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