Depressive Disorder

Veteran Major Depressive Disorder Claim Denial | File An Appeal

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney


Not all injuries incurred during active duty are physical. Many veterans experience mental injuries connected to their service as well. If you are seeking VA disability for major depressive disorder, you must show evidence that you have suffered from at least two major depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks and that the condition impairs your daily life. It can be extremely discouraging to receive a denial on your initial major depressive disorder claim, but that’s where an experienced veteran disability attorney can help. Your lawyer will help you gather the documentation necessary to make your disability appeal successful.


The VA considers depression to be a mood disorder. The condition frequently causes symptoms such as a depressed mood most of the time, loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, sleeping more than usual, fatigue and loss of energy, and negative thoughts or even thoughts of suicide.

The VA rates major depressive disorder as follows:

  • If the veteran has been formally diagnosed with the condition but is not experiencing symptoms severe enough to interfere with their ability to function at work, home, or in social occasions, and they are not taking continuous medication to treat the condition, the condition is not compensable.
  • If mild symptoms come and go and occasionally decrease work efficiency or the ability to perform tasks, a 10 percent rating is given.
  • Occupational and social impairment that involves at least one episode a week of anxiety, suspiciousness, or panic is generally rated at 30 percent.
  • 50 percent rating is given if the veteran experiences reduced reliability and productivity due to episodes of depression that occur more than once a week.
  • 70 percent rating is given if the condition results in deficiencies in all aspects of the veteran’s life and interferes with their ability to conduct simple, day-to-day activities.
    100 percent rating is given if the veteran is completely socially and occupationally impaired and subject to a persistent danger of hurting themselves or others.


Some of the common causes of service-related major depressive disorder are:

  • Experiencing a life-threatening event, such as combat or sexual assault resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often causes depression
  • Separation from family members and support systems while dealing with other life stressors such as combat
  • Experiencing the death of a friend or witnessing the aftermath of a bombing
  • Politics surrounding the war, where it is fought, or the duties you have performed in the service
  • Difficulties with the transition from military to civilian life
  • Chronic pain from a service-related physical injury


Service connection is generally established for major depressive disorder by showing either that depression either began or worsened while you were on active duty, or that depression began after service and is related to an in-service event or disability. Service records can be helpful in establishing service connection as they can show that there was an incident that could have resulted in depression, regardless of when the symptoms of the disorder first appeared or the diagnosis was made. Your service records can also show the worsening of pre-service depression as reflected in reported changes in your performance or behavior.


The VA regularly denies claims or gives low disability ratings. If your claim has been denied, an experienced VA disability benefits attorney can assist you with your appeal. In order to appeal a decision, you have three options:

1. Supplemental Claim: You will need to supply the VA with additional information that supports your claim.

2. Higher-Level Review: Instead of supplying additional evidence, this option moves your existing claim forward to a more senior reviewer.

3. Board Appeal with a BVA Judge: You can submit additional information, request a Direct Review of your existing evidence, or request a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge.

A VA-accredited disability attorney can advise you on which option best suits your needs, as well as assist you in gathering the additional evidence you need for your Supplemental Claim or Board appeal.


Studies indicate that 14-16 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq have PTSD, depression, or both. Suicide—which can be a by-product of depression—among veterans has never been higher, with the most significant risk of suicide facing depressed veterans within their first year of leaving active duty service.

If you have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, an experienced VA disability benefits attorney can assist you with obtaining VA disability benefits by ensuring that you have the evidence you need to prove your case on appeal. If your initial claim has been denied, we can help you prepare for your appeal and assist you with a Supplemental Claim, Higher Level Review, or Board appeal, including participation in a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Our firm is veteran-owned and devoted exclusively to helping veterans obtain the benefits they need. You owe us nothing until we are able to successfully help you obtain your VA disability benefits. Contact us for a free case review.


What is the difference between depression and major depressive disorder?

Everyone experiences feelings of depression from time to time. For many, these feelings will subside after whatever caused these intense emotions has passed. For instance, someone who has been fired may experience depression until they find a new job, but they recover fully upon beginning to work again. For others, there may be lingering depressive symptoms but they are otherwise able to function in a relatively normal capacity. They may take anti-depressants, seek therapy, or use other means to reduce the severity of their depression to a level that allows them to continue to work and fulfill their obligations.

Unfortunately, for some people, these feelings are so invasive and so frequent that they cause disruptions in a person’s ability to work, perform normal daily activities, and maintain relationships, even with treatment. They can also become so severe that suicidal thoughts emerge and the risk of suicide becomes an emergency. Major depressive disorder is also sometimes referred to as clinical depression. This form of depression is characterized by major depressive episodes lasting two weeks or longer with significant detriment to daily living.

What if I never sought treatment for depression while serving in the military?

As long as you can establish that your depression is service-connected, it is possible for you to obtain VA disability. Your military service records paired with your current medical records can help to establish eligibility. Obtaining a buddy letter will be a major asset to your case. This individual could be a fellow service member, spouse, family member, or another person who knew you during and after your military service. Their statement can establish a timeline of when your depression took hold.

How much compensation can I receive for VA disability for major depressive disorder?

Your compensation will depend on your VA disability rating as well as the number of dependents you have. Dependents are not included in your overall VA disability compensation amount unless you have at least a 30-percent combined rating with VA. Our VA disability calculator has the most current totals.


A Veteran Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating claim appeals process if you have received a denial of benefits for major depressive disorder. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement and achieve entitlement to service connection.

If your veteran disability claim for major depressive disorder received a denial, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.