When a person suffers the amputation of a limb, it doesn’t matter if it’s due to disease, an accident, or war—he can experience severe psychological trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common after losing a limb, as is depression.

This is especially true for veterans. According to 2012 data cited in The World Post, over 1,500 U.S. service members lost an arm or a leg in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, while hundreds suffered multiple limb amputations. Over 83 percent of those with an amputation lost their limbs due to an improvised explosive device (IED). Limb amputation is a serious and often disabling procedure that can bring about major depression in those who must learn to live life differently after the limb is removed.   

amputationThe United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes depression as a serious medical illness and a ratable condition. If you’ve been diagnosed with depression after suffering a service-connected amputation, it’s possible that you qualify for disability benefits for depression as a secondary condition.

Because filing for disability can be confusing and sometimes frustrating, it’s important to hire an experienced VA disability attorney to help with your claim.

Understanding Depression and How to Qualify for Benefits

The VA cites depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, as a mood disorder under the Psychological Rating System, Code 9434. You can claim depression as a secondary condition if you prove it’s caused by your service-connected amputation. If your doctor provides a written opinion to that effect, your claim is more likely to be approved.

To be eligible for benefits for depression, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • A diagnosis of at least two major episodes of depression that last two weeks or more
  • Show symptoms that severely impair your ability to function on a daily basis. These may include:
    • A loss of interest in the activities you once enjoyed
    • A feeling of depression or sadness throughout most of the day
    • An inability to sleep, or sleeping to excess
    • A feeling of fatigue; having low energy
    • A decrease in appetite; weight loss
    • Frequent thoughts about death

Connecting Your Depression With Your Amputation

To show that depression is related to your service-connected amputation, a doctor or other health professional must establish the connection in the following ways:

  • He must give you a current diagnosis of depression—either dysthymic disorder or major depressive disorder.
  • He must provide evidence that the event and the subsequent amputation likely caused your depression.
  • You must present medical evidence, reports, and documentation that show “causation” between the amputation and your diagnosis of depression. It’s important that your doctor include a written letter of opinion that links your current diagnosis of depression to the amputation.

How the VA Rates Depression

When the VA rates depression, it looks at how much the condition interferes with a veteran’s ability to function socially and work. The symptoms themselves have no real bearing on the rating; rather, the VA looks at how those symptoms impair the veteran’s life.

The percentage ratings available for depression are:

  • 0
  • 10
  • 30
  • 50
  • 70
  • 100

A veteran can receive a 0 percent rating if he presents depression symptoms, but his ability to function isn’t impaired. However, receiving a 0 percent rating is important, as it may entitle the veteran to some benefits such as health care. A 100 percent rating is given only when a veteran has zero ability to function in a job or in any type of social situation.

Contact Cuddigan Law

There’s no simple formula for addressing a veteran’s claim for disability, and this is especially true for veterans suffering from depression due to amputation.

At Cuddigan Law, we examine each case individually, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit your claim or file an appeal if it’s been denied. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your VA application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim for depression as a secondary condition.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska