When veterans experience panic attacks—a symptom of panic disorder—they may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you suffer from one or both of these conditions, you may be eligible for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if you can service-connect them. 

What Is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are feelings of intense fear when there isn’t any real danger. According to the VA, an attack is
a “rush of intense fear or discomfort” that may
have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Feeling dizzy, weak, or faint
  • Feeling your heart race
  • Having numbness or a tingling sensation in your fingers and hands
  • Having chills or feeling sweaty
  • Having a sense of forthcoming death or doom and/or feelings of terror
  • Having problems breathing and/or chest pains
  • Feeling out of control

Although panic attacks usually occur unexpectedly and often peak within the first 10 minutes, they can last longer, and it’s possible for multiple panic attacks to occur simultaneously.

How the VA Rates Panic Attacks

panic_attacksThe VA has separate diagnostic codes for different types of mental illnesses, but they’re all rated using the same criteria.

The VA uses a diagnostic tool called the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale to help gauge how severe your disability is. Then, a score is given from 0–100 percent to designate your ability to function at your job, as well as manage emotionally and socially.

The VA percentage ratings are as follows:

  • 100: If you receive a rating of 100 percent, it means you're totally unable to function in any capacity at work or socially. With this rating, the VA cites symptoms such as extreme, inappropriate behavior; consistent delusions or hallucinations; ongoing threats of self-harm; and extreme confusion and disorientation.  
  • 70: If you receive a rating of 70, the VA believes you're unable to function in a majority of social and work environments. With this rating, the VA cites symptoms such as illogical speech; panic and depression that can interfere with daily functioning; thoughts of suicide; and the inability to manage self-care. 
  • 50: If you receive a rating of 50, the VA sees some impairment in your ability to function in social and work environments. With this rating, the VA cites symptoms such as memory loss, poor judgment, problems with relationships, and a lack of productivity and/or reliability.
  • 30: If you receive a rating of 30, the VA recognizes limited trouble functioning both socially and at work. With this rating, the VA cites symptoms such as inconsistent productivity at work and an inability to perform basic tasks, chronic sleeping problems,mild memory loss, and depression.
  • 10: If you receive a rating of 10, the VA acknowledges you have mild symptoms of this disorder that create some level of impairment when you’re under extreme stress. These symptoms can usually be managed with medication.  
  • 0: If you receive a 0 percent rating, the VA recognizes your mental illness but cites that the symptoms are mild and don’t require ongoing medication. Additionally, your symptoms don’t interfere with work or social functioning. While this rating doesn’t provide financial benefits, you may be eligible for health care.

Call Cuddigan Law

If you believe your military service caused you to suffer secondary panic attacks, you may be eligible for VA benefits.

To determine if you qualify, it’s helpful to contact an experienced VA disability lawyer to assist in filing your claim. Our attorneys are committed to helping veterans, and we'll examine your case, develop the best strategy, and work with you to submit a claim that increases your chances of receiving disability benefits. Contact our office today.


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