Memory loss is one of the main symptoms veterans with PTSD can experience. It can significantly determine whether you qualify for a 100 percent disability rating for PTSD or another mental disorder. Before a Veteran can receive benefits, they must undergo a disability medical exam. These exams are conducted by VHA employees or examiners contracted by VBA.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a brain disease that affects memory, attention, concentration and language. It is not a normal part of aging but is caused by abnormal changes in nerve cells that carry messages to and from parts of the brain.
The symptoms of dementia are progressive, worsening over time. In the early stages, people can still live independently and often have friends and family members who notice changes in behavior or thinking.
To be diagnosed with dementia, a person must meet several criteria. These include a history of worsening cognitive abilities, difficulty performing day-to-day activities like shopping, paying bills and driving, and other behavioral changes. A clinical examination is also required. This includes a review of medical and family history; an assessment of memory, judgment and language; a neurologic exam to evaluate gait, motor function and reflexes; blood tests and a brain scan; and a screening for depression.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
If you have a mild cognitive impairment, your symptoms are more severe than normal memory problems that occur with aging but are not as bad as those of people with dementia. They can cause you to struggle with tasks like balancing a checkbook or following a complex medication regimen. Treatable conditions can cause mild cognitive impairment. A bad reaction to medications, emotional problems, blood clots, head injuries and nutritional deficiencies may all contribute. Treating these may alleviate your memory problems and prevent them from progressing to dementia. If your symptoms result from a neurodegenerative condition, like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s, you may continue to experience them and eventually develop dementia. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who has MCI finally gets dementia. A person with MCI often returns to normal cognition for their age or stays stable. The VA defines it as “a diagnosis that does not meet criteria for a determination of demented.”
What Is the VA Memory Loss Test?
You may need the VA memory loss test as part of your claim to receive disability benefits. This testing proves your memory loss is severe enough to warrant a higher disability rating. It can include a psychological exam, memory tests, or brain imaging such as an MRI. If you have serious memory problems, you can get a disability rating that enables you to apply for medical services, including in-home caregivers or a move to a residential care facility. You could also be eligible for a monthly Aid and Attendance benefit if you need help bathing, eating, or dressing. You can also get a disability rating for dementia or Alzheimer’s if you have traumatic brain injury (TBI) evidence. TBIs put you at risk for mental health issues, such as PTSD and dementia. If exposed to Agent Orange, a dioxin-containing herbicide used in Vietnam, you are twice as likely to develop this condition.
How Will the Test Results Affect Your Disability Rating?
Veterans disproportionately risk developing cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. They can qualify for a disability rating of up to 100 percent if they demonstrate that their condition developed or worsened during service. The only way to prove they have the situation is by taking a VA memory loss test and submitting it along with other evidence, like lay statements and doctors’ notes. A practicing mental health care clinician or psychiatrist can conduct the trial at any licensed medical facility. The tests usually take less than two hours from start to finish. They will include objective cognitive testing such as a brief memory test and comparing the participant’s long-term memory against answers from a spouse or other family member. Memory loss is a common symptom of PTSD, and highlighting this condition during your claim could help you get a higher rating.