Moreover, the absence of disabling symptoms does not mean that the subject is free from the effects of the disorder. PTSD is managed differently than almost all other conditions in that it is subject to the general mental disorders ratings schedule, which is not focused on its particular symptomatology, rather than being subject to a set of criteria that is specific to the disorder.
In response to a request, VA provided the committee with data regarding the numbers of veterans receiving disability benefits for the years 1999– 2006. Table 5-6 categorizes these data by the primary rated disability that is either the condition rated as most disabling or equal to the highest rated condition. Table 5-7 lists the same conditions but reports the total number of veterans who have each disability, whether or not it is their primary rated disability. Note that a veteran may be counted more than once in Table 5-7 because he or she may be rated for multiple listed conditions.
The bottom row of Table 5-6 shows that the total number of veterans receiving disability benefits increased by approximately 18.8 percent over the seven years shown. The rate of increase varied widely by disability category, however. The primary disability diagnosis categories with the largest percentage increase over that seven-year period were major depression (474 percent increase), diabetes (388 percent), other mood disorders (264 percent), and fibromyalgia (247 percent). PTSD showed the next largest percentage increase—126 percent—which is particularly noteworthy because more veterans had PTSD as their primary disability than any of the other conditions.
The trend for PTSD in comparison with other mental disorders is of interest. The number of beneficiaries whose primary disability was “other anxiety disorders” actually declined by 34 percent at the same time that the PTSD numbers were rising sharply. The only other mental disorder category for which a decline occurred was psychotic disorders. By contrast, the numbers for affective disorders—major depression and other mood disorders— and for all other mental disorders increased. It is thus possible that some of the growth in PTSD was actually a change in diagnostic labeling with, for example, fewer veterans being classified with other anxiety disorders than in the past because these veterans were now being diagnosed with PTSD. It is of note that the percentage increase in the number of beneficiaries for all anxiety disorders was approximately 47 percent.
The changes in the numbers in Table 5-7—that is, the changes in the totals of all veterans with a particular disability, whether it was their pri-