GERD VA Disability Ratings And Service Connection
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a gastrointestinal disorder that often gives rise to secondary conditions like heartburn or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). If you developed GERD due to your military service, you may be eligible to pursue a VA compensation rating and benefits for your GERD.
GERD, typically evaluated under Diagnostic Code 7346 (the same code used for hiatal hernia), might not have a dedicated VA rating system. However, this doesn't preclude veterans from seeking disability compensation. Individuals can establish a service connection for GERD in their VA disability claim, directly or indirectly.
VA Disability Ratings For GERD
The VA usually assesses GERD similarly to a hiatal hernia, as outlined in Diagnostic Code 7346 (Schedule of Ratings – Digestive System), 38 CFR 4.114, Digestive System. The severity of symptoms is a pivotal factor in determining the ratings under this code.
VA ratings for GERD include:
10 percent: A 10% rating is warranted when a veteran exhibits two or more common GERD signs from the 30% rating schedule, although not severe enough to receive the full 30% rating.
30 percent: The VA acknowledges a 30% rating for GERD when it results in "persistently recurrent epigastric discomfort with dysphagia, pyrosis (heartburn), and regurgitation, including substernal or arm and shoulder pain of significant intensity."
60 percent: "Severe impairment of health" is defined as the veteran experiencing "pain, vomiting, substantial weight loss, and the presence of hematemesis (vomiting of blood) or melena (dark, tarry stools) accompanied by moderate anemia or other combinations of symptoms resulting in a marked debilitation of health."
These rating criteria serve as guidelines for determining the level of compensation based on the severity of a veteran's GERD symptoms, ensuring that individuals receive the support they need for their specific circumstances.
How To Get VA Disability Compensation For GERD?
To initiate a claim for VA disability compensation related to GERD, follow these steps:
You can begin the process by filling out the required form on the official VA website.
Alternatively, you can download and print VA Form 21-526EZ, then submit it by mail to the VA or deliver it to your local VA office.
Support your application with the following documents:
VA Medical Records
Include medical records from your VA healthcare provider or VA hospital, which document your GERD diagnosis and treatment.
Private Medical Records
Gather medical records from private doctors or hospitals that corroborate your GERD diagnosis and any treatments received outside of the VA system.
Statements from Witnesses
Provide supporting statements from individuals you served with, family members, friends, or others who can attest to the impact of your GERD on your daily life and health.
In addition, consider including a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for GERD and a nexus letter from your physician. These documents can bolster your case for disability compensation and expedite the claims process. Both are designed to help VA claims adjudicators better understand the specifics of your condition compared to medical records alone.
Direct Service Connection For GERD
As noted in your medical records, demonstrating a direct service connection for GERD requires gathering compelling medical evidence indicating severe health impairment. Suppose you were diagnosed with GERD while on active duty, and a medical expert offers an opinion supporting the notion that your GERD condition commenced during service and has persisted since. In that case, you may qualify for service connection on a direct basis.
Secondary Service Connection For GERD
Service connection can also be extended to a secondary disability if a medical expert provides a favorable opinion that one condition developed secondarily to a condition that is already service-connected. For instance, if you have a service-connected disorder like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and over time, you develop GERD due to chronic irritation of the esophagus or the effects of medications used to manage your COPD, you can file a VA claim for GERD secondary to COPD.
In this scenario, you'll require a medical professional to confirm that your COPD caused or exacerbated your GERD.