Bowel incontinence is embarrassing and makes you feel like you’ve lost all of the honor you deserve as a veteran. VA disability benefits might make living with bowel problems a little easier.
If you are a veteran suffering from bowel incontinence, the VA can offer you compensation for this disability if you can prove that:
- Your medical or mental condition is connected to military service
- The disability deserves a VA disability rating.
Proving these factors can be complex because you may need to prove that this disability has a secondary service connection to a primary condition that you suffered during your military service.
If you need help proving your eligibility for VA disability benefits for bowel incontinence, our team of experienced attorneys can guide you through this process.
All About Bowel Incontinence VA Disability Benefits
- What is Bowel Incontinence?
- What are the Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Veterans?
- What is the VA Disability Rating for Bowel Incontinence?
- How to Prove Your Eligibility for a Disability Rating
- How to Establish Service Connection for Bowel Incontinence
- Conditions Related to Bowel Incontinence
- The DIY VA Disability Application Process
- We Can Help You File Your Claim
What is Bowel Incontinence?
Bowel or fecal incontinence is the inability to control your bowel movements, causing accidental leakage, the passing of mucus, hardened stools, or fluid stools from your anal cavity.
The types of bowel incontinence include:
- Urge Incontinence: This is when you experience the urgency to pass a bowel movement, but your pelvic muscles prevent you from holding this back before getting to a restroom. This occurs because your pelvic muscles are weakened due to injury or neurological damage.
- Passive Incontinence: This is when you are unaware that your body has passed a bowel movement. If you are experiencing passive incontinence, you may notice evidence of fecal matter or mucus on your undergarments.
In addition to experiencing the above types of fecal incontinence, if you are suffering from this condition you may also face issues such as:
- Flatulence and bloating
We highly recommend that you obtain an official diagnosis for bowel incontinence if you have not already done so, as you will need to submit your medical records to prove that you are eligible for disability benefits.
What are the Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Veterans?
Bowel incontinence is a condition caused by a primary injury or disease. You can experience this disability if you suffer pelvic floor injury or damage to your rectum, sphincter muscles, or nerves as these organs need to be properly functioning for a healthy bowel movement to occur. Additionally, you may experience this disability if you have irritable bowel syndrome, lower back pain (LBP), or neurological disease.
Bowel incontinence could also be a sign of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer occurs when a malignant tumor enlarges your prostate. This tumor can spread to your spinal cord causing nerve damage. This damage can then cause you to lose control of your pelvic muscles, resulting in bowel leakage. Additionally, bowel incontinence can develop from your cancer treatment. The radiation from your treatment can cause rectal damage, resulting in a loss of control of your rectum which leads to incontinence.
Veterans in particular are susceptible to many of the conditions that cause bowel incontinence, based on injuries or diseases they suffer during military service or they experience post-service that are triggered by an in-service condition.
Veterans may experience fecal incontinence due to:
- Pelvic floor injury that they experience from combat-related trauma. Damage to the pelvic floor weakens those muscles and make it difficult to control bowel movements.
- Nerve damage sustained from spinal cord or lower back injury during service. Nerve damage can lead to an inability to control your rectum, anus, and pelvic muscles. This can therefore lead to urge or passive fecal incontinence.
- Neurological damage from exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange. A veteran may develop neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or peripheral neuropathy. These disorders can result in damage to your anus, pelvic, or rectal muscles, leading to fecal incontinence.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) from gastrointestinal issues that may be triggered by stress during military service. IBS can cause diarrhea which can lead to leaky stools, a primary symptom of fecal incontinence.
If you are experiencing any of these conditions and fecal incontinence as a result, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777
What is the VA Disability Rating for Bowel Incontinence?
The VA disability ratings for bowel incontinence are tiered at 0%, 10%, 30%, 60%, and 100%. This disability rating is defined under VA diagnostic code 7332 which outlines the rating required for disabilities of the rectum, anus, and sphincter. The VA issues a disability rating to determine the extent to which a disorder impacts a veteran’s ability to function. The rating is higher if the veteran suffers from chronic complications due to the disability, and it is lower if the conditions are intermittent.
The VA allocates the below ratings for bowel incontinence:
- 0% rating if you have slight impairment of the rectum, anus, and sphincter but no leakage.
- 10% rating if you experience continuous but low or intermittent moderate leakage.
- 30% rating if you need to wear a pad because you experience reflexive bowel movements.
- 60% rating if you have substantial leakage and sufficiently frequent reflexive bowel movements.
- 100% rating if you completely lose control of your sphincter muscles.
A 0% rating signifies that a veteran would not be eligible for VA compensation, however, if their symptoms fall between the 10% to 100% rating, they could then receive VA approval for benefits calculated based on the rating level. Our firm offers a free disability calculator for veterans. We recommend using this system to estimate your disability compensation before filing your VA benefits claim.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
How to Prove Your Eligibility for a Disability Rating
When filing a disability claim, a veteran would need to prove their eligibility for a disability rating. They can do this by providing a strong evidence package that substantiates their disability diagnosis and treatment or through completing a mandatory VA Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam that validates their diagnosis and symptoms.
A strong evidence package includes medical records that outline your bowel incontinence diagnosis, your symptoms, and treatment plan. Whereas a C&P exam is a step the VA may require you to complete to validate your medical status and symptoms. The VA will then assess your evidence package and/or your C&P exam results to determine whether your symptoms are eligible for a disability rating.
How to Establish Service Connection for Bowel Incontinence
In addition to approving a disability rating for your condition, the VA will also need to confirm that a service connection exists between your disability and your military service. The VA will need to find that either a primary or secondary service connection exists before approving your claim for benefits.
What is a Primary Service Connection?
A primary service connection is a direct link between a veteran’s current medical condition and a disease or injury that he or she developed during military service.
A veteran can establish a primary service connection by showing:
- you are currently diagnosed with a disability;
- you suffered the disease or injury during their military service; and
- a link exists between your current disability and the injury or disease you suffered during service.
What is a Secondary Service Connection?
A secondary service connection is a proximate link between a veteran’s current medical condition and a primary service-connected condition.
A veteran can establish a secondary service connection by showing:
- you are currently diagnosed with a disability;
- you have already established a primary service-connected disability; and
- your current disability was either a result of, or worsened by, the primary service-connected disability.
Bowel incontinence is triggered by a primary existing condition and a veteran would therefore need to prove that a secondary service connection exists between their incontinence and a primary service-connected condition.
In this case for example, a veteran successfully establishes bowel incontinence as secondary to lumbar degenerative disc disease by establishing that his spinal disorder was directly connected to his military service and showing that his incontinence resulted from the neurological damage caused by this disorder.
Once you can establish your incontinence as a secondary service-connected disability, you can then collect benefits based on the combined disability rating for your primary disorder and your rating for your incontinence.
Understanding the root cause of your bowel incontinence will help you to properly establish this disability as a secondary service-connected disorder. It will also allow you to collect a larger disability compensation amount.
There are a number of back injuries that can earn VA disability even years later. One of our veteran’s disability lawyers explains some of those injuries and their ratings in this video:
Conditions Related to Bowel Incontinence
Before you apply for disability benefits, get an official diagnosis of any disabilities you may be experiencing. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two disorders that can trigger bowel incontinence.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is a chronic combination of symptoms that impact your large intestine. These symptoms include: flatulence, bloating, leaky stool, constipation, stomach pain, cramping, etc. The VA rates this disability under diagnostic code 7319 for Irritable Colon Syndrome (38 CFR § 4.114).
These ratings for Irritable Bowel Syndrome are:
- 0% rating if your symptoms are mild with intermittent abdominal pain.
- 10% rating if your symptoms are moderate with frequent abdominal pain.
- 30% rating if your symptoms are severe with symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and persistent abdominal pain.
If you are experiencing symptoms of both IBS and bowel incontinence, check with your doctor to confirm whether your IBS is the cause of your incontinence. If you developed IBS during or as a result of your military service, you may be able to prove that this condition is direct service-connected and that your incontinence is secondary to this issue.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBD is a blanket term that covers the diseases that inflame your digestive tract. Two of these diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes ulcers to develop on the inner lining of your colon. Whereas Crohn’s disease is a disorder that inflames your digestive tract.
The VA disability rating for IBD is outlined under diagnostic code 7323 for Ulcerative Colitis. These ratings are as follows:
- 10% rating if your symptoms are moderate with rare flare-ups.
- 30% rating if your symptoms are moderately severe with recurring flare-ups.
- 60% rating if your symptoms are severe with frequent exacerbations yearly and malnutrition.
- 100% rating if your symptoms are pronounced with severe complications, noticeable malnutrition, anemia, and overall weakness.
Inflammatory bowel disease can also cause fecal incontinence. Therefore, if you are experiencing this condition, you may be able to secure a combined rating for IBD as direct service-connected and fecal incontinence as secondary to your IBD.
The DIY VA Disability Application Process
Follow the below steps carefully to be well on your way to completing a successful submission.
Step #1: Gather Your Evidence
Ensure that you gather sufficient evidence to prove that you have a direct service-connected condition that is the cause of your secondary service-connected incontinence. Medical records, doctor reports, your C-file, lay evidence, etc. are good sources to present with your application.
Step #2: Apply
You can apply for disability benefits online, via mail, or in-person. We recommend using the online option to better track your application. Therefore, be sure to set up an eBenefits account for your submission.
Step #3: Wait for VA Decision
After submitting your application, the VA will complete their review and route a rating decision to you. Ensure that you stay on top of any correspondences from the VA throughout this period, as they may require that you complete a C&P exam to validate your claim.
We Can Help You File Your Claim
If you need help filing your VA disability claim, we are here for you. We are a family-owned law firm dedicated to helping veterans get the service and representation they deserve. We have been in this business for over 30 years and we have a team of over 85 expert professionals.
To speak with our team for free, call us at (866) 232-5777, or visit us online to schedule a free consultation.
Yes. Even though one is a diagnosis and the other is a symptom caused by that diagnosis, this is not considered pyramiding. Your leaky bowels could be considered a secondary condition added onto your IBS.
No, they are considered completely different conditions and are rated at separate levels. Bowel incontinence is on 0, 10, 30, 60, 100% tiers, while urinary incontinence is on a 10, 20, 40, 60% tier. If you have both, you can use our calculator to do the VA math to estimate your actual rating.