Were you exposed to Agent Orange or other chemical hazards during your military service? Do you have trouble with weakness in your arms and legs or loss of reflexes? You may have developed CIDP.
About 1 to 2 out of every 100,000 people have CIDP. A person can have this disorder for years before getting a diagnosis. This means that as many as 9 per 100,000 people may have it in some areas.
If this description sounds familiar, you may wonder about CIDP. Keep reading to learn about the VA disabilities that you may qualify for.
In this article about VA benefits for CIDP from burn pits:
- What is chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)?
- The CIDP stages
- CIDP causes
- CIDP and alcohol
- CIDP symptoms
- CIDP life expectancy
- Lifestyle difficulties with CIDP
- Other similar conditions or disabilities
- VA disability rating for CIDP
- VA disability application process for CIDP
- How can you file an appeal?
- Do you want help with a VA disability claim or appeal?
What is chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)?
CIDP describes a rare disorder that affects the peripheral nerves. These are all the nerves outside of the brain and spinal column. They transmit motor signals to the body and send sensory signals to the brain.
A protective sheath, called myelin, covers the nerves. CIDP is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the myelin sheath. This can begin at any age and is more frequent in men than in women.
Without treatment, 30% of CIDP patients will eventually become wheelchair dependent.
Don’t confuse CIDP with COPD. COPD is a lung disability that can also be caused by burn pits, but is a completely different condition.
The CIDP stages
The CIDP diagnosis may take several months to complete after the first symptoms. The following are 7 cardinal signs of CIDP:
- Symptoms increase over at least 2 months
- Most symptoms include motor deficits
- The symptoms are the same on both sides of the body
- Involvement of muscles close to the torso (proximal) and the extremities (distal)
- Decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes
- Increased protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid without an increased cell count
- Nerve conduction studies show neuropathy from damage to the myelin sheath
Symptoms may progress for several months to even years. The progression and outcome of CIDP depend on several factors. This includes how soon it’s diagnosed and when treatment begins.
If you have other conditions, this can impact your response to treatment. Also, individuals respond differently to treatment protocols. If irreversible nerve damage is already present, treatment will not be as effective.
While some cases of CIDP continue to progress over time, others appear in episodes. Patients may recover with treatment or have permanent weakness.
CIDP in veterans is often related to Agent Orange or toxic herbicides exposure. The VA law assumes a presumptive cause for chronic peripheral neuropathies related to Agent Orange. This means that the veteran doesn’t have to prove a service connection. You just have to prove you were in the presumptive areas during the right times.
There isn’t always a specific cause for CIDP. It may occur with other conditions including:
- Chronic hepatitis
- Campylobacter jejuni infection
- HIV and AIDS
- Cancer related immune system disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Cancer in the lymph system
- Overactive thyroid
- Side effects from treatment for HIV or cancer
Early diagnosis is key to better outcomes.
CIDP and alcohol
Another cause of CIDP is alcohol abuse. In general, drinking alcohol can have a toxic effect on the nerve tissue.
Neuropathy is a common symptom of alcohol abuse. Continued alcohol use can result in permanent nerve damage.
Symptoms often begin with a noticeable weakness in the feet, legs, hands, and/or arms. You may find it hard to walk because your legs are weak or have decreased feeling.
Neuropathy describes numbness, loss of feeling, pain, burning, tingling, or other sensations. Often, neuropathy begins in the feet and moves to the arms and hands.
Weakness and neuropathy can cause abnormal or uncoordinated movements. You may notice a change in your voice such as hoarseness or slurred speech.
Fatigue and even problems breathing can occur. In rare cases, patients with CIDP develop optic neuritis. This is an inflammation of the nerves in the eye which causes vision problems.
CIDP life expectancy
The disease outcome and life expectancy depend on several factors. This includes the age at onset, clinical symptoms, and response to treatment. Longer time between the first symptoms and starting treatment results in poorer prognoses.
Losing sensation can cause repeated, unnoticed injuries leading to further complications. The weakness or paralysis may be permanent. Many patients also suffer side effects from the treatments for CIDP.
Two-thirds of people have progressive disease while one-third have relapsing episodes. Younger patients with rapid symptom onset or a single episode have a better treatment response. Older populations have fewer long-term remissions than those under 64 years old.
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Lifestyle difficulties with CIDP
At first, a person with CIDP may notice that it’s harder to do normal tasks. As the symptoms progress, they may no longer be able to perform their daily activities. This includes lifting objects above their head, walking without help, or climbing stairs.
CIDP creates a lot of uncertainty. Patients aren’t sure if they will be able to attend activities or even care for themselves. They also have frequent treatment and checkup appointments.
The level of physical mobility limitations may make it impossible for them to work. They may have to stop going shopping, attending church, or other social outings. The person may need relatives or professionals to help with daily care.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Other similar conditions or disabilities
There are several diseases that impact the peripheral nerves. Some people wonder about the difference in CIDP vs Muscular Sclerosis. MS also attacks the myelin sheath. The symptoms vary depending on which nerves are damaged.
MS often leads to permanent damage and loss of the ability to walk. There is no cure for MS but treatment can provide remission of symptoms.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is another autoimmune disease that impacts the peripheral nerves. The demyelinating form is a type of acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP). This is similar to CIDP but progresses differently.
Multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN) is another autoimmune disorder that attacks motor nerves. Unlike CIDP, the symptoms are not the same on both sides of the body. MMN progresses without remission.
Diabetics can develop polyneuropathy which affects many nerves throughout the body. It’s caused by damage to the lining of the blood vessels caused by high blood sugar levels.
Fibromyalgia causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and problems with sleep, memory, and mood. Painful sensations become amplified and affect the way the brain processes pain signals.
VA disability rating for CIDP
The VA rating determines the amount of tax-free monthly compensation you receive. This relies on your level of disability and not your income. The rating also gives you eligibility for other VA benefits.
The VA disability rating reflects the percentage of a person’s disability. The rating ranges from 0% to 100% and rounded to the nearest 10%.
If you have more than one disability, the VA determines a combined rating. This is more involved than adding the two disability percentages together. No one receives more than a 100% disability since you can’t be over 100% able-bodied.
The VA assigns a diagnosis code to represent your illness or injury. The code for CIDP is 38 CFR § 4.124a, Diagnostic code 8011. This is one of several diagnoses grouped under poliomyelitis.
Based on the severity of your condition, you’re assigned a disability rating. For “active febrile disease” you’ll receive a 100% rating. If your condition is residual or minimum, your rating is 10%.
VA disability application process for CIDP
When you decide to apply for VA disability, it’s beneficial to consult with a VA disability attorney. We provide help with the application process for no charge until we win your case. We can ensure that you include essential information for the correct rating.
When you file your application, you only have one year to complete the process. This includes the submission of all documents. Thus, spend time collecting the necessary evidence before submitting the application.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some deadlines are now relaxed, but don’t take that for granted.
You will need your DD214 or other separation paperwork. The VA may ask you to have a C&P examination. If so, be sure that you don’t miss this appointment.
Gather military records and treatment documents from the military, VA, or private provider. Collect letters from family, clergy, law enforcement, employers, or others describing your disability. If your condition has progressed, provide evidence of your increased symptoms.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Complete the application
You may download this application from this site if you prefer to complete a paper copy. You can also get VA Form 21-526EZ from your local VA office. Mail it to the Department of Affairs, Claims Intake Center, PO Box 444, Janesville, WI 53547-4444.
You can also go to your local VA office and complete the form in-person. Be sure that you complete all parts of the applications. Incomplete forms can cause delays and even denials.
Also, make sure to get a receipt showing that the VA received your application.
The review process
The Veterans Service Representative (VSR) reviews your application and documentation. Next, the VSR will make their recommendation to the VA. The VA may request more documentation or send your Rating Decision letter.
Establishing a service connection
Part of the review determines if your disability has a service connection. There are 5 ways to show this.
A direct service connection
A medical nexus that points to a specific causative event is a direct service connection. Take your service records to your provider so they can document this relationship.
A presumed service connection
CIDP is an example of a presumed service connection. Veterans who had boots on the ground in Vietnam are presumed to have Agent Orange exposure. This means that any Agent Orange-related illness is automatically approved.
Presumptive causes also cover specific areas or other hazardous exposure during active duty.
Pre-military service conditions aggravated by active duty
All pre-existing conditions are documented when entering military service. Aggravation of a condition during service-connected duties may qualify for VA disability.
Secondary service-connected disability (SCD)
A secondary SCD is a condition that’s caused by a previous SCD. This means that you became ill or injured due to limitations from your first SCD. These situations describe most veteran’s VA ratings.
How can you file an appeal?
If you disagree with the VA’s rating or compensation decision, you have the right to appeal. Once again, it’s advisable to contact a VA disability lawyer to help you navigate this process.
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File VA Form 20-0996
You may file VA Form 20-0996, the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review. A senior VSR will review your case. They may grant a different decision based on their opinion or an error.
You may have a VA disability attorney speak to the reviewer on your behalf. They can point out errors and advocate for you.
Notice of disagreement (NOD)
Your next level of appeal is to file Form VA-10182, NOD. This asks for a Veteran Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to review your case. You must file this appeal within 365 days of the date on the letter from the VSR.
You may ask the Veteran’s Law Judge to review the appeal without further evidence. Last, you can request a hearing with the Veterans Law Judge. Once the Veterans Law Judge makes a decision, you’ll receive a Statement of the Case.
Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA)
If you wish to make further appeals, you need to file a VA Form 9. This takes your appeal to the BVA. You may choose to have a hearing with the BVA or you can just submit the form and your documentation.
U. S. Court of Veteran’s Claims (CAVC)
If the BVA also denies your claim, you may appeal to the CAVC. The CAVC isn’t part of the VA. They only hear appeals from the BVA and you can’t present new evidence.
Do you want help with a VA disability claim or appeal?
If you have symptoms or an exposure that could cause CIDP, see your provider. If you receive a diagnosis and have a service connection you may qualify for VA disability.
Woods and Woods VA disability lawyers help veterans with VA disability applications and appeals. We have over 95 on our staff ready to assist with filing appeals as well.
Our office provides free legal consultations to determine if you have a claim. There’s no charge unless you receive compensation. Call us today to schedule a free legal consultation.