VA Disability rates for conditions related to Diabetic Neuropathy.
If you are a vet with type 2 diabetes, you may already know that many complications can develop over time as a result of this disease. One of the more serious of these complications is diabetic neuropathy. This condition attacks the nerves in your body, causing numbness and tingling at best and loss of limb at worst.
If you served in the military, you might be entitled to compensation for your diabetic neuropathy. Read on to learn more about the policies surrounding VA disability and diabetic neuropathy, as well as what sort of symptoms you might see with this condition.
In this article about diabetic neuropathy veteran’s benefits:
- What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Autonomic Neuropathy
- Proximal Neuropathy
- Causes of Neuropathy are Difficult to Find
- Risk Factors for Veterans
- Diagnosing Diabetic Neuropathy
- Qualifying for VA Disability
- VA Disability Ratings
- Rating Schedule for Diabetes
- Ratings for Secondary Conditions
- Diabetes as a Presumptive Condition
- What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied
- Navigate VA Disability and Diabetic Neuropathy
- Frequently Asked Questions about Diabetic Neuropathy VA Disability:
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a form of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause damage to nerves throughout your body. This tends to affect the extremities most, primarily the hands and feet.
Damaged nerves can cause symptoms ranging from pain and numbness in your legs and feet to problems with other major body systems. Neuropathy can affect your digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels, or even your heart. About half of people with diabetes have some variety of nerve damage.
There are four main types of diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal, and mononeuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type. This affects the feet and legs first and then moves to the hands and arms. You may notice your symptoms are worse at night.
One of the first symptoms you may notice is numbness in your feet or a reduced ability to feel pain or temperature. You might feel tingling, burning, sharp pain or cramps, and extreme sensitivity to touch in the affected area. Over time, this form of neuropathy can lead to serious foot problems, including ulcers, infections, and bone or joint pain.
Your autonomic system controls many of your major organs, including your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, and eyes. Autonomic neuropathy affects nerves in these areas and can be very dangerous. One of the early symptoms you may notice is hypoglycemia unawareness: a lack of awareness that your blood sugar levels are dropping.
As the condition progresses, you may notice that you’re having more bladder or bowel problems. Your stomach may take a longer time to empty, causing nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite. You may also see changes in the way your eyes adjust from light to dark, and you might have trouble having sex.
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Proximal neuropathy affects nerves that are located more centrally in your body. This type of neuropathy tends to impact your thighs, hips, buttocks, legs, or even your abdomen and chest area. Most people find that symptoms start on one side of their body, but it may spread to the other side, too.
You might notice as proximal neuropathy develops that you have severe pain in one hip, thigh, or half of your butt. Your thighs may be weaker, and you may find it harder to get up from sitting down. You may also notice severe stomach pain as the neuropathy begins to affect the nerves in that area.
Mononeuropathy is a condition that affects only one specific nerve. There are two main types of mononeuropathy: cranial and peripheral. Cranial mononeuropathy affects specific nerves in your head and peripheral mononeuropathy tends to affect your hands.
If you have cranial mononeuropathy, you might start to experience double vision or difficulty focusing your eyes. You might get an aching behind one eye or paralysis on one side of your face known as Bell’s palsy. Peripheral mononeuropathy may cause numbness or tingling in your hands or fingers (except the pinky finger), and you may start dropping things more often.
Causes of Neuropathy are Difficult to Find
Doctors aren’t entirely sure what the exact cause of each type of neuropathy is. They know that high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves and interfere with their ability to send signals back and forth to the brain. But they aren’t sure why this damage occurs.
Researchers do know that high blood sugar levels weaken the walls of small blood vessels knows as capillaries. These capillaries provide nerves with the oxygen and nutrients they need to continue functioning. One theory about the cause of diabetic neuropathy is that damage to these capillaries leaves nerves starved for resources and causes them to break down.
Risk Factors for Veterans
Anyone with diabetes is susceptible to developing neuropathy. But there are some risk factors that make it more likely you’ll experience some form of nerve damage. The biggest risk factor is poor blood sugar control, a state that puts you at higher risk for every diabetes complication. Because many veterans are homeless or live in poverty, they have more difficulty maintaining stable blood sugar.
Your risk of diabetic neuropathy also increases the longer you have diabetes. Being overweight (a BMI of 25 or higher) and smoking can both increase your risk. And if you have diabetes, you’re more susceptible to kidney disease, which can result in more toxins winding up in your bloodstream, damaging your nerves.
Here is a video to help prepare for your C&P exam at the VA when you are trying to get disability benefits.
Although diabetic neuropathy is in itself a complication of diabetes, it can also lead to further complications. Some of these we’ve mentioned already: hypoglycemia unawareness, digestive trouble, and sexual dysfunction. But there are several other complications that can arise if your diabetic neuropathy is severe enough.
If the nerves that control your body’s blood flow are damaged, you may experience sharp drops in blood pressure that can lead to dizziness and fainting. You may start sweating more or less than usual, which makes it more difficult for your body to regulate its temperature. And if your peripheral neuropathy is severe enough, a minor cut or scrape to your foot could turn into a full-blown infection that could lead to your toe, foot, or even lower leg amputated.
Diagnosing Diabetic Neuropathy
If you believe you may have or be at risk for diabetic neuropathy, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check your overall muscle strength and tone and your reflexes. They may also check your sensitivity to touch and vibration.
Depending on your situation, your doctor may want to do some nerve conduction testing to see how quickly the nerves in your arms and legs conduct electrical signals. They may also measure the electrical discharges produced in your muscles to test your muscle response. And they might want to do autonomic testing, which checks your blood pressure in different positions and examines your sweat levels.
Qualifying for VA Disability
If you get a diagnosis of diabetic neuropathy, and you believe it’s a result of your time in the military, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. To do this, there are three main criteria you must fulfill. The first of these is getting a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional, so if you haven’t gotten a diagnosis yet, make an appointment as soon as possible.
Once you’ve gotten a diagnosis, you’ll need to be able to point to a specific event in your service record that caused your diabetic neuropathy. Third, get a medical nexus linking the original event and your diagnosis. Once you have these three pillars, you’ll be able to prove the connection between your military service and your medical condition.
Here one of our VA disability attorneys talks about how the Nexus Letter is often the missing link for VA disability claims.
VA Disability Ratings
If you are approved for VA disability compensation, the VA will give you a specific rating according to the severity of your symptoms. The VA rates disabilities on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent, depending on how much your condition impacts your ability to lead a normal life. They will also take into account things like whether you have a dependent spouse, children, or parents and if you have multiple conditions.
The amount of tax-free compensation you get from the VA each month will depend on what your disability rating is. For a rating of 10 percent, for instance, you’ll get $165.92 a month, and for a 20 percent rating, you’ll get $327.99. But if you have a rating of 100 percent and dependent children, spouse, and parents, you could get more than $3,621.95 per month.
Rating Schedule for Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is rated under VA diagnostic code 7913, and it comes with a variety of different ratings. If you can control your diabetes with only a restrictive diet, for instance, you’ll receive a disability rating of 10 percent. Do you require insulin injections and a restricted diet? At that level you should receive a rating of 20 percent.
If you also require regulated activity to control your diabetes, you can get a 40 percent disability rating. People who have to be hospitalized once or twice a year or have to visit a diabetic care provider twice a month will get a rating of 60 percent. And if you require all of the above care and wind up in the hospital three times or more a year because of your diabetes, you’ll be eligible for 100 percent disability.
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Ratings for Secondary Conditions
Getting a VA disability rating for diabetic neuropathy may be different than other ratings because of its status as a secondary condition. Diabetic neuropathy arises as a result of type 2 diabetes. So you may be able to get a separate rating for diabetic neuropathy that will be combined with your diabetes rating to give you a total disability rating.
In order for you to get your diabetic neuropathy rated as a secondary condition, you will need to be able to show that it is “as likely as not” caused or aggravated by your diabetes. It must also not have been considered in your initial diabetes rating. Otherwise, it will be considered part of your initial rating.
Diabetes as a Presumptive Condition
We mentioned earlier that in order to qualify for VA disability compensation, you must be able to prove a link between your condition and an event in your service record. In most cases, this is true. However, diabetes falls under a special category of conditions known as presumptive conditions.
Diabetes is one of the conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. If you served in certain areas during certain periods of time, specifically Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s, you do not have to prove a medical connection between your condition and your service. You will be granted the benefit of the doubt and given appropriate compensation.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes through the Agent Orange presumptive disabilities list:
What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied
In some cases, applications for VA disability compensation are denied. If this happens, don’t worry; you still have a number of options available to appeal this decision. If needed, you can appeal this all the way up to the Board of Veteran Affairs in Washington, D.C.
It’s a good idea to hire an attorney who specializes in veteran affairs to help you out with your initial application, and with any appeals you have to go through. They’ll be able to help you include all the proper documentation of your diagnosis and service record to prove the connection between the two. They can also help you navigate the appeals process, so you get the maximum compensation amount you’re entitled to.
Navigate VA Disability and Diabetic Neuropathy
Type 2 diabetes can come with a variety of complications, one of the most serious of which is diabetic neuropathy. If you served in the military, knowing the policies surrounding VA disability and diabetic neuropathy can help you get the compensation they should have already been giving you for years.
If you’d like help navigating the VA disability system, reach out to us at Woods and Woods. We can help you apply for disability, appeal a denied application, or obtain individual unemployability. Contact us today to start getting the care and compensation you deserve.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Diabetic Neuropathy VA Disability:
If you think that the conditions that your dad had were caused by his time in the service, you should look into filing a DIC claim. There are a lot of cancers and other conditions that have only recently been connected to things veterans have already passed away from.
Yes, depending on what caused it and what symptoms you have. Arthritis, spinal injuries, musculoskeletal conditions, and other nerve problems can all be rated in different ways as VA disability ratings. Talk to your VA attorney about how to present your case clearly for the best results.