Are you a veteran who’s received a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré Syndrome? This rare condition affects about one in every 100,000 people each year. Of those diagnosed with GBS, 1 in 5 individuals will have long-term effects.
Veterans with long-term effects from GBS may qualify for VA disability compensation. Keep reading to find out more about the benefits available if we can prove your case to the VA together.
In this article about VA ratings for Guillian-Barré Syndrome:
- What Is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
- Causes of GBS
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome Symptoms
- The Hughes Functional Grading Scale (HFGS) Score
- Potential Long-Term Effects of GBS
- GBS’s Impact on Daily Life
- How the VA Calculates Disability Ratings
- GBS VA Disability Rating
- Other Similar Disabilities
- How to Complete the VA Disability Compensation Application
- What If You’ve Lost Your Medical Records?
- Can You Appeal a VA Decision?
- Are You Looking for an Expert in VA Disability Claims and Appeals?
What Is Guillain-Barré Syndrome?
GBS occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system. This syndrome attacks the peripheral nerves. These are the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord.
The extent of damage can range from weakness to paralysis. It can even cause an inability to breathe independently and affect heart function.
GBS can occur in people of all ages but happens more often in adults and the elderly. Most people recover in time while others will always have some level of weakness.
Causes of GBS
Most experts don’t know the exact cause of GBS. This condition is not contagious or inherited.
What they do know is that something triggers the immune system to start attacking the nerves. For some people, this happens when they’re fighting an infection. This has occurred in countries with wide-spread cases of Zika virus.
Many times, GBS symptoms start a few days or weeks after a viral respiratory or gastrointestinal infection. Some reports have linked the trigger to a recent surgical procedure. In rare cases, GBS follows vaccinations including the flu shot.
That would sound like it’s hard to connect to your time serving our country, right? The thing is, you just have to service-connect symptoms that look like the start of GBS. If you can prove one of these infections or symptoms, then you’ll have a much better chance of getting VA disability compensation for Guillian-Barré Syndrome.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome Symptoms
Typically, patients begin feeling weakness and tingling (neuropathy) in the legs. These symptoms travel up the body to the arms and head muscles. This can occur in a matter of hours to days.
The symptoms are heterogeneous which is a distinctive sign of GBS. This means patients have the same weakness and sensations on both sides of the body. If you were having neuropathy from diabetes, you wouldn’t necessarily feel the same effects on both sides of your body.
About one-third of those with GBS need a mechanical ventilator due to respiratory failure. The blood pressure often becomes unstable and the patient experiences abnormal heart rhythms. Even with the best care, 3% to 5% of patients die due to GBS.
The Hughes Functional Grading Scale (HFGS) Score
The HFGS scoring system provides an objective scale for describing functional disability. This scale is set by the doctors working with a patient with GBS. This scale is not directly linked to your VA rating like the hearing loss scale. It will be used, however, as they consider what kind of rating you can get for your GBS. It’s defined as follows:
- 0 = a healthy state
- 1 = minor symptoms but the veteran can still run
- 2 = the ability to walk without help but you can’t run
- 3 = the ability to walk with help
- 4 = bedridden or chair bound
- 5 = requires a mechanical ventilator
- 6 = dead
Healthcare providers document the patient’s symptoms according to this scale. This allows a standard method for describing the patient’s improvement or decline. This record of improvement or decline is especially important when your 5-year review comes up to change your VA benefits. If your condition is improving, it may be more difficult to get a permanent rating.
On the other hand, if you can prove that your condition is getting worse and your GBS isn’t responding to treatments, you’ll have good evidence to update your rating to permanent and total.
What is the difference between Permanent and Total VA Disability Ratings? One of our veteran’s disability lawyers explains in this video:
Potential Long-Term Effects of GBS
Once the patient’s symptoms plateau, the limitations can last days to weeks or months. About 60% to 80% of people diagnosed with GBS experience a recovery phase and are able to walk in 6 months.
A 2019 article in Nature Reviews Neurology states that 2% to 5% of patients may suffer relapses. Other individuals sustain permanent damage.
GBS’s Impact on Daily Life
For those who don’t experience a full recovery, this can have a great impact on daily life. Depending on the level of weakness, they may need to use a walker, wheelchair, or ankle supports. Many patients experience ongoing fatigue and pain.
Some patients have painful or annoying sensations such as neuropathy. This can impact their ability to stand, sit, or even lie down for periods of time. They may have difficulty performing personal hygiene and other daily tasks.
Often, these symptoms interfere with working a regular job or even leaving the home. Social interactions may also change and/or diminish due to lasting effects.
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How the VA Calculates Disability Ratings
The purpose of a VA disability rating is to determine the severity of your disability. This rating is described as a percentage that’s rounded to the nearest 10%. Ratings range from 0% to 100%.
Your monthly tax-free compensation depends on this rating. It reflects the severity of your disability and isn’t based on income. The rating also determines the other VA benefits you’re eligible for.
From time to time, the VA makes cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). The intent is to keep up with the rate of inflation. The federal law mandates that COLA percentage increases match Social Security benefits.
If you have more than one disability, the VA will calculate a combined rate. This is more involved than just adding the ratings together. The rating will never exceed 100% as no one is more than 100% able-bodied.
You can use this VA Disability Calculator to estimate your rating.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
GBS VA Disability Rating
The VA uses diagnosis codes to designate the physical or mental condition. For GBR, they use the Poliomyelitis code which is 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a, Diagnostic Code 8011.
If the disability is considered “active febrile disease” it will receive a rating of 100%. If the disability rates as residual or minimal, it gets a 10% rating.
Other Similar Disabilities
GBS is one of many disorders that involves weakness from peripheral nerve damage. Other similar conditions include:
- Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP)
- Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN)
- Acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAM)
- Miller-Fisher syndrome
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Multifocal motor neuropathy
Each of these conditions attacks some part of the nerve fibers. This causes a loss of motor function, sensation, or both.
How to Complete the VA Disability Compensation Application
The first recommended step is to speak with a VA disability lawyer. We don’t charge for assistance with the application process. We only get paid 20% of your backpay after we win, and we don’t take anything out of your monthly checks in the future. This gives you an expert in your corner to make sure your application is complete.
Collect Supporting Documents
You will need to submit documents providing evidence related to your disability claim. This includes your DD214 or other separation paperwork.
You will need treatment records from VA provider exams and hospitalizations. Private medical providers can also provide documentation of your medical condition.
Ask for supporting statements to explain how your condition impacts your life. These may come from family members, clergy, friends, law enforcement, and fellow veterans. This gives examples of how your condition impacts your life and if it has worsened.
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Complete the Application
It’s important to know that once you start your application, you only have 365 days to complete it. This is why it’s best to gather your evidence before submitting the application.
Also, make sure that you fill out every part of the form. Incomplete applications can cause delays in the process or even denials.
The VA may request that you have a claim exam. Be sure that you go to that exam. If a conflict arises, tell the VA as soon as possible that you need to reschedule.
You can also track medical appointments, refill prescriptions, and more. The VA Blue Button lets you access, download, print, and share your records. It also has customizable reports to show military-medical information.
If you don’t have access to a computer or aren’t comfortable using one, you can complete VA Form 21-526EZ. This form is available for download from the VA website or from your local VA office. Once completed, mail it to the Department of Affairs, Claims Intake Center, PO Box 444, Janesville, WI 5347-4444. We’ll help you fill it out and file it if you work with us. You may also take your completed application to your VA regional office.
Establish That Your Condition Is Service Connected
To have a disability claim approved, you must show a service connection. Even a small incident during active training or deployment could change your diagnosis. This is why it’s vital to provide complete, relevant records with your application.
The official diagnosis must show a medical nexus that links to an active duty event or situation. Military medical records should describe treatment for this illness or injury. These records also show if this has become a chronic medical condition.
Include documentation if you served in specific areas or had hazardous exposure. Veterans with this history may qualify for presumptive disability ratings. This means that don’t have to undergo additional evaluation.
What If You’ve Lost Your Medical Records?
When you go for a medical exam, take all your service and military records. This helps the provider connect your condition to military events. But what if you’ve lost your records?
Remember you can download your military medical records using the VA Blue Button. You may also check with the VA Records Management Center. They store many records for those who left the military between 1994 and 2013.
The AMEDD Record Processing Center stores records of Army veterans. If you’re a Navy or Marine Corps veteran, check with the BUMED Navy Records Activity center. Air Force veteran records are stored at the AF STR Processing Center.
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) stores records for those who served before 1994. There was a fire at the NPR in 1973 causing the loss of between 15 and 18 million records. If you lost your records in this fire, submit NA Form 13055 with your application.
You may also provide a Buddy Letter to show the service connection to your injury or illness. A Buddy Letter is from someone over the age of 17 who witnessed your military incident.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Can You Appeal a VA Decision?
If you disagree with the VA’s decision for your disability rating or compensation, you can appeal. It’s prudent to consult with a VA disability attorney before starting this process. They can tell you about your appeal options and help you with your appeal.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
VA Form 20-0996
First, you can submit VA Form 20-0996, the Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review. At this point, a senior reviewer will take another look at your application. They can change the decision if they have a different opinion or find an error in the ruling.
During this rebuttal, a representative or attorney can speak to the reviewer. They can advocate for your case and point out errors in the prior decision.
Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
If the higher-level review upholds the previous decision, you can file a NOD. Form VA-10182 requests a review of the ruling by a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
It’s important to note that you only have 365 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal. To clarify, this is not the date that you received the letter.
You may choose one of three options for this appeal. Option 1 is to have a Veterans Law Judge personally review your appeal. This choice doesn’t allow you to submit new evidence.
The second option allows you to submit further evidence for review by the Veterans Law Judge. You must provide this documentation within 90 days of the date the VA received your NOD. It’s common to wait over a year to get a response to this appeal.
Your third option is to request a hearing with the Veterans Law Judge. This may take place virtually from home or via video conference from a VA office. Due to COVID-19, in-person hearings aren’t currently being scheduled.
You may submit new documentation at the hearing or within 90 days of the hearing. You’re not required to have new evidence for this third option.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
The BVA is equivalent to the Supreme Court for the VA. You may appeal to them instead of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or following their decision. The BVA reviews the case and any new evidence and makes a ruling.
In response to COVID-19, the BVA has changed the appeal procedures. Virtual BVA hearings occur using the Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health Administration. No in-person hearings are currently conducted.
The VA has increased its flexibility with filing deadlines. The veteran must show good cause for extension requests. A VA disability attorney can assist you with the appeal and requests for extensions.
Are You Looking for an Expert in VA Disability Claims and Appeals?
Veterans with a service-connected diagnosis of Guillain-Barré Syndrome are often eligible for benefits. Woods and Woods VA disability lawyers can provide the assistance you need.
Our family-owned and operated practice includes a staff of over 90 people experienced with VA disability compensation cases. We’re proud to use our expertise to help injured and disabled veterans across the country. Our services also extend to surviving spouses of deceased service members.
We’ve developed reliable, complex case-management systems. This optimizes how we handle your case.
We offer a free consultation and review of your situation to see if you have a viable claim. You may ask questions and learn about your legal options. Schedule a free legal consultation today.
No, the BVA doesn’t look at your past applications except in the way they relate to your current symptoms and the history of your illness. We work closely with all of our clients so that we can inform the VA about any changes, good or bad, to your symptoms.
The VA itself prefers to work with VA lawyers and recommends it. More cases submitted by lawyers are won and awarded than cases submitted from any other group or veterans by themselves. So, the 20% of backpay that we get as a one-time payment or the 30% taken by other VA disability lawyers is worth the strong case in the end.