As a cost-cutting measure, the VA considered eliminating VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids in 2017. For those who do not suffer from hemorrhoids, it may seem odd that the VA would even provide VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids. But eliminating these benefits would have excluded a medical condition from VA disability claims that can have a severe impact on a veteran’s earning capacity and quality of life.
Those who have experienced hemorrhoids know that they can cause pain and bleeding. Hemorrhoids can make it difficult or impossible to sit or walk. Worse yet, every bowel movement runs the risk of irritating the condition. The effects of hemorrhoids can make some jobs, like driving or desk work, impossible. Since VA disability benefits are designed to compensate for a loss of the ability to work resulting from service-connected disabilities, it is only logical that the VA pays VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids.
In This Article About VA Ratings for Hemorrhoids:
- What Is the VA Disability Rating for Hemorrhoids Needed to Claim Benefits?
- 3 Ways to Establish a Service Connection for Hemorrhoids
- Why Are Hemorrhoids So Hard to Diagnose?
- How to Claim VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids as a Secondary Service-Connected Disability
- What Happens If Your Rating for VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids Is Too Low?
- What Happens If Your Claim for VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids Is Denied?
What Is the VA Disability Rating for Hemorrhoids Needed to Claim Benefits?
The VA’s disability ratings schedule for disabilities of the digestive system includes a specific rating table for hemorrhoids at 38 CFR 4.114, Diagnostic Code 7336. However, the way that the rating tables for digestive system disabilities are organized allows the rating table to be used for any analogous conditions such as anal fissures, which present the same symptoms.
Specifically, the rating table for hemorrhoids gives a rating for VA disability benefits for internal or external hemorrhoids that ranges from 0% to 20%. For mild or moderate cases, a 0% hemorrhoids VA rating is awarded.
The VA issues a 10% disability rating for hemorrhoids that recur frequently and are large or thrombotic, meaning that the hemorrhoids include blood clots. Moreover, for a 10% rating, the hemorrhoids must be irreducible and contain excessive redundant tissue. In other words, the hemorrhoids must be large, swollen, and untreatable to qualify for a 10% disability rating.
The highest VA disability rating for hemorrhoids is 20%. This rating is awarded for hemorrhoids with persistent bleeding that either includes fissures (small tears in the tissue) or causes mild anemia.
Like hemorrhoids, anal fissures also present symptoms like swelling and bleeding in and around the anus. The VA would look to the VA compensation rates for hemorrhoids to determine the rating in a VA disability claim for anal fissures since it is the closest analogous rated disability.
3 Ways to Establish a Service Connection for Hemorrhoids
Claims for VA disability benefits must include facts to establish a connection between your hemorrhoids and your military service. There are three ways to establish a service connection.
1. Hemorrhoids Experienced During Service
The simplest way to establish a service connection for hemorrhoids is to have some evidence that the hemorrhoids manifested during your time in the service. In some cases, this is simply a matter of collecting your medical records to prove the timing of the hemorrhoid outbreak. For example, if you served from 1989 to 1992, a medical diagnosis of hemorrhoids in 1990 would establish a service connection to support VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids.
If you have documentation that it happened during your service, that makes it service-connected.
2. Hemorrhoids Worsened by Service
If you experienced hemorrhoids prior to joining the military, but they worsened significantly during your time in the service, you may be able to establish a service connection to your hemorrhoids. This will require you to provide evidence that the worsening was more severe than a natural progression of the condition. However, if you can either present a doctor’s letter tracking state of your hemorrhoids and presenting an opinion that the worsening was not a natural progression of the hemorrhoids or identify a specific event during your service that caused your hemorrhoids to worsen, you may be able to establish a service connection for your claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids.
For example, hemorrhoids are often caused by strain during bowel movements. The strain causes blood vessels near the anus to swell. This swelling can even cause blood clots to form in the hemorrhoids. If you suffered from a severe case of constipation during your service, the strain on the blood vessels of your anus can cause hemorrhoids to flare up or even develop blood clots in a way that is worse than normal for your hemorrhoids.
By identifying a specific condition, like severe constipation, that led to an unnatural or abnormal worsening of your hemorrhoids, you may be able to establish a service connection for your VA disability benefits claim.
3. Hemorrhoids Diagnosed After Service
A service connection can be proven when hemorrhoids are diagnosed after service if they manifested during service. This can occur under a few different circumstances. Internal hemorrhoids might go unnoticed when they cause little or no pain and only occasional bleeding. Alternatively, you may have foregone seeing a doctor about your hemorrhoids during your service either because they were mild or due to embarrassment.
If you can provide testimony or evidence that the hemorrhoids manifested during service, a post-service diagnosis may not preclude a claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids. For example, you may be able to point to a specific occurrence that triggered the hemorrhoids. Since hemorrhoids have many causes, this may be a viable strategy for some veterans to establish a service connection.
Why Are Hemorrhoids So Hard to Diagnose?
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in and around the anus. Hemorrhoids can occur inside the anus go unnoticed except for an occasional drop of pink blood during bowel movements. Occasionally, internal hemorrhoids are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
A misdiagnosis of hemorrhoids during your service would not prevent you from seeking VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids after your service ended. In fact, if you can obtain a doctor’s opinion letter saying that the hemorrhoids manifested during service and were misdiagnosed as, for example, an infectious disease, the misdiagnosis can actually help your case by showing that they manifested during your service.
Hemorrhoids can also occur outside the anus. These hemorrhoids can be extremely painful, particularly if they are swollen and inflamed. These hemorrhoids can crack or tear, bleed, and become infected. These symptoms can make sitting impossible and can make walking and lifting painful.
Hemorrhoids can be caused by heavy lifting, constipation, diarrhea, and low fiber foods. Hemorrhoids can be a recurring problem, particularly if the conditions causing the hemorrhoids are unchanged. For example, if you were deployed and working in hot conditions, doing heavy lifting, eating low fiber foods, and drinking contaminated water that caused diarrhea, hemorrhoids would not be a surprise occurrence. They could recur over the entire deployment and after the deployment ended.
Hemorrhoids can also occur when you must sit for long periods of time. As a result, certain jobs are more prone to developing hemorrhoids. For example, drivers, pilots, and computer operators are more likely to develop hemorrhoids because prolonged sitting places a strain on the muscles and blood vessels of your lower abdomen and rear end. This can especially affect older service members because blood vessels and muscles lose their elasticity with age.
If you developed hemorrhoids during your active duty or active training due to the conditions of your service, you may be able to show that you are entitled to VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids.
You may even be able to file a claim for past VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids that have been treated. In one reported case, a veteran was able to establish a service connection and VA disability rating for his hemorrhoids that were treated with surgery. The VA awarded disability benefits to the veteran for the period beginning with the onset of the hemorrhoids until the date they were cured.
How to Claim VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids as a Secondary Service-Connected Disability
For many veterans, hemorrhoids are the result of another service-connected disability. Under the secondary service-connected disability doctrine, you must first establish a primary service-connected disability. Any disabilities linked to that primary disability by medical or scientific evidence can then be compensated as secondary service-connected disabilities. For secondary service-connected disabilities, you do not need to prove a service connection. Rather, you only need to establish a nexus between the primary disability and secondary disability.
For example, constipation and diarrhea can lead to hemorrhoids. If you have another service-connected disability that can cause diarrhea or constipation, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colon polyps, or dysentery, you may be able to obtain a nexus letter for hemorrhoids in which a doctor renders his opinion that the primary disability caused the hemorrhoids. Such a nexus letter would support a claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids.
If you are granted a secondary service-connected disability rating for hemorrhoids, the disability rating for hemorrhoids is aggregated with your primary service-connected disability rating using VA math. Just keep in mind that VA math is not a simple addition of the individual disability ratings. For example, let’s say you prove a service-connection for IBS. If your IBS VA rating is 30% and hemorrhoids secondary to IBS are rated at 20%, the two are combined together for an overall disability rating of 40%.
This calculation supports the strategy of including hemorrhoids as a secondary service-connected disability if the medical records can prove a nexus. While an increase from 30% to 40% in your overall disability rating might seem minor, every little bit helps. This is particularly true if you have multiple secondary service-connected disabilities you can include in a VA disability benefits claim.
For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause IBS and diarrhea which, in turn, can cause hemorrhoids. Depending on the individual ratings assigned VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids, IBS, and PTSD may be substantially more than the VA disability benefits for PTSD alone.
What Happens If Your Rating for VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids Is Too Low?
If you believe that your hemorrhoids VA claim was rated too low compared to the impact on your ability to work, you have a few options to challenge the rating.
Present Additional Evidence
You can collect additional evidence showing that you are entitled to a higher rating. For example, the highest VA disability rating for hemorrhoids requires persistent bleeding and either mild anemia or fissures. An examination from a VA doctor or private doctor who observes fissures and bleeding may be enough to support a 20% rating for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids rather than a 10% or 0% rating.
Significantly, the VA generally accepts your testimony if it is consistent with the medical records. Therefore, even if you self-treat your hemorrhoids and self-report your hemorrhoids to your doctor, it is still possible to obtain a VA disability rating.
For example, in one reported case, a veteran self-treated his hemorrhoid outbreaks several times per year and reported fissures and bleeding. The medical records from both a VA examination and a private doctor agreed with the observation of fissures and bleeding but could not specify the number of outbreaks since the veteran did not visit a doctor each time he had an outbreak of hemorrhoids. However, since the medical records did not contradict the veteran’s testimony, the VA accepted his characterization that the hemorrhoids occurred several times per year.
In our article about your C&P Exam, we suggest that you keep a notebook record of the frequency and severity of your medical conditions. If you can show documentation that you have a hemorrhoid flare-up that keeps you home from work at least once a month, you’ll build a strong case.
Request a Higher-Level Review of Your Rating Decision
If you believe that you have submitted sufficient evidence for a higher rating, but the VA has misapplied its ratings schedules or misinterpreted your claim, you can request a higher-level review of your rating decision. This review request is intended to provide quicker decisions than the old appeals process since it is basically a request for a more senior claims examiner to review the claim application as it was originally submitted.
Request an Extra Schedular Rating
Another option for obtaining a higher rating is to request an extra schedular rating. This is a special request for the VA to ignore its ratings tables and provide a special rating because of your unique circumstances. These requests are only granted in exceptional cases, such as when your condition requires frequent hospitalization or poses a substantial obstacle to your ability to work. If you require an extra schedular rating, you should consider discussing your case with a VA benefits attorney to determine the evidence needed to file the request.
One of our VA Disability Lawyers talks about how to get SMC benefits in addition to your VA disability rating.
What Happens If Your Claim for VA Disability Benefits for Hemorrhoids Is Denied?
Some cases are denied because an insufficient connection has been drawn between your service and your hemorrhoids. If you have more or better evidence to tie your hemorrhoids to your service, you can submit the evidence to try to overcome the denial of your claim.
As mentioned above, if you are claiming VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids as a primary disability, you will likely need either evidence that your hemorrhoids either manifested during your service or were exacerbated by your service. This evidence could take the form of military medical records showing a diagnosis of hemorrhoids or service records showing some event that occurred during your service that caused or worsened your hemorrhoids.
If you talked to other men or women in your unit and you all had hemorrhoids, you might be able to get a buddy statement. This would be even easier if you all got sick at the same time and your illness caused the hemorrhoids.
Conversely, if your claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids listed them as a secondary service-related disability, you may need more evidence showing a nexus between your primary disability and your hemorrhoids. This requirement is usually satisfied with a letter from a doctor providing an opinion supported by medical evidence of a connection between the two disabilities.
While it may seem trivial to include a claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids, every ratable disability can increase your overall disability percentage. Contact a VA disability benefits attorney, regardless of your current location or whether you were deployed during your service, to discuss what you can expect from a claim for VA disability benefits for hemorrhoids, either alone or with other disabilities.
Pardon the joke, but yes, it’s worth the pain in the butt to get every VA rating you can. Just a 10% rating combined with other ratings could mean hundreds of dollars per month for your family.
Any unusual circumstances that you experienced during your service that could be connected to hemorrhoids should be considered. Constipation or diarrhea from an illness due to your service can be the cause of hemorrhoids. A low-fiber diet or extreme living conditions could also trigger a flare-up.