If you are a veteran that has had a hysterectomy or is planning on having one in the future, you want to know if it is a service-connected condition or not.
The decision to have a hysterectomy is a major one that will impact many areas of your life moving forward. You may find yourself entering early menopause, your periods will stop, and you will no longer be able to get pregnant. If you have to have this operation as a result of your service in the military, you may be entitled to monthly disability compensation.
Applying for VA disability for a hysterectomy can be a tricky process, but it’s worth it to get the compensation you deserve. Read on to learn more about hysterectomies and how to get VA disability compensation for one.
In this article about veteran’s disability for a hysterectomy:
- What Is a Hysterectomy?
- Overview of Female Reproductive Anatomy
- Partial vs. Total Hysterectomy
- Why It Might Be Done
- Preparing for the Procedure
- Risks of Having a Hysterectomy
- Before the Procedure
- During the Procedure
- Qualifying for VA Disability
- Disability Rating Schedule
- VA Compensation Rates
- Disability Rating for a Hysterectomy
- Proving a Service Connection
- What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied
- Learn More About VA Disability for a Hysterectomy
What Is a Hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is an operation that removes some or all of the female reproductive system. Primarily it involves removing the uterus, though various other parts of the reproductive system may be removed, too. The uterus is the part of your body where a baby grows when you’re pregnant.
The procedure is usually done through the abdomen, though it is sometimes done through the vagina. Many hysterectomies these days are done by laparoscopy or robotic surgery using tiny incisions and long, flexible instruments.
Overview of Female Reproductive Anatomy
Before we talk too much more about hysterectomies, let’s go over the basics of female reproductive anatomy. Your uterus sits in the center of your pelvis just above your hipbones and is responsible for growing babies and for your periods. On either side of your uterus are your ovaries, where all of your eggs are stored.
Just before your period each month, a tiny single-cell egg travels down your fallopian tubes which connect your ovaries to your uterus. If a sperm makes its way through your cervix, the orifice which connects your vagina and your uterus, while an egg is in your uterus, the two can merge and form a fetus, which attaches itself to your uterine wall. You become pregnant, and if nothing changes, in nine months, your cervix will dilate to allow you to push the fully developed fetus out of your vagina and into the world.
Partial vs. Total Hysterectomy
There are two different types of hysterectomies: partial and total. A total hysterectomy removes bot your cervix and your uterus, leaving your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and vagina intact. You may also want to get a salpingo-oophorectomy, which removes your ovaries and fallopian tubes, at the same time as your hysterectomy.
Partial hysterectomies only remove the uterus, leaving your cervix intact. This is sometimes done at the patient’s request because your cervix can maintain a sounder pelvic structure and enhanced sexual enjoyment. However, people who get a partial hysterectomy done can still be susceptible to cervical cancer and so will need to continue to get regular pap smears.
Why It Might Be Done
In most cases, a hysterectomy is performed as a way to manage some sort of medical concern. If you are diagnosed with uterine, ovarian, or cervical cancer, or if you believe you are at high risk of it, a hysterectomy can remove the cancerous or precancerous cells from your body. This can extend your life by years and keep you from having to go through painful chemo treatments.
Hysterectomies can also be helpful in dealing with things like fibroids, benign tumors in your uterus that can cause persistent bleeding or pain. Hysterectomies can resolve endometriosis and uterine prolapse. And if you have abnormal periods or chronic pelvic pain, a hysterectomy can provide you with some relief.
One of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the VA.
Preparing for the Procedure
One of the biggest things you’ll need to do before a hysterectomy is to discuss any plans you had for having children in the future. After a hysterectomy, either partial or total, you will no longer be able to become pregnant. If you planned on becoming pregnant in the future, you might want to explore other treatment options with your doctor.
Hysterectomies often require a hospital stay of one to two days, so you’ll need to arrange for that. Talk to your doctor about what sort of anesthesia you’ll be under and what sort of pain medication you’ll use after the procedure. You should also discuss any other medications or supplements you’re on and how to manage those surrounding your procedure.
Risks of Having a Hysterectomy
In general, a hysterectomy is a very safe procedure. However, it is still an abdominal operation, and those always come with some small risk. You may have a bad reaction to the anesthesia, or you may develop an infection or blood clot if your wound isn’t cared for properly after the operation.
In some very rare cases, there may be damage to your urinary tract, bladder, rectum, or other structures in your pelvis. Depending on the extent of the damage, you might have to have additional surgeries to correct these problems. However, this is extremely rare, and the vast majority of hysterectomy patients recover with no additional problems except for potentially early menopause.
Before the Procedure
No matter why you’re having a hysterectomy, your doctor may want to run some tests to check for cancerous or precancerous cells before the operation. This can help inform them about what sort of hysterectomy you may need and what surgical approach they’ll need to take. If you have precancerous cells on your ovaries or if your uterine cancer has metastasized to your cervix, you may need to have a total hysterectomy.
These cancer screens may include a pap smear, an endometrial biopsy, and a pelvic ultrasound. The day before and morning of your surgery, your doctor may ask you to shower with a special soap to prevent infection. You may also have a vaginal and/or rectal douche before the operation to prevent infection.
During the Procedure
During the procedure, your doctor may use one of two approaches: an open incision or laparoscopic tools. Laparoscopy uses thin, flexible tools accompanied by a light and a camera. Your doctor inserts these tools into your abdomen through tiny incisions that are about an inch long each and can perform your hysterectomy without so much damage to your abdominal muscles from an open incision.
However, in some cases, it may be safer for your doctor to perform an open incision hysterectomy. They will cut either a vertical incision from your navel to your pubic bone or a horizontal incision across your bikini line. Which style of incision they use will depend on your particular situation.
What your recovery process looks like will depend on which type of surgery you have. If you have a laparoscopic operation, you’ll likely be back on your feet within a week or two. However, be sure you continue following your doctor’s advice about resuming your normal activities over the following weeks.
If you have an open incision, plan for at least six weeks for your recovery. During this time, you should not do any heavy lifting or have sex. Plan to take at least a week off work and follow your doctor’s orders for how and when to take your medications and resume your normal activities.
Qualifying for VA Disability
If you had to have a hysterectomy as a result of your military service, you might be eligible for disability compensation from the VA. There are three primary things you have to have to qualify for VA disability: a medical diagnosis, a service connection, and a medical nexus between the two.
You’ll need to get a record from your doctor documenting the reason for your operation. We’ll talk more in a minute about the kinds of service connections that may apply to hysterectomies. Then your doctor will need to provide an official statement confirming that your hysterectomy was at least as likely as not necessitated by the event in your military service record.
Disability Rating Schedule
If you get approved for VA disability compensation, your condition will be ranked on a percentage scale. This will represent how much your disability impacts your life. In most cases, this evaluates how much your disability limits your ability to work, but hysterectomy ratings are a little bit different.
Immediately after your hysterectomy, you’ll receive a disability rating that reflects your convalescence during the recovery period. But after that, you will receive a lower rating that will be permanent. This represents the impact a hysterectomy will make on your family plans and your overall health for the rest of your life.
VA Compensation Rates
Your disability rating will be the primary factor in determining how much compensation you receive from the VA each month. Ratings range from 10 percent to 100 percent and are rounded to the nearest 10 percent. If you have a 10 percent rating, you’ll receive $165.92 per month; a 20 percent rating will get you $327.99.
For ratings above 30 percent, the VA will consider how many people are financially dependent on you in determining your compensation amount. For instance, if you have a 50 percent rating and a dependent spouse and child, you’ll receive $1,043.43 per month. If you have only a dependent spouse, you’ll receive $979.43 per month.
Disability Rating for a Hysterectomy
For the first three months after your hysterectomy operation, the VA will grant you a 100 percent disability rating. This means you will be receiving at least $3,106.04 per month for the first three months. After that, your rating will depend on the extent of your operation.
If you have your uterus and both your ovaries removed, the VA will grant you a permanent disability rating of 50 percent. If you had your uterus removed, but your ovaries remain and are functional, you will receive a 30 percent rating. If your ovaries remain, but are nonfunctional, you will receive a rating of 20 percent.
Proving a Service Connection
Proving a service connection for a hysterectomy may be tricky. You’ll need to point to a specific injury or incident during your service that caused you to need the operation.
If you are having a hysterectomy due to uterine, ovarian, or cervical cancer and are a Gulf War or post-9/11 era veteran who was exposed to toxins from burn pits, your reproductive cancer is considered a presumptive condition. This means you would not need to prove the link between your reproductive cancer and your service. Similarly, if you ever served around Agent Orange or other herbicides or pesticides, talk to your doctor because these chemicals are linked to many forms of cancer.
A clear example of a service-connected hysterectomy would be if you were shot in the abdomen during your service. If your uterus was damaged, your surgeons might have had to remove it to keep you alive. Or, if your scar tissue caused problems that led to a hysterectomy after you left the service, it would still count as a service connection.
What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied
If your VA disability benefits claim is denied, don’t worry – you can appeal your case. You can also appeal your case if you feel your rating is too low. If needed, you can take your case all the way up to the BVA in Washington, D.C.
If you’re planning to appeal your case, the first thing you need to do is move quickly, so you meet all the necessary deadlines. You may also want to hire a lawyer who specializes in VA law to help you defend your case. Not only will they be familiar with the application and appeals process, but they’ll also be able to advise you on how best to get the most compensation for your case.
Learn More About VA Disability for a Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy is a major operation that can change everything from your hormone levels to your family planning. If you served in the military, you might be entitled to some compensation after your hysterectomy. Start an application for VA disability for a hysterectomy today and take the first step in getting the financial aid you deserve.
If you’d like help with your application or appeals process, get in touch with us at Woods and Woods. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today to get help with your case and get every penny you’re entitled to.