Iron deficiency anemia is a type of anemia that can result in extreme fatigue, as well as other symptoms in veterans.
Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not contain enough red blood cells, or those cells are not healthy. In this case, the red blood cells (RBC) do not contain adequate iron levels. RBCs carry oxygen to the organs and tissues of the body. If these cells are not healthy, they cannot do their job properly, leaving you susceptible to a variety of life-altering and even life-endangering symptoms.
Is iron deficiency anemia a VA disability?
Unfortunately, the answer is not a straightforward yes or no. Sometimes, as you’ll see below, anemia does earn a VA disability rating.
In this article about iron deficiency VA disability:
- Is Anemia Considered a Disability?
- Iron Deficiency Anemia and VA Disability
- The VA Rating Tiers for Anemia
- VA Disability and Sickle Cell Anemia
- Is There a Service Connection to Iron Deficiency Anemia?
- Iron Deficiency Anemia: VA Disability Info Regarding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
- Iron Deficiency Anemia and Other Medical Conditions
- Not How to Apply for VA Disability? Contact Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm
Is Anemia Considered a Disability?
Yes, in general terms, anemia is considered a disability. Patients with severe anemia are eligible for financial assistance through government disability programs such as Social Security.
What about veterans? To fully understand how the VA looks at iron deficiency anemia and VA disability benefits, you need to know some of the distinctions between certain types of anemia – particularly iron deficiency anemia and sickle cell anemia.
Iron Deficiency Anemia and VA Disability
According to the CDC, 2.8 million people in the US have iron deficiency anemia. Nearly 800,000 people end up visiting the Emergency Room because of this condition, and it contributes to over 5,200 deaths per year.
Anemia falls into two categories:
- Chronic: Chronic anemia is the gradual decline of red blood cells, commonly caused by certain chronic diseases, drugs/medications, and nutritional deficiencies (such as iron).
- Acute: This type of anemia happens when there is an abrupt and significant drop in RBCs. Typically, this occurs in instances of acute blood loss (hemorrhage) or hemolysis (rupture of the red blood cells, which results in their contents – a thick solution that contains water, salt, and the protein hemoglobin – into the patient’s blood plasma.
Under the diagnostic code 7720 for iron deficiency anemia, veterans with this condition – whether acute or chronic – may be eligible for disability coverage of up to 30%.
The VA Rating Tiers for Anemia
- Zero disability rating: The VA will not provide disability benefits to veterans who are asymptomatic or whose symptoms improve through dietary modification only.
- 10% disability rating: Veterans who need intravenous iron infusions up to three times in a 12-month period may be eligible for at least 10% disability coverage. Those who require continuous treatment (typically with oral supplements) are also eligible for a 10% disability rating.
- 30% disability rating: If a veteran requires four or more intravenous iron infusions within a 12-month period, the VA may consider extending a 30% disability rating.
The VA notes that veterans who have iron-deficiency anemia that is caused by blood loss are not eligible for a VA rating under the diagnostic code 7720 for iron deficiency anemia. Instead, they need to find the code for the condition that has caused the blood loss. Under that code, they may be eligible for disability benefits.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
VA Disability and Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell disease is a group of disorders that cause RBCs to contort into the shape of a sickle and eventually break down. The cells die off early, which leaves the patient with a shortage of healthy RBCs, resulting in a form of anemia called sickle cell anemia. Sickle-shaped cells, as well as the die-off of those cells, can block blood flow and lead to pain. Symptoms of this condition include extreme fatigue, a higher rate of infections, swelling of the hands and feet, and pain. Life-threatening conditions can also arise, including acute chest syndrome and splenic sequestration (a dangerous build-up of blood in the spleen).
Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition and can reduce the life expectancy of someone born with it. According to the CDC, there are several treatments now that can reduce symptoms and potentially extend the life of the patient.
Some people have what is known as sickle cell trait. It is not a disease. Rather, it is a situation in which a person has inherited the sickle cell gene. They have one normal gene and one sickle cell gene. It requires two sickle cell genes to have sickle cell disease. Though someone with one of these genes will not get sickle cell disease, they can pass it along to their children.
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The VA disability rating for sickle cell trait is zero. However, if a veteran has this trait in conjunction with another service-related condition, they may be eligible for coverage. Under §3.321(b)(1) (general disability compensation) of chapter § 4.117 schedule of ratings (hemic and lymphatic systems), a veteran with symptomatic sickle cell trait can bring their case to the Director of Compensation Services for consideration.
A veteran with sickle cell anemia can receive a VA rating of up to 100% depending on their symptoms, the type of treatment they receive, and their service connection.
Specific VA Ratings for Sickle Cell Anemia
- 10%: The veteran has entered remission and is asymptomatic but has sustained organ impairment
- 30%: A veteran has one to two pain episodes within a 12-month period
- 60%: Three or more pain symptoms in a 12-month period or pain that prevents even light manual labor
- 100%: At least four pain episodes within a 12-month period. The pain prevents light labor and can occur in major organs, skin, bones, and/or the joints. The pain can result from hemolysis and the sickling of the RBCs. In addition to pain, the veteran can experience anemia, thrombosis (blood clot), and infarction (death of tissues of the body).
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.
Is There a Service Connection to Iron Deficiency Anemia?
The VA recognizes anemia as a condition that is, for the most part, either inherited or is a secondary symptom of another underlying condition. It is important to talk to your doctor about whether your anemia is inherited as the VA has diagnostic codes that pertain to non-hereditary anemias, as well as those addressed under other codes for the underlying cause of the anemia. These include:
- Iron Deficiency Anemia (7720)
- Folic Acid Deficiency (7721)
- Pernicious Anemia/Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia (7722)
- Acquired Hemolytic Anemia (7723)
- Sickle Cell Anemia (7714)
- Aplastic Anemia (7716)
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, as well as the causative condition, you could be eligible for a disability rating of between 10% and 100%.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: VA Disability Info Regarding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
One of the reasons the VA will not pay disability benefits to a veteran for iron deficiency anemia is because the condition may simply be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem. It is important that the veteran seek treatment for the root cause of their problem, as opposed to self-medicating with over-the-counter iron supplements.
Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Typically, anemia results when:
- You lose a lot of blood
- You do not make enough red blood cells
- Your body destroys red blood cells at a faster rate than they are replaced
- Your body does not make a sufficient amount of hemoglobin
Causes for this include:
- A genetic condition
- Heavy bleeding (heavy menstrual periods, surgery, childbirth, injury)
- Nutritional deficiencies (B-12, iron, and folate)
- Certain chronic health conditions
- Chronic infections (HIV, TB)
- Exposure to harsh medications (such as chemotherapy)
Symptoms That Show You Might Be Anemic
One of the main symptoms of iron deficiency anemia is extreme fatigue. Other symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Cold hands/feet
- Tongue inflammation/soreness
- Brittle nails
- Poor appetite
- Unusual cravings (such as starch, ice, or even dirt)
If you suspect you have iron deficiency anemia, see a doctor immediately. While dietary changes can be helpful in some situations, it is easy to make matters worse by taking iron supplements without a doctor’s supervision. Taking too much iron can overload your body and damage various organs. With diagnostic testing, your doctor can find out how much iron you need, make recommendations based on that, and monitor your progress regularly.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Treatment Options for Veterans with Anemia
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will be based on the type of anemia you have, what has caused it, and the severity of your symptoms. Some treatment options include:
- Dietary adjustments
- Blood transfusions
- Iron infusions
If you receive treatment for acute anemia, you should expect a full recovery. Even patients with chronic iron deficiency anemia can live a full, productive, painless and exhaustion-free life with the right treatment plan. If you do have a chronic condition that causes anemia or have a genetic form of anemia, you will need to commit to a life-long maintenance program to stay healthy and ease your symptoms.
Iron Deficiency Anemia and Other Medical Conditions
The following conditions are related to iron deficiency anemia. They either mimic the symptoms or cause anemia. Your doctor and a legal representative can help you find the best code to receive VA disability for iron deficiency anemia.
VA Disability Rating for Thalassemia
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that results in your body not making enough hemoglobin. The symptoms are similar to iron deficiency anemia (fatigue, pale skin, weakness). Some patients do not need any treatment, while others with severe thalassemia need blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant. Based on a 2015 ruling, you can receive a VA disability rating for thalassemia of up to 30%.
VA Disability Rating for Leukemia and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Leukemia is a cancer of the tissues that form blood.
Like iron deficiency anemia, one of the most common symptoms of these diseases is fatigue. Some people do not need treatment, while others need chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant.
The VA disability rating for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and leukemia is 100% while the disease is active or while the veteran is undergoing treatment.
VA Disability Rating for MGUS
MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) is a condition in which a monoclonal or M protein is in your blood. It is an abnormal protein that is formed in the bone marrow. Genetics and environmental factors are thought to cause MGUS.
Patients do not generally display any symptoms, except nerve issues (numbness/tingling) or a rash.
In a 2016 ruling, it was determined that a veteran developed MGUS during active duty and was eligible for VA disability. The VA disability rating for MGUS is dependent on your symptoms and how the disease impacts your life. It is a blood disease. Therefore, it falls under the Schedule of Ratings for The Hemic and Lymphatic Systems, similar to anemia and leukemia.
Not How to Apply for VA Disability? Contact Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm
Even if your claim is denied, you still have a chance to receive VA disability benefits. Our large team of legal professionals will help you through the appeals process, going so far as to fight your case in appeals court. We are committed to helping you get the benefits you deserve!
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No, keep your application in the process because you don’t know how you’ll do in the coming months. It often takes well over a year to get approval, so don’t give up. Tell your doctor at the C&P exam about the frequency of your symptoms. That will affect your rating.
It is not, but some forms of anemia are a secondary connection to Agent Orange exposure. Make sure you work with an experienced veteran’s disability lawyer that can clearly show the nexus for your conditions.