Swollen and blistered areas of your eyeball (keratopathy) can be a painful result of things that you experienced in the service. See below to see if you qualify for VA disability for keratopathy.
Keratopathy is a series of corneal diseases that, left untreated, could leave you blind or in severe pain. If you served in the military and you have keratopathy, you may be eligible for compensation from the VA. Read on to learn more about keratopathy, its symptoms, and how you can get the compensation you deserve for this condition.
The Eye Disabilities We Cover In This Article on Keratopathy
- What Is Keratopathy?
- What Are The VA Ratings for Keratopathy?
- Exposure Keratopathy
- Band Keratopathy
- Actinic Keratopathy
- Neurotrophic Keratopathy
- Bullous Keratopathy
- Getting a Secondary Disability Rating for Keratopathy
- VA Help for Blindness
- How to Qualify for VA Disability
- Getting a Diagnosis
- Proving a Service Connection
- Getting a Medical Nexus
- How the VA Rates Disabilities
- VA Disability Compensation Rates
- If Your Claim Is Denied
- Get Compensation for Your Keratopathy
What Is Keratopathy?
Keratopathy is a non-inflammatory disease of the cornea. This is different from keratitis, which is an inflammatory disease of the cornea.
Your cornea is the clear, dome-shaped covering on the front of your eye. It serves to focus light coming into your eye and going into your pupil. Just behind your cornea, you have a space filled with aqueous humor, a fluid your eyes constantly produce, and behind that, you’ll find the lens of your eye.
What Are The VA Ratings for Keratopathy?
Keratopathy falls into the 38 CFR Section 4.79 with many other eye conditions. As with many VA disabilities, the number of times you are incapacitated in a year are the main factor to your rating.
|7 Or more treatments in the past year||60% Rating|
|5-7 Treatments in the past year||40% Rating|
|3-5 Treatments in the past year||20% Rating|
|1-3 Treatments in the past year||10% Rating|
There are several different types of keratopathy, and one of the most common is exposure keratopathy. This happens when your eyelids don’t close enough to completely cover the globe of your cornea. When this happens, your cornea will not get the tear coverage it needs and over time it can dry out.
In most cases, exposure keratopathy is a mild condition that’s easy enough to treat. But in some cases, it can become more severe and may destroy your cornea altogether, leaving you blind. Most often, this happens in patients with a facial nerve palsy, patients who have a tumor in their eye, and patients with severe damage to their eyelids.
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Another common type of keratopathy is band keratopathy. This occurs when calcium deposits collect in a band across your cornea. You may begin to see a line in this area, and your vision can become compromised as the calcium blocks light from entering your eye.
There are a number of things that can cause band keratopathy, beginning with eye trauma or surgery. If you have too much calcium in your blood, you may also start to develop this form of keratopathy. Oftentimes, this level of calcium is the result of a larger disease such as kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, or sarcoidosis.
Actinic keratopathy is similar to band keratopathy in that it consists of buildups in your cornea compromising your vision. But unlike with band keratopathy, these buildups are not made of calcium, and they’re not concentrated in a band across your eye. Instead, they’re made of different fatty deposits, and they show up in the area around your pupil.
Like band keratopathy, actinic keratopathy can cause you to lose your eyesight if left untreated. It is usually the result of extreme exposure to sunlight or other trauma to the eye.
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Neurotrophic keratopathy is a condition in which your cornea goes entirely numb. This causes your corneal epithelial layer to break down, which can cause your cornea to waste away entirely. This can leave you vulnerable to trauma and infection in your eyes, not to mention blindness.
Neurotrophic keratopathy is the result of the nerves that connect to your cornea being severed in some way. Reduced blinking can also start this atrophy process, as can losing your tear-producing capabilities. Neurotrophic keratopathy can also be the result of syphilis, herpes, or diabetes.
Bullous keratopathy is a painful condition in which epithelial bullae form on your cornea. These bullae are fluid-filled pustules which can form around the surface of your cornea. Sometimes, they can burst, which causes extreme levels of pain and the sensation of having something stuck in your eye.
Oftentimes, this form of keratopathy shows up after a person has had cataract surgery. It can also be the result of severe trauma to the cornea or glaucoma. If you wear contact lenses and you have bullous keratopathy, you may want to consider switching to soft lenses in order to help keep your pain under control.
Getting a Secondary Disability Rating for Keratopathy
In some cases, you may not be able to prove that your keratopathy is the direct result of your military service. But many of these forms of keratopathy are the result of a larger systemic disease. Since many of these are ratable conditions, you may be able to get a secondary service connection for this disease.
In order to get a secondary service connection, you must first be able to prove that your primary condition is connected to your military service (more on that in a moment). Then you must be able to prove that your keratopathy is the direct result of your service-connected condition.
Common primary conditions include diabetes, sarcoidosis, Lyme disease, a stroke, thyroid problems, and more.
VA Help for Blindness
Even aside from rating schedules and monthly compensation, the VA provides a number of benefits to blind or partially blind veterans. You may need to have proof from your doctor that your vision is impaired. But you should not have to undergo the same rigorous process we’re about to discuss to get these benefits.
The VA may provide you with electronic reading machines and mobile devices to help enhance what vision you do have. They may train you in how to do everyday tasks such as cooking, reading, writing, and managing medicines while visually impaired. You may also be able to get access to therapy to cope with the loss of your eyesight.
How to Qualify for VA Disability
In order to qualify for VA disability compensation, you must meet three primary criteria. First of all, you must have an official diagnosis of your condition from an approved medical professional. In most cases, your family doctor or other traditionally licensed physician will meet the VA requirements.
In addition to a diagnosis, you must be able to prove a connection between your condition and your military service. This will be a specific incident or set of conditions during your service that could have caused your condition. And finally, you must have a medical nexus from your diagnosing medical professional connecting the two.
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.
Getting a Diagnosis
The first step in getting VA disability compensation for your condition is getting a diagnosis from your doctor. In the case of keratopathy, your doctor will need to perform a physical examination. They may also need to run some additional vision tests or blood tests to rule out other causes.
Before you go to your appointment, it’s a good idea to put together a comprehensive medical history. This should include a history of any tumors, paralysis, injuries, or surgeries you’ve had. You may also want to include a family medical history, paying special attention to any eye conditions.
Veterans who can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disabilities are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
Proving a Service Connection
Once you have your diagnosis, you’ll need to prove a service connection for your condition. This should be a specific incident or set of conditions in your military service record that could have caused your condition. You can get your military service records through your eBenefits account or by going to your local VA office.
In the case of keratopathy, there may be several causes in your military record. If your eyes or face were injured, it could have caused exposure keratopathy or band keratopathy. Neurotrophic keratopathy can be the result of diabetes, which can also be a military service-connected condition.
Getting a Medical Nexus
With your diagnosis and service connection in hand, it’s time to get your medical nexus. This is an official statement from your doctor affirming that your condition was at least as likely as not caused by the event in your service record. If you get your service record before your diagnosing appointment, you may be able to get your medical nexus on the same day.
A medical nexus is meant to prevent veterans from claiming disability compensation for conditions that happen after their military service ends. For instance, if you get in a car accident five years after you leave the service and you get a concussion, you can’t claim VA disability for that.
However, if you had a history of concussions in your military service, you may be able to get compensation for traumatic brain injury.
The Nexus Letter is like the missing link to a successful VA disability compensation claim. In this video, one of our veteran’s disability lawyers explains the importance of the Nexus Letter.
How the VA Rates Disabilities
Once you submit a claim and the VA approves it, they will assign you a disability rating. These ratings are expressed as percentages and are meant to reflect how much your condition impacts your ability to live a normal, healthy life. The higher the percentage, the more of an impact your disability has.
Disability ratings range from 10 percent to 100 percent, with each being rounded to the nearest 10 percent. Your disability rating will be the primary determining factor in how much compensation you get from the VA each month. You may also be able to combine ratings for a few conditions to get one overall disability rating.
VA Disability Compensation Rates
As we mentioned, your disability rating will be the primary thing that determines how much money you receive from the VA each month. If you get a disability rating of 10 percent, you’ll receive $152.64 per month. If you have a 20 percent disability rating, you’ll get $301.74 each month tax-free.
For ratings above 30 percent, the VA considers whether you have any financial dependents when calculating your compensation rate. If you have no dependents and a 50 percent rating, you’ll receive $958.44 each month.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
If Your Claim Is Denied
If your claim gets denied the first time, don’t lose hope. You can always appeal your case, including taking it all the way up to the BVA in Washington, D.C., if needed. You can also appeal disability ratings you feel to be unfairly low on approved compensation claims.
If you do plan to appeal your case, it may be a good idea to hire a lawyer who specializes in veteran affairs to help you. They’ll be able to help you navigate the confusing world of deadlines, evidence submissions, and more. They can also give you insider tips and tricks to help you make your claim more successful or get you a higher rating.
Get Compensation for Your Keratopathy
Keratopathy can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. If you served in the military and you have any of these conditions, you may be able to get a secondary condition rating from the VA. You might also be able to get help from the VA if your keratopathy is causing you to go blind.
If you’d like help getting the compensation you deserve, get in touch with us at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm. We fight for veterans every day, and you don’t pay unless we win. Contact us today and start getting help with your keratopathy VA disability claim.
No, that is just part of the process. Many VA disability applications change symptoms and conditions as the C&P Exam and further evidence is gathered. The VA is always required to give you the rating that would be the highest according to your symptoms, not your diagnosis. Work with an experienced lawyer to make sure Uncle Sam does it right.
You can only get DIC benefits if his disability is what caused his death, but you may be entitled to back pay that he should have been receiving while he was alive. Every case is different, so let’s review yours and see. We’ll review it for free!