Veterans have a greater risk for developing dementia because of its connection to other service-related medical conditions, which include traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), strokes, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dementia describes a decline in your ability to remember, think, and communicate. The term “dementia” refers to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and several others. The severity of your dementia will depend on its type, its stage, and other relevant health factors.
This article explains the disabling impact of dementia on your life and how the VA rates dementia to determine your monthly compensation benefits. You will also learn about the causes of dementia, along with its different names and stages.
In This Article About Lewy Body and Other Types of Dementia:
- The Challenges of Dementia in Your Daily Living
- Understanding Dementia
- The Many Forms and Names of Dementia
- The Relationship Between Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease
- Diagnosing Dementia
- The Different Stages of Dementia
- The VA Rating Schedule for Dementia
- Other Benefits for Veterans with Dementia
- Representation for Your Dementia VA Disability Benefits
- FAQs about Lewy Body Dementia VA Disability
The Challenges of Dementia in Your Daily Living
Conditions like dementia that affect your mental ability can bring a wide range of challenges, depending on the severity and your lifestyle.
For some, dementia might only bring minor inconveniences to your life through occasional lapses in your memory or judgment that have little consequence. For others, dementia can be totally disabling and prevent you from accomplishing the simplest of self-care.
Your dementia may cause you to exit the workforce early because your condition poses a safety risk for you and others, or because your condition keeps you from doing your job. You may not be able to continue other leisurely pursuits that you once enjoyed because your dementia prevents you from remembering how to do them.
Dementia often requires you to be under the supervision of someone, and you might need help from others to carry out routine parts of your care, such as cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. For many, the increased reliance on others because of dementia can also be a challenge. You may have once been an extremely self-sufficient individual who now struggles to do the things that once provided a sense of identity. This can cause feelings of depression and other negative emotions.
For all these reasons, dementia is a challenging medical condition.
The brain is a complex organ. Naturally, the scientific and medical understanding of dementia is an area of ongoing research. However, the medical community has produced a lot of information in recent years on the causes, diagnosis, and classifications for the various forms of dementia.
The Possible Causes of Dementia
The specific cause of your dementia can often be difficult to pinpoint because of a wide range of factors that can contribute to its onset. In general, dementia is linked to the progressive death of brain cells that usually happens over time, which is why dementia tends to worsen as you age.
Certain events that might induce or cause the death of brain cells that contribute to dementia include:
In addition to the potential causes of dementia, other factors can also increase the severity of your condition, such as alcohol and drug use, sleep habits, and other lifestyle choices.
The Many Forms and Names of Dementia
Your formal diagnosis of dementia may involve several different types and names that all carry different meanings in the medical world. Dementia is also associated with other significant medical conditions and diseases that can affect the progression of your condition. Although the VA rates all these different types of dementia, you may be interested in understanding the unique characteristics of each type.
Lewy Body Dementia
This type of dementia is characterized by the presence of the alpha-synuclein protein referred to as a “Lewy body”. With Lewy body dementia, you may experience other symptoms in the early stages, such as disrupted sleep, hallucinations, and a decline in your physical abilities. These early symptoms distinguish Lewy body dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
If you suffer from disrupted sleep and hallucinations, talk to your doctor about being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. The earlier you are able to identify this condition, the better you are able to get treatment and assistance as it progresses.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that stems from two forms of nerve damage in the brain (neurofibrillary tangles and the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques). Doctors are unsure what exactly causes this nerve damage, but some believe it may be due to genetics.
Dementia that develops from this rare and fatal disease progresses much quicker than other dementias. Life expectancy is typically a year or less, and the cause of the disease is the abnormality of the prion protein within the body. Classic (CJD), as it is also known, has several clear ways to be diagnosed if the doctors know what they are looking for.
Another common type of dementia occurs because of blocked blood vessels. Often this dementia is a result of a stroke or another form of brain injury. Your doctor will already be looking for it if you have suffered from a stroke, but it could also be a sign that you’ve had a TIA or un-diagnosed stroke.
The defining features of frontotemporal dementia are drastic changes to your behavior, personality, and language. These changes happen due to the front and temporal lobes of the brain shrinking. The onset of this type of dementia may happen sooner than Alzheimer’s or other dementias (usually between the age of 40 and 65).
Some individuals may develop more than one type of dementia – resulting in mixed dementia. The most common combination of mixed dementia is Alzheimer’s paired with vascular dementia. However, it is possible to have other pairings (e.g., frontotemporal and Lewy body dementia). Your combination could influence which symptoms develop and when they develop.
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The Relationship Between Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects your control over your physical movement. Many people in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease are known to develop symptoms of dementia. However, some dementia and Parkinson’s experts believe these conditions are different expressions of a common issue – the body’s inability to process the alpha-synuclein protein.
Despite the possible connection between Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease as the same condition, doctors will diagnose you with one or the other. If you don’t experience dementia symptoms until a year or more after the initial diagnosis, then your doctor will usually describe your condition as Parkinson’s disease.
Your VA rating will be affected by this difference in that you’ll be rated for whichever rating would give you more money. If you can get a higher rating for your Parkinson’s conditions, that’s what you’ll receive VA disability for. If your VA rating will be higher if your dementia is rated, you’ll get a check for that. Avoidance of pyramiding will prevent you from getting rated for both, but you may have other un-related symptoms that can also get a rating.
The diagnosis of dementia usually involves a combination of physical, mental, and neurological tests gauging your cognitive abilities. A doctor may use other tests of the body (particularly the brain) such as MRIs, CT scans, and blood samples. Some of these tests are given to rule out other possible medical conditions that have symptoms similar to dementia.
The cognitive tests rely on your responses to questions and are intended to measure your ability to remember facts, such as the year and time of day. Other tests, like the mini-mental state examination, have several components meant to assess your thinking and comprehension abilities.
The common symptoms of dementia include:
- Short and long-term memory loss
- Confusion and anxiety
- Difficulty with tasks involving thinking and cognitive skills
- Changes in your behavior and personality
- Trouble with language (i.e., reading and speaking)
- A decrease in your motor skills and other physical abilities
Your symptoms of dementia could vary in frequency and form depending on the type and stage of your dementia.
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.
The Different Stages of Dementia
Dementia presents itself in different stages that are mostly characterized by the severity of the symptoms associated with dementia. Over time, your dementia can progress into different stages at varying paces depending on your unique circumstances. The stage of your dementia can also influence recommended treatments, such as medications or adjustments to your lifestyle.
- Mild cognitive impairment. This stage describes anyone who does not have any overt cognitive symptoms of dementia, although CT scans and other imagery might still show abnormalities in the brain. You may also experience the occasional forgetfulness that comes with aging.
- Mild dementia. Your forgetfulness and decline in mental abilities might be more frequent, but will not likely impact your independence at this stage.
- Moderate dementia. You may start to need help with certain parts of your life because your dementia results in more pronounced confusion and memory loss. You might experience major changes in your behavior, such as emotional swings and abnormal sleeping. You may also need help with your hygiene at this stage.
- Severe dementia. Your dementia might be classified as severe if you experience communication struggles, require constant care for eating and cleaning, and have a loss of motor skills.
Aid and Attendance Benefits
A&A benefits help veterans get more than just their VA rating.
The VA Rating Schedule for Dementia
The VA generally rates all types of dementia under the same rating schedule for mental health disorders using Diagnostic Code 9304. This is the code for a major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury.
The ratings for mental health disorders range from zero to 100 percent depending on the severity of your condition. Your rating for dementia is likely to increase after you apply for benefits, because dementia is a progressive condition that worsens over time.
VA Ratings for Dementia:
|VA Rating||Severity of Dementia|
|0% VA Rating||This rating is given when your dementia does not interfere with your work and other social activities or does not require constant medication.|
|10% VA Rating||A rating of 10 percent may apply in cases where your dementia only decreases your work or social function on rare occasions. This rating also applies if your dementia requires constant medication.|
|30% VA Rating||Slightly more frequent periods of decreased work and social activity might warrant a rating of 30 percent. Prove it is associated with symptoms such as depressed mood, panic attacks, anxiety, disrupted sleep, and memory loss. A 30 percent rating might be appropriate for dementia that is in its mild to early moderate stage.|
|50% VA Rating||This rating is appropriate where your dementia results in a reduced ability to perform work and social tasks because of more frequently impaired memory and cognitive ability. You may also have other noticeable shifts in your mood and behavior. Moderate stages of dementia might be good candidates for a rating of 50 percent or higher.|
|70% VA Rating||For this rating, the effect of your dementia will be evident in most aspects of your life including work, school, family, and other relationships. Other noted symptoms include obsessive compulsions that disrupt your daily life, unexpected mood changes of irritability and violence, ignoring your hygiene, and a general inability to adapt to stressful situations. You may start to need help from others to accomplish basic care such as eating and cleaning.|
|100% VA Rating for Dementia||A total disability rating for your dementia is appropriate in cases of major impairment of your thought process and ability to communicate. You may experience hallucinations, and your cognitive impairment can cause more permanent disorientation. You may have difficulty remembering basic facts about yourself or others. Dementia rated at 100 percent will likely require constant care from others.|
Even if your dementia is not rated 100 percent, you might have other medical conditions that can increase your overall disability rating and monthly benefits. You can use our VA disability calculator to see an estimate of your potential VA disability benefits.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
Other Benefits for Veterans with Dementia
Additional VA benefits exist for veterans with severe forms of dementia. You may be eligible for a special type of VA benefit known as Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) for aid and assistance if your dementia requires help from others.
SMC for aid and assistance is meant to help pay for common expenses associated with receiving care from others (e.g., nurses, equipment, home improvements for your safety). This benefit is given in addition to your other VA disability compensation. The amount of your potential SMC for aid and assistance depends on factors like your marital status and number of dependents.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about how SMC (Special Monthly Compensation) works to help you get more money for extra expenses related to your disabling condition every month.
Representation for Your Dementia VA Disability Benefits
Dementia is a broad term that can describe several different mental health disorders that qualify you for VA disability benefits.
Cases concerning dementia can be complex because of challenges in establishing the severity of your dementia. Your symptoms may vary from day to day, which can result in an underreporting of your symptoms during C&P exams and other medical assessments. Your symptoms can also worsen with little warning and cause a sudden need for adjustment of your disability rating.
Woods & Woods is a family-owned law firm. Our attorneys and staff are available to assist you with your application for VA disability benefits for dementia or other mental health disorders. If you were recently denied a claim for benefits, our attorneys at Woods & Woods are also experienced in the VA appeal process too.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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FAQs about Lewy Body Dementia VA Disability
No, not for that. They should simply change the specific diagnosis but still give you the appropriate VA rating. If they make a mistake, give us a call. The VA is required to properly diagnose and rate any service-connected disability you have, whether you labeled it right on your application or not.
You would have to prove that the two conditions are not related, which is unlikely. On the positive side, if you hvae dementia symptoms, your Parkinson’s rating should go up higher, because you have more severe symptoms. If your disability is so severe that you can’t work, call us right away to look into TDIU for Parkinson’s or dementia.