Veterans who have lost their sense of taste or smell and can prove a service connection or secondary connection are entitled to VA disability benefits.
Are you experiencing a problem with taste and/or smell? Some loss is common with age, and in the United States, 19% of the population over the age of 40 has some change in their sense of taste. Changes in the ability to smell are higher, at 23%.
While some change is normal, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. To qualify, your condition must be related to your time in service and affect your ability to work in some way.
As with any injury, meeting VA qualifications can be challenging. The VA does have a rating for loss of taste and smell. We are going to cover everything you need to determine whether you may qualify for a VA disability rating for taste or smell.
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In This Article about VA Ratings for Loss of Taste or Smell:
- Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities
- Reasons We Lose Taste and Smell
- Anosmia is Invisible
- Agenusia and Anosmia Disability Benefits Won on Appeal
- Establishing Secondary Service Connection
- The Importance of Obtaining VA Disability Ratings for Taste or Smell
- Application Process
- Disability Benefits
- Free Assistance
Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities
The Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) provides federal regulations for assigning disability ratings for determining VA disabilities. The rating establishes how much the condition affects the service member’s ability to work. This includes the ability to support themselves, their family, and perform normal everyday tasks.
The goal of this rating system is to make sure that the system is fair. For that reason, all changes to the system must be made by Congress. The VASRD sets forth different categories for disabilities:
- Musculoskeletal—joint injuries, bone injuries, arthritis, etc.
- Muscle—injuries that are relative to and affect the muscles of the body
- Sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, etc.
- Neurological—nerve pain, fibromyalgia, etc.
Taste and smell come under the sensory organs category. Each condition has a VASRD Code that is most appropriate for your condition and symptoms. Calculating the rating relies heavily on interpretation and the information medical examiners have in their records.
Reasons We Lose Taste and Smell
Ratings for taste or smell are only available if the service member has a definite, diagnosed mental or physical cause for the disability.
With taste, both the tongue and the salivary glands are active in creating taste. The salivary glands receive stimulation from the sense of smell. If you are unable to smell you will not be able to taste.
Often through our lives, we lose our sense of smell and taste when ill, such as with the common cold, or if we have allergies or hay fever. Loss of smell is also one of the symptoms of COVID-19. The loss from these conditions is temporary.
Permanent loss of taste and smell is also rare and usually results from something that obstructs the nasal passages. This may be a tumor, polyps, loss of the tongue, disease of the lining of the nose, bone deformities inside the nose or nasal septum, or damage to the brain or nerves.
Damage may be the result of stroke, brain disease, traumatic brain injuries, or injuries to the face or mouth that affect these areas. This includes exposure to chemicals that burn the inside of the nose and brain or head injury.
There are also mental conditions that may result in a loss of taste or smell. This includes depression and schizophrenia, but that is rare. It is common for the loss of taste or smell to cause other disabilities as well, which will receive their own separate rating.
The diagnosis is made by your doctor questioning you about your symptoms, examining your nose, and conducting a full physical examination. Depending on how you answer the questions your doctor may order a CT scan, MRI scan, an x-ray of your skull, or a nasal endoscopy to look at the inside of your nose.
Under the Pyramiding Principle for ratings, you can only receive a rating under the codes for loss of taste and smell if your condition does not fall under the ratings for a larger condition.
Anosmia is Invisible
Anosmia is classified as an invisible disability. This means you have a condition that others are unable to see, even though it may impact your ability to function in the way most people do. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states a person with a disability is someone who has an impairment that impacts their ability to perform certain functions or that causes difficulty in performing certain activities of daily living.
With Anosmia you have no sense of smell. Smells are a trigger for various aspects of our emotional life. Memories and feelings surface due to different smells, such as a certain perfume, freshly mown grass, the air after a rain, or the smell of cookies baking in the oven.
While Anosmia is not a serious condition in and of itself, it does have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life. Without the ability to smell you will need to make adjustments to everyday things in your life.
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In addition to favorable scents, anosmics are unable to smell things that impact their health and safety. This includes something as minor as sour milk or rotten food but includes life-impacting safety concerns such as gas leaks, smoke from a fire, or chemicals.
For these reasons you must be sure you have smoke alarms that are operational and must be extra careful with food storage and using natural gas. For safety reasons, electric appliances are preferable.
When a person has anosmia they will likely also suffer from ageusia, which is a lack of taste. When you are unable to taste food, it can trigger a lack of interest in eating. The result may be unhealthy weight loss, malnutrition, anger, and depression.
You may be wondering “can you collect disability for anosmia?” and the answer is yes! It may be a lengthy process but it is possible. You may not receive benefits on your first application, but awards have been made on appeal.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
Agenusia and Anosmia Disability Benefits Won on Appeal
In an appeal under Docket No. 04-43 155, it was found that a veteran’s diagnosis for loss of taste and loss of smell both relate to a service-connected disability. This case is an excellent resource for showing that applying and working through the appeal process is beneficial. Both the loss of taste and loss of smell were each found to be service-connected disabilities pursuant to 38 U.S.C.A. §§ 1110, 5103A, 5107 (West 2002) and 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.303 and 3.310 (2008).
The findings include granting service connection for a disability that results from an injury or disease that either happened or was aggravated by the person’s active service in the military pursuant to 38 U.S.C.A. § 110 and 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a). The findings further state that when a diagnosis for a disease is made after discharge it may be service-connected when the evidence establishes that development of the disease is relative to that person’s time in active duty pursuant to 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(d).
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Establishing Secondary Service Connection
This ruling establishes the ability to obtain a service connection on a secondary basis when the disability is found to be proximately due to or the result of an injury or disease with a connection to military service. When establishing a secondary connection you must show evidence that:
- A current disability exists
- That the current disability was either the cause of or aggravated by a service-connected disability
The VA is going to look over whatever you tell them about. While they are required to look for as much information as they can, they can easily overlook your symptoms. Tell them everything that you experience and work with a VA disability lawyer like Woods and Woods so that we can link your conditions together correctly.
In the matter undergoing appeal above, the veteran’s service records included a diagnosis and treatment for partial facial paralysis and respiratory problems. There were also residual conditions the veteran received service connection for, including facial nerve palsy and chronic bronchitis.
The decision on this appeal was made on April 29, 2009, on a veteran whose discharge from active duty was January 1971. At that time he had some problems with taste. The problems became progressively worse but it took several years of medical examinations and reports before he was able to obtain the records and classification of having a disability.
The Importance of Obtaining VA Disability Ratings for Taste or Smell
While an appeal makes it feel like you are climbing an uphill battle, it will be worth it when you win your claim. As long as you have followed all the steps of the appeal process and have not allowed your claim to lapse, if you win, you will receive an award of back pay that goes back to the filing date of your application.
This means if your application was made in 2020, but you receive a refusal, make sure your appeals are filed in the proper format and time requirement. This keeps your claim open. If you continue to receive denials, file timely appeals and receive an award in 2025, you will receive five years of back pay.
Your chances of receiving a favorable response the first time increase when you use a knowledgeable VA attorney. When you use a firm that does not require any money for assistance in filing your application, nor throughout the application and appeal process, you have nothing to lose. If you never receive a settlement, you will not owe any attorney fees. We only charge you when we win.
Applying for disability benefits is a lengthy process, and you want to make sure you complete the application and provide documents that will give you the best chance of approval on your first application. The process is difficult to the extent that even the Veterans Benefits Administration recommends you work with a professional who can assist you in the application process.
When you call us we’ll ask you a lot of questions to see what you qualify for. You’ll need to not have a dishonorable discharge and – at some point – have a disability confirmed by a doctor.
Additional qualifications are that you 1) became sick or suffered injuries during active duty or 2) your condition is from before your military service but your service made it worse or 3) the disability did not appear until after your discharge but is service-connected.
Once you determine you are eligible, you must gather any evidence you have to submit with your claim. You then complete your application and submit it with all supporting documents and any additional forms that may apply to you.
Evidence you must submit includes:
- VA medical records and hospital records relative to the disability
- Private medical records and hospital reports relative to the disability
- Supporting statements from persons who can provide more information about your condition
- DD214 or other separation records
After filing your claim the VA will review your application and documents. You may receive a request for additional documentation or the VA may request documents directly. You will receive a letter with their determination.
If you do not agree with the determination you may file an appeal. The instructions and deadlines for this process will be in the letter your receive.
When you receive an award for disability pay you will receive a monthly tax-free payment. The determination on the amount of your payment is made using your disability rating and the size of your family. Current monthly compensation rates are as follows.
VA Disability Ratings Table:
|Disability Rating||Monthly Payment (veteran only)|
* all ratings 30% and higher offer additional money for your spouse or any other dependents
The VA by law must match the percentage of cost-of-living increases that Social Security makes for their benefit recipients. For 2022 the cost of living increase was 5.9%.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, has been helping veterans obtain disability benefits since 1985. You may be unfamiliar with the VA disability ratings for taste or smell, but we are knowledgeable about the rating process and can help you with the jumble of paperwork necessary to prove your disability.
If you believe you are eligible for disability benefits call us at (866) 232-5777 to schedule a free consultation. We provide free assistance for applying and never charge you attorney fees upfront. If we do not win a settlement you do not pay.
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. 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.
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Complete loss of smell will only earn a 10% rating, so you may do better if that is just a symptom of another problem. Review all of your symptoms with a doctor to get a full and clear diagnosis.
There are obvious ways to medically prove it if you have injuries to your face or nose, but otherwise it’s hard to test. Scents like orange and vanilla (typical cleaner scents, right?) are the easiest and strongest to smell. Otherwise, you’ll want to work doctor to make a convincing case for a VA rating for loss of smell.