Many different health conditions veterans may face can result in low testosterone levels. When the body does not produce enough testosterone, men may experience fatigue, decreased sex drive, difficulty achieving or maintaining erections, and reduced muscle mass and strength. While the VA does not specifically give a low testosterone VA rating, many related conditions are eligible for VA disability benefits when the veteran can prove a service connection.
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Testosterone is responsible for many important functions in the body – from regulating levels of sex drive to maintaining bone density and muscle mass. Hypogonadism refers to the condition when the body doesn’t produce enough of this hormone. The VA does not consider hypogonadism a ratable condition, although it can be related to aspects of military service. Low testosterone can be a symptom of several health conditions or a side effect of treatments that can be service connected and eligible for VA benefits.
In this article about VA disability for low testosterone levels:
- What is low testosterone?
- Low testosterone in veterans
- Is there a low testosterone VA rating?
- Service-connected conditions caused by low testosterone
- Service-connected conditions that cause low testosterone
- Traumatic brain injuries and low testosterone
- Prostate cancer and low testosterone
- Chronic pain and low testosterone
- Diabetes and low testosterone
- Hypothyroidism and low testosterone
- Sleep apnea and low testosterone
- Epididmitus and low testosterone
- PTSD and low testosterone
- Low testosterone due to medicine side effects
- Other conditions and low testosterone
- Special monthly compensation for low testosterone
- How Woods and Woods can help
What is low testosterone?
Low testosterone, sometimes referred to as “low T” or diagnosed as hypogonadism, occurs when a man’s body does not produce enough of the testosterone hormone. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a symptom commonly associated with low levels of testosterone, but when the hormone is low, it can lead to a range of symptoms such as fatigue, decreased sex drive, reduced muscle mass and strength, increased body fat, mood changes, and decreased cognitive function. Some men may also notice less facial hair.
Low testosterone in veterans
The demanding nature of military service exposes service members to both physical and psychological stress. These stressors, including combat situations, sleep deprivation, prolonged deployments, and traumatic experiences, can have an impact on hormone production, specifically testosterone.
Veterans may also face health conditions resulting from their service and the treatments provided for those conditions, which can further affect testosterone production. A 2016 research study of 796 male soldiers revealed that 17% exhibited testosterone levels below the normal ranges established by the Army Medical Department.
Is there a low testosterone VA rating?
There is no VA rating specifically for low testosterone or hypogonadism. Some BVA decisions refer to the condition as a “lab finding” or a symptom of an underlying condition. However, veterans who experience low testosterone as a symptom of a service-connected disability may develop other conditions eligible for a VA rating.
For example, veterans with service-connected traumatic brain injury (TBI), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may experience low testosterone related to their condition. They are not likely to receive a separate VA rating for low testosterone or hypogonadism, but they may develop conditions related to low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or epididymitis. These conditions could be service connected on a secondary basis.
Service-connected conditions caused by low testosterone
Below are some health conditions that veterans may develop as a result of low testosterone. If a veteran’s low testosterone was caused by a service-connected disability, the veteran may be eligible for additional benefits for these conditions.
Erectile dysfunction and low testosterone
Low levels of testosterone can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED), which is the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. This condition is common for veterans – one 2013 research study showed that ED is about three times as prevalent in veterans than in the general population.
While not all veterans with ED have low testosterone, and not all veterans with low testosterone will experience ED, they are commonly linked, as low testosterone can also be a symptom of ED.
ED is often a secondary service connection to other health conditions caused by military service.
Atrophied testicles and low testosterone
Atrophied testicles, testicles that have shrunk in size, can be caused by hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone. Other causes of atrophied testicles that may be service connected are infectious diseases, trauma, or injury. Cancer treatments are another possible cause of testicular atrophy.
Like with ED, these conditions can also be connected in reverse: low testosterone can be a symptom of atrophied testicles.
Osteoporosis and low testosterone
Low testosterone in veterans can cause osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. Testosterone helps build and maintain bones, but when levels are low, bone density decreases, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Low testosterone can also cause muscle weakness and reduced physical activity, which are important for maintaining bone strength. Without enough exercise and muscle strength, bones become more vulnerable to osteoporosis.
Service-connected conditions that cause low testosterone
Many disabilities, or treatments, can affect the endocrine system, the system responsible for regulating a body’s hormones, including testosterone. Below are some of these health conditions which can cause a veteran’s low testosterone.
Traumatic brain injuries and low testosterone
The occurrence of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can significantly influence hormone production, including testosterone. When the brain structures responsible for regulating hormone production are damaged, disruptions can occur. Symptoms of TBIs, including low testosterone, can appear years after the initial injury.
Prostate cancer and low testosterone
Some veterans with prostate cancer receive hormone therapy treatment. The treatment aims to reduce testosterone levels in the body to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Unfortunately, that also means low testosterone levels and the symptoms that accompany this condition.
Veterans exposed to the tactical herbicide Agent Orange during their service may be eligible for disability benefits for prostate cancer as a presumptive condition. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals were also found in Agent Orange, which has also been associated with low testosterone levels.
Chronic pain and low testosterone
Chronic pain has several connections to low testosterone levels in veterans. First, pain itself can have an impact on the endocrine system, influencing the production and regulation of hormones, including testosterone. These disruptions can contribute to decreased testosterone levels.
Additionally, veterans dealing with chronic pain often receive opioid medications for pain management. Prolonged opioid use can further affect testosterone production. Opioids can interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances and potentially lowering testosterone levels.
Chronic pain can result in reduced physical activity levels and have a psychological impact contributing to the development of other health conditions that may further influence testosterone levels.
Diabetes and low testosterone
Diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, can disrupt the endocrine system and affect hormone production and regulation.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are closely linked, and obesity itself can contribute to hormonal imbalances, including decreased testosterone production. Obesity-related factors such as excess body fat, insulin resistance, and inflammation can contribute to lower testosterone levels.
As with prostate cancer, veterans who develop type 2 diabetes resulting from Agent Orange exposure can receive VA disability benefits on a presumptive basis.
Hypothyroidism and low testosterone
Hypothyroidism can also affect metabolism and energy production leading to a potential increase in body weight. Obesity can contribute to hormonal imbalances, including decreased testosterone production.
As with prostate cancer, veterans who develop hypothyroidism from Agent Orange exposure can receive VA disability benefits on a presumptive basis.
Sleep apnea and low testosterone
Men with obstructive sleep apnea are at a greater risk of experiencing low testosterone levels. Sleep apnea disrupts the endocrine system, including hormone production and regulation, which can affect testosterone levels.
Epididmitus and low testosterone
Epididymitis is a health condition characterized by the inflammation of the epididymis, a coiled tube behind the testicles that stores and carries sperm. The inflammation and infection in the epididymis can lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness, and discomfort in the scrotum.
Severe or long-lasting epididymitis can result in testicular damage or complications, such as testicular abscesses or chronic pain, potentially affecting testicular function, including testosterone production.
PTSD and low testosterone
Veterans are a population prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More than 1.3 million veterans receive compensation from the VA for PTSD.
PTSD is associated with a disruption of the endocrine system, which plays a crucial role in stress response and hormone regulation. Chronic stress and trauma experienced in PTSD can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can impact testosterone production.
Low testosterone due to medicine side effects
Side effects of certain medications can sometimes cause low testosterone levels in veterans. Opioid medications for pain management can interfere with the endocrine system, which regulates testosterone production.
Corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone or hydrocortisone, commonly prescribed for various conditions, including autoimmune diseases, can affect the endocrine system. Prolonged or high-dose use of corticosteroids can suppress testosterone production and lead to hormonal imbalances.
Anti-androgen medications are used to treat prostate cancer and other conditions requiring testosterone suppression. These medications directly block testosterone production.
Other conditions and low testosterone
Other conditions that may lead to low testosterone include:
- Inflammation from sarcoidosis, which can lead to hormonal imbalances
- Genitourinary tuberculosis, which can result in inflammation, scarring, and damage to the testicular tissue can impair the production of testosterone
- Bacterial sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can cause infections in the reproductive organs and disrupt testosterone production
- HIV and AIDS can affect the endocrine system and the production and regulation of hormones
Special monthly compensation for low testosterone
Some of the above health conditions, and others related to low testosterone, may result in the loss of, or loss of use of, the penis or testicles. Even if you still physically have the organ, if it doesn’t perform the job it’s supposed to, the VA will consider it a loss of use of the organ.
The VA provides special monthly compensation payments, called SMC(K), to veterans who have had to deal with the loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ due to military service. SMC(K) payments are given in addition to your monthly disability compensation based on your rating. You may even be able to get SMC(K) payments even for conditions that only get you a 0% disability rating.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Not directly. There is no VA rating specifically for low testosterone or hypogonadism. The VA considers this health condition a symptom of an underlying condition. To receive VA disability benefits for low testosterone, veterans must demonstrate that their low testosterone is due to a service-connected condition, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which have been connected to low testosterone.
Low testosterone, sometimes referred to as “low T” or diagnosed as hypogonadism, occurs when a man’s body does not produce enough of the testosterone hormone. When the body does not make enough, men may experience a range of symptoms such as fatigue, decreased sex drive, difficulty achieving or maintaining erections, reduced muscle mass and strength, increased body fat, mood changes, and decreased cognitive function.