About 18 million Americans have taken on the call to serve this country and are now Veterans. That whopping number makes up approximately 7% of the US adult population.
That’s an impressive number of people willing to serve their country. Sadly, some 4.7 million of those veterans have service-related disabilities. That’s 26% of all veterans.
These disabilities come in many forms and get care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the VA. In just the last few years, the VA has recognized an eye condition called Macular Degeneration for veterans.
Prior to this change in policy, many veterans suffering from Macular Degeneration had been denied VA benefits. While the VA will now offer support and services, many veterans may miss out on the care they need for this condition.
Read on to learn more about Macular Degeneration and what you should do as a veteran to get the help you deserve from the VA.
In this article about veterans with macular degeneration:
- What Is Macular Degeneration?
- Signs of Macular Degeneration
- Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
- How the Veteran’s Administration Rates Eye Conditions
- C&P Exams for VA Benefits
- Direct Service Connection
- Secondary Service Connection
- Qualifying for VA Healthcare Services
- Making a Claim to the VA
- What to Do If Your Claim Has Been Denied?
- Help for Veterans Dealing With the VA
- Get the Help You Need With Macular Degeneration VA Disability
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration, sometimes called age-related Macular Degeneration, is a condition of the eye. In the back of the eye, in the center of your eye’s retina, there’s something called a macula. In Macular Degeneration, the macula begins to deteriorate, causing vision problems.
Since the macula is located in the center of the retina, Macular Degeneration can cause central vision loss. This means those suffering from the condition may have vision impairment or lose vision when looking straight ahead. This can make day-to-day activities complicated. Doing things like driving, reading, watching television, even recognizing faces becomes a challenge. Interestingly, Macular Degeneration doesn’t impact your peripheral vision or what you see out the side of your eye. It only impacts what you see in your central vision or what you might see when looking straight ahead.
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans. It impacts some 11 million Americans. There are two main forms of Macular Degeneration.
Dry Macular Degeneration
Of the two forms of Macular Degeneration, dry Macular Degeneration is the most common. 85 to 90% of all cases are dry macular degeneration. In dry Macular Degeneration, patients get little yellow deposits inside their macula. These yellow deposits are called drusen.
First, the drusen build-up in your macula may not impact your vision at all. Over time, though, they can get bigger and there can be more of them. When this happens, this build-up of the drusen can start to impact the person’s vision.
Your macula has light-sensitive cells. As the drusen build-up, the light-sensitive cells get thinner and thinner. Eventually, they become atrophic and die. At first, a person might experience blind spots in their central vision. Over time, though, this can lead to vision loss in central vision.
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Wet Macular Degeneration
In the wet form of Macula Degeneration, you have blood cells that grow from underneath the macula. In the wet form, these blood cells will start to leak and the leakage goes into the retina. Blood cells leak fluid and blood.
When these abnormal blood cells start to leak into the retina, the vision starts to become impaired. First, lines of things that were once straight lines become wavy. The fluid and blood that’s leaked can cause blind spots in the vision. It can also eventually lead to some vision loss.
Leakage onto the retina also causes scar tissue. This scar tissue can build up over time and can eventually, again, cause a permanent loss of vision in central eyesight.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
Signs of Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration is a slow disease, often referred to as a progressive disease. This can make it hard to spot early on. Changes in the eyes suffering from Macular Degeneration often happen subtly. It can be even more challenging to spot when it happens in both eyes at the same time. People often assume their eyesight is just worsening without realizing it’s something beyond age causing it.
Symptoms related to Macular Degeneration might include:
- Reduction in Central Vision
- Distortion of straight lines in your field of vision
- Need for brighter lighting
- Difficulty adapting to low lighting
- Vision blurriness
- Trouble with recognizing faces
- Retinal damage
Often, at least early on, the symptoms from dry Macular Degeneration and wet Macular Degeneration are present in the same way. A person might get visual distortions and reduced central vision.
Additional symptoms of wet Macular Degeneration might include:
- Blurry spots in the field of vision
- Dark spots in the center of your vision due to leaking fluids or bleeding blood vessels
- Hazy vision
Symptoms of the wet version of this disease will worsen and become more pronounced more quickly than with the dry version.
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.
Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Macular Degeneration. There are, however, some good treatment options. Often they can stop or slow the progression of the disease. Treatment can sometimes also help a patient get back some sight that has been lost.
One treatment is the use of anti-angiogenesis drugs. These drugs help to prevent those abnormal blood vessels from forming behind the macula. They can also help prevent blood vessels from leaking, preventing wet Macular Degeneration from starting.
Another bonus of these drugs is that they can help gain back some sight that has been lost. Doctors may need to prescribe more than one round of treatment to see results.
Doctors can also use laser therapy to treat this disease. The laser would go in and remove abnormal cells that could create problems in the macula.
Other treatments include the use of aids to assist when vision starts to deteriorate.
How the Veteran’s Administration Rates Eye Conditions
Until recently, the VA wouldn’t recognize Macular Degeneration and therefore wouldn’t provide benefits for it. Because that has recently changed, more veterans are able to get help with their Macular Degeneration.
The Veteran’s Administration has Macular Degeneration as part of its eye conditions. The VA breaks conditions into 15 different body systems. It puts eye conditions under 38 CFR § 4.79, Schedule of Ratings – Eye.
The VA Uses Three Different Eye Measurement Tools to Rate Eye Conditions
Central visual acuity is the first measurement. The VA uses a basic eye chart for this measurement. It measures the ability to distinguish shapes and details of objects at a given distance.
The second measurement is called the visual field. This measures everything that can be seen when looking straight ahead at a fixed point. The measurement will see what the eye picks up in a range of directions from that fixed point.
Finally, the VA measures the muscle dysfunction of the eye. This measures how well the eye moves around to pick up sight. This will be measured similarly to how they measure the visual field.
Why does all this matter? It matters because the VA will use these measurement tools to evaluate a veteran’s eyes and the impact the Macular Degeneration is having on their sight.
In this video, on of our VA compensation lawyers explains the difference between a 100% VA Rating and TDIU.
C&P Exams for VA Benefits
If you seek benefits for an eye issue, including but not limited to Macular Degeneration, the VA will require you to have a Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination.
They hope to achieve two things with the C&P examination. First, they need to establish the VA rating they would assign to the condition. They will also need to determine a service connection for the condition. More on both of these shortly.
The VA requires that all C&P examinations be performed by either a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. If you attempt to have this certification done by someone who isn’t an optometrist or ophthalmologist, the VA will not accept the rating.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Direct Service Connection
One of the key aspects of getting benefits for Macular Degeneration for a veteran is establishing a direct service connection. This means that any illness or injury to the eye can be shown to be service-connected.
Veterans have to demonstrate a few things to show a direct connection to service. These steps include:
- An eye condition current diagnosis
- An in-service event, injury, or illness related to the eye condition
- Linking the current eye condition to an in-service event, injury, or illness from a medical expert
If the veteran can get a direct connection established, the VA will assign a disability code. This is the key to getting benefits.
Secondary Service Connection
Don’t despair if you can’t make a direct connection to Macular Degeneration or other eye conditions. A veteran can get what is called a secondary service connection. This is when there’s already an eye condition with a direct connection and it causes or aggravates the eye, creating a secondary service condition.
It’s highly likely that Macular Degeneration would fall in this category since it often presents itself later in life. Here are some of the medical conditions that might help to make a secondary service connection for an eye problem like Macular Degeneration:
- Diabetes mellitus may lead to diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts
- Sarcoidosis may lead to optical neuropathy
- Lyme Disease may lead to retinal vasculitis and optic disc edema
- Cerebrovascular accidents (stroke) may lead to blind spots or vision loss
- Rheumatoid arthritis may lead to thinning of the cornea
Medications and other treatments for direct service conditions can also lead to secondary conditions. To get benefits for the Macular Degeneration, a veteran would need to establish this direct or secondary condition connection for the VA to provide benefits.
Qualifying for VA Healthcare Services
A veteran who already qualifies for health care services through the VA can also get some or all of the vision care services through the VA too. As part of these benefits, the VA will provide routine eye exams and preventive vision testing, such as testing for glaucoma.
Eyeglasses can also get covered under certain circumstances for the veteran.
Making a Claim to the VA
What should you do if you’re a veteran who has a Macular Degeneration diagnosis? You need to make a claim with the Veteran’s Administration to seek benefits for your care. As you already know, the Veteran’s Administration doesn’t always make filing a claim for benefits easy.
It can be frustrating and often feel like you’re being put off or turned away without explanation. Frankly, it can involve some hoop-jumping to get the VA to pay attention.
As you start the process of filing a claim for your Macular Degeneration, you might want to seek the help of an attorney right away. Getting an experienced veterans’ rights attorney involved right from the beginning may help get you your benefits more quickly.
Furthermore, since Macular Degeneration is a relatively new eye classification for the VA, your attorney will know what you need to achieve success with the VA when you file your claim.
What to Do If Your Claim Has Been Denied?
If you’ve already filed your claim and been denied, don’t despair just yet. In fact, it’s not uncommon to get denied by the VA for benefits. It certainly doesn’t mean you won’t get any benefits.
First, you’ll want to see the reason for the denial. The VA may need more information or the paperwork might be incomplete. Even if those things are in place, you can appeal their decision and provide additional information to get the claim approved.
This is the stage where you likely need the legal advice of an attorney who works with the VA and knows how the system operates.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
Help for Veterans Dealing With the VA
We specialize in helping veterans at Woods and Woods, LLC. We know it can be a challenge to get the benefits you deserve. When you decide to work with us, you get a legal team that focuses solely on the rights and benefits of veterans.
No matter what stage you’re at while trying to get benefits for your Macular Degeneration, we can help you. Our expertise can help use the changes in status for Macular Degeneration with the VA to get you some medical support and services.
Get the Help You Need With Macular Degeneration VA Disability
Macular Degeneration can be a frustrating disease and nobody wants to consider the possibility of losing their eyesight. With the right treatment and medical care, you can slow the progression and even gain back some of your eyesight.
If you’re frustrated dealing with the VA and trying to get benefits for your Macular Degeneration or other eye conditions, let us help you. Contact us today to set up a free legal consultation about your case.
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 better serve disabled veterans 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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Frequently Asked Questions
Maybe. If you’re blind, you’ll want to apply for VA disability for whatever condition will give you the most money. The VA is required to give you the rating that will give you the most money if there are multiple possible causes. Give us a call at and we’ll be happy to help you through the process of applying for VA disability, even if you are already blind. (866)232-5777
No, you should apply for VA disability right away and not wait. If you can get an early diagnosis for macular degeneration, you’ll have a better chance of slowing its advancement. You can also take advantage of that time to apply for VA disability since that takes a long time also.