If you’ve reached this page looking for peritoneal adhesion VA disability, also known as abdominal adhesion VA disability, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone.
VA disabilities like sleep apnea show up in a sleep study. Diabetes and heart disease can show up through numerous tests. Even PTSD can be diagnosed rather quickly by a trained psychiatrist. Peritoneal adhesions are different and you want to make sure you have plenty of professionals on your side when you apply for an abdominal adhesion VA rating.
In this article about peritoneal adhesions and secondary conditions:
- How Do Veterans Know If They Have Peritoneal Adhesions?
- Living with Peritoneal Adhesions
- Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Peritoneal Adhesions
- Proving Disability and Qualifying for VA Disability for Peritoneal Adhesions
- Things That Seem Like Peritoneal Adhesions but Aren’t
- Getting Help from Professionals
- Woods and Woods has Helped Thousands of Veterans Get Disability
How Do Veterans Know If They Have Peritoneal Adhesions?
Some conditions that affect veterans that are easy to diagnose and treat – and they are hard to deny. Then there are those that are more difficult to prove. The VA is more likely to underrate or deny such conditions. Unfortunately, because peritoneal adhesions are almost invisible on most diagnostic scans, it’s hard to prove that you have them – and even harder to show the impact they have on your life.
Most imaging scans don’t show peritoneal adhesions at all. X-rays are still one of the most common methods of diagnosing adhesions for VA disability claims. Even this is complicated because x-rays don’t show the adhesions themselves but rather the abdominal obstructions that result from them. The severity and prognosis for those obstructions will determine the type of benefit you are entitled to.
When partial obstruction is clearly visible on your X-rays and is accompanied by severe and debilitating symptoms, you should fall somewhere near the top of the scale and be eligible for a 50% VA rating. On the other end of the spectrum, if your case is deemed mild, you might get a 0% rating.
Further complicating matters is that your adhesions must be directly related to your service. Since adhesions are caused by abdominal injuries, surgery, and some types of infections, this can be very hard to prove.
Nevertheless, there are tens of thousands of veterans who have suffered abdominal trauma or required surgery as a result of their service who might fall into the category of people who are predisposed to the condition.
If so, they face a daunting trifecta: proving that they have adhesions, that they are debilitating, and that they were acquired as a result of service (service-connection).
This is an “invisible” condition that is diagnosed through medical history, secondary conditions, and symptoms. In addition, pain is both subjective and very capable of rendering patients completely helpless. You can see why so many veterans need help with their claims.
Living with Peritoneal Adhesions
Peritoneal adhesions are not a well-known condition. Most people don’t know this condition exists unless it affects them or someone they care about. But those that are affected can suffer severe symptoms and outcomes.
Sometimes, people who have adhesions never know that they are there. In other cases, they might start suffering from symptoms years after the surgery or trauma that triggered them. Symptoms may start off mild and become increasingly severe. They may come and go, or they may one day disappear. There’s really no way of predicting what each person will experience.
Those that do experience moderate-to-severe symptoms find their life and lifestyle are dramatically impacted. Some women with adhesions become infertile. Many patients with symptoms have abdominal pain that can be so severe it is hard to stand up straight, sometimes for days on end. If there is a partial or complete blockage of the intestinal tract, sufferers may experience nausea, vomiting, bloating, constipation, and in very severe cases, death.
One of the hardest things about peritoneal adhesions is getting an accurate initial diagnosis. Many of the symptoms mimic other conditions, like IBS, liver conditions, or appendicitis. It can take years to get an accurate diagnosis.
Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Peritoneal Adhesions
Sometimes, the people we work with only discover that their symptoms are caused by adhesions when they approach us for a nonspecific VA rating for digestive system issues. They know they have stomach pain, they know it is affecting their ability to live and work, and they know that it is likely related to their service. What they aren’t entirely sure about is the reason for their symptoms.
The overwhelming majority (about 40%) of people who suffer from peritoneal adhesions have had either abdominal trauma or a surgical procedure in the lower abdomen, the pelvic region, or both.
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The rest of the people who get peritoneal adhesions often get them as a result of infections like appendicitis, peritonitis, or cholecystitis, or as the result of a foreign object in their abdomen. In the non-military world, that is usually the result of objects left behind during surgery. In the military, it could also be the result of shrapnel.
Some women might also get adhesions from pelvic inflammatory disease.
Whatever the cause (and there are, as you can see, many potential triggers), the result is the same: bands of scar tissue form in the abdominal cavity, causing obstructions, blockages, and the displacement of organs. These bands of scar tissue may cause a loop in the bowel, which then causes a partial blockage in the intestinal tract. Most of the symptoms patients experience are because of that blockage.
Up to 22% of infertility cases in women are also believed to be caused by adhesions, but again, the proof is hard to come by.
This is why, for the purposes of the VA rating, doctors assess the bowel and other organs on an x-ray. It’s not an exact science, but it’s the only somewhat definitive way to measure how much pain and discomfort a patient may be suffering. Even so, it’s largely theoretical and not exactly an accurate way to measure the impact of this condition.
You would imagine that a condition that can cause permanent pain-based disability, infertility, and even death would have effective treatment options, but that’s not the case. In fact, because adhesions are most often caused by surgery, additional surgery to attempt to correct the problem would likely make the condition worse.
Treatment for adhesions is usually focused on managing symptoms and monitoring secondary conditions. In the most severe cases, laparoscopic surgery may be attempted. When there is a serious intestinal blockage, life-saving surgery might be required to clear it.
But most patients are given medication to manage pain and other symptoms like bloating and cramping. They are advised on lifestyle changes and how to monitor their symptoms. In many cases, they are faced with a lifetime of recurring symptoms of varying degrees of severity.
When you consider all of this, it does seem reasonable that people who are suffering from serious complications due to peritoneal adhesions should routinely score high on the VA rating calculator. That isn’t always the case.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Proving Disability and Qualifying for VA Disability for Peritoneal Adhesions
When it comes to peritoneal adhesions and the VA disability application process, it is very often a literal and figurative gut punch.
Because the process of diagnosing peritoneal adhesions is so dependent on medical history, vague symptoms, and x-rays that are primarily concerned with secondary conditions, many people fall through the cracks in the system.
The criteria for evaluating adhesions is based on visually assessing the degree of blockage of the intestinal tract, combined with a history of abdominal surgery, trauma, or specific infection.
However, based on medical research that is publicly accessible, we know that abdominal blockages are not the only cause of disability due to adhesions. The same scar tissue that causes abdominal blockages can cause organs to adhere to each other or to the abdominal wall. It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that can result in excruciating pain.
Still, because it doesn’t show up as a blockage on an X-ray or scan, and it’s not something that can be clinically measured, it might not even be a factor in the disability rating.
Your Essential Guide to VA Disability Ratings for Gastrointestinal Problems
Getting a VA rating for a GI problem can be difficult because they are hard to diagnose and verify.
Things That Seem Like Peritoneal Adhesions but Aren’t
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to get a diagnosis for peritoneal adhesions, let alone an appropriate VA disability rating, is that this diagnosis is usually a “last resort” when all other causes of abdominal pain and discomfort have been ruled out.
It’s something of a chameleon condition, in that it looks like so many other things. Because it can start suddenly, even years after the surgery, trauma, or infection that caused it, it may take some time to make the connection. Very often, people who are eventually diagnosed with adhesions will start their journey to benefits looking for information on a nonspecific VA rating for stomach issues.
Here are some of the other conditions that have the same symptoms as adhesions:
Some people may initially think they need to pursue a gastritis VA disability rating because they are suffering from nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Gastritis can also be acute onset, just like the symptoms of adhesions, and sufferers often experience bloating and discomfort.
The cause of gastritis is almost always the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, though gastritis can also develop as a result of lifestyle factors, including NSAIDS, alcohol, and cocaine. The pain caused by gastritis is also in the upper abdomen rather than the lower abdomen and pelvic area. When these symptoms occur, many people first suspect gastritis, and only after inflammation of their stomach is ruled out do they move on to less-common conditions like adhesions.
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.
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is another potentially debilitating abdominal condition and one that might lead people to wonder how to prove IBS for VA disability. That’s another exceedingly troublesome question because IBS is also a condition that doesn’t have any definitive diagnostic testing. Diagnosis is based on symptoms, anecdotal information, and medical history.
However, while IBS can certainly cause constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and even nausea, it’s not related to surgery. It’s often treatable and manageable by making lifestyle changes. Adhesions cannot be managed in the same way.
Sometimes, people who are eventually diagnosed with and receive VA benefits for adhesions start out thinking that they have ulcerative colitis.
This condition mimics many of the symptoms that people with adhesions experience, and the pain is often in the lower digestive tract, which puts it in the right “geographical” area.
However, ulcerative colitis is not the result of surgery or scarring and can be caused by a number of other conditions, including genetic issues, immune disorders, and environmental factors.
Getting Help from Professionals
As you can see, when it comes to getting a VA rating for stomach issues, the waters are muddy, and the first major problem is even figuring out what is causing your condition.
Once you have been diagnosed with peritoneal adhesions, the next big problem is to prove that the condition and symptoms are debilitating enough to affect your life profoundly. Most of that hinges on an x-ray that doesn’t show the full picture.
To say this is hard would be an understatement. That’s why so many people either don’t know where to start or fail on their first attempt to navigate the process. Just one misstep along the way can result in an inaccurate disability rating or a complete denial of benefits.
Your whole application and the outcome depend on a doctor being able to see a blockage on an X-ray, which even medical professionals admit have limitations that may make your diagnosis less accurate.
The good news is that if you have had a claim denied or you believe your rating is incorrect, you can appeal.
A behind-the-scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
If you find the process hard to navigate yourself or you have already been denied and want to appeal, seek the assistance of an attorney who specializes in VA benefits and appeals.
We understand that your x-rays don’t tell the whole story and that even if you don’t meet the exact clinical definitions for your VA rating code, your condition can still have a catastrophic impact on your life and ability to work. We support clients in exactly this situation by challenging everything from the rating itself to the X-rays that it is based on.
Woods and Woods has Helped Thousands of Veterans Get Disability
Woods & Woods has been fighting to get veterans the disability benefits they deserve since 1985, and we are ready to fight for you, too. Don’t take your VA peritoneal adhesions rating decision lying down. You know just how much this is affecting your life and livelihood.
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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With something as tricky as Peritoneal adhesions, you are going to have a C&P Exam for a proper diagnosis. If they discover you have something like IBS or other gastrointestinal problems, they’ll change your application and rating to reflect those conditions. The key is proving a service connection. If they find that you have a condition that is not service-connected, they’ll deny your claim.
You can print out this article and bring it to them while you go over your symptoms. Keep a journal of your symptoms, their severity, and the date. Also, list how they affected your ability to work or conduct a normal life. When you call us, we’ll use all of that with our on-staff doctors to write up your complete VA disability application.