Pseudotumor Cerebri can get worse with veterans that have sleep apnea and other service-connected disabilities. See if you need to add this to your VA Disability claim.
Are you a veteran with a diagnosis of Pseudotumor Cerebri? Did you know that less than one person per 100,00 Americans has this condition? While uncommon, it’s challenging for those living with pseudotumor cerebri (PTC).
Veterans of any armed services may qualify for disability if they have PTC. Keep reading to learn more about this disorder. You will also find a guide to help you in filing VA disability claims or appeals.
All About Pseudotumor Cerebri and Veterans
- What Is Pseudotumor Cerebri?
- What Causes Pseudotumor Cerebri?
- Pseudotumor Cerebri Symptoms
- Pseudotumor Cerebri Diagnosis
- Pseudotumor Cerebri Treatment
- Do You Qualify for a Medical-Vocational Allowance?
- Understanding VA Disability Ratings
- Defining a Service Connection
- VA Diagnostic Code 8100
- VASRD 9434
- VA rating for Tinnitus Related to Pseudotumor Cerebri
- Filing A VA Disability Claim
- You Have the Right to Appeal the VA Decision
- Living with Pseudotumor Cerebri
- Are You Looking for Help with a VA Claim or Appeal?
What Is Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Pseudotumor cerebri is also called idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This describes a condition that presents with increased intracranial pressure (ICP). Increased ICP means that there’s extra fluid in the brain which causes the higher pressure.
This can lead to many issues affecting your vision, mental problems, and even hearing.
What Causes Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Many times, experts can’t identify the specific cause of PTC. If there’s no known cause it’s designated as idiopathic.
One condition that has an association with PTC is traumatic brain injuries (TBI). For veterans, this may result from combat conditions including improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The concussive force of the explosion causes pressure inside the skull resulting in PTC.
Some medications have an increased association with PTC as well. These include lithium, tetracyclines, steroids, oral contraceptives, and vitamin A derivatives. Some chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and acne medication also have causative links.
PTC occurs more often in women than in men. Pregnant women and all individuals who are overweight have a higher risk. The risk is also higher if you have chronic kidney failure or thyroid conditions.
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Pseudotumor Cerebri Symptoms
PTC symptoms may be acute or chronic. Acute symptoms appear suddenly and are often associated with a head injury or stroke. Chronic symptoms develop over time and may result from underlying health conditions.
A person may experience headaches, migraines, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. Some people complain of pain in their neck or back. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears that pulsates, is another common symptom.
Visual changes describe some of the most concerning symptoms. These changes can range from light flashes to blurry, double, or decreased vision.
One of the most serious visual consequences of PTC is papilledema. This is swelling that develops around the optic nerve which connects the brain and eyes. Increased pressure on this nerve can cause it to shrink leading to blindness.
More evidence is showing that PTC can also have an impact on memory and cognition. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for an evaluation.
Pseudotumor Cerebri Diagnosis
Since the symptoms of PTC are the same as those for brain tumors, physicians use tests to make a diagnosis. A lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, checks the ICP level. They test the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for infections and other causes of swelling.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans create a picture. This allows the physician to look for signs of tumors or other causes of the increased ICP.
An eye exam will test for visual acuity and signs of papilloedema.
Pseudotumor Cerebri Treatment
The goal of PTC treatment is to decrease the ICP level. Second, the plan of care works to decrease symptoms such as tinnitus, migraines, and other pain. A top priority is to prevent reduced vision or blindness.
Management of PTC many include:
- Restricting fluids and salt
- Surgically placing a shunt to decrease the buildup of spinal fluid
- Surgical placement of a stent to open narrowed venous sinuses that are blocking CSF flow
- Weight loss
- Surgery to reduce the pressure on the optic nerve
- Treating underlying conditions such as vitamin A overdose
- Frequent vision checks
Medications may include diuretics such as furosemide or spironolactone. Topiramate or acetazolamide decreases the production of CSF to control the ICP. Corticosteroids help reduce swelling.
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.
Do You Qualify for a Medical-Vocational Allowance?
If medical issues limit your work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD). Veterans may also receive disability benefits for service-connected medical problems. You can get both VA disability compensation and SSD insurance at the same time. They are separate agencies and require separate applications, however.
The purpose of the SSD benefit is to provide benefits to pay everyday living expenses. One way to qualify for these benefits is via a medical-vocational allowance. If PTC had decreased your vision to 20/200 or worse, you meet the medical criteria for SSD benefits.
Can Veterans get VA disability and Social Security? Yes. One of our VA compensation lawyers explains how it works in this video:
Understanding VA Disability Ratings
The VA reviews the applications. Next, they assign a VA Disability Rating for qualifying veterans. The disability rating is a percentage that reflects the severity of your condition.
For example, a 0 percent rating means that the veteran doesn’t experience any negative effects to their work or or lifestyle. A 100 percent rating means the disability impedes a veteran’s ability to work or to even provide self-care. This rating determines the amount of VA Disability Benefits the veteran receives.
The ratings are rounded to the nearest ten percent. For example, 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent.
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Some people have more than one condition. In this case, the VA calculates a Total Combined VA Disability Rating. This will never exceed 100 percent since no one is more than 100 percent able.
Veterans with PTC may not receive a disability rating for this specific diagnosis. Yet, you can get a rating for associated symptoms. This may include migraines, visual damage, tinnitus, or depression.
It may be difficult to get 100% TDIU from one disability, but here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about common disabilities that add up to a 100% combined rating.
Defining a Service Connection
Service-connections describes a medical condition that’s directly related to your military service. This includes any disease or injury during your time in the military even if you weren’t on duty at the time. It also includes conditions that became worse due to your military service.
It’s vital that the incident, medical exam, and treatment are clearly documented. It must appear in official records, such as medical records, during your time in the military. There is an exception for presumptive diagnoses, such as exposure to Agent Orange.
Other evidence that can help are pictures of you and the others in your unit. Sometimes those pictures can show the beginning of symptoms that led to your disability. Buddy statements, lay statements, and medical records from your family doctor or school are also helpful and valid forms of evidence.
The VA assigns diagnostic and Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) codes. These serve to document your symptoms and condition. This plays an important role in assigning your disability rating.
VA Diagnostic Code 8100
For example, VA diagnostic code for migraines is 8100. The following describes the disability rating percentage for different migraine levels.
- Very frequent prostrating and prolonged attacks which prevent work: 50 percent
- Prostrating attacks occurring once a month for several months: 30 percent
- Prostrating attacks occurring once in a two month time for several months: 10 percent
- Infrequent attacks: 0 percent
The information included in the evidence provides the rationale for the assigned rating.
VASRD 9434 describes major depressive disorders. A 100% rating indicates that the person has a total occupational and social impairment. Symptoms may include:
- Significant problems with communication or thought processes
- Ongoing delusions or hallucinations
- Excessive inappropriate behavior
- Being at risk for harming themselves or others
- Difficulty performing activities of daily living
- Memory loss
- Disorientation to time, place, or situation
A 70% rating denotes an impairment related to work and social situations. Examples may include:
- Obsessive rituals
- Suicidal ideations
- Intermittent illogical, irrelevant, or obscure speech
- Almost constant depression or panic that impairs independent function
- Diminished impulse control
- Spatial disorientation
- Lack of personal hygiene and appearance
- Trouble adapting to stressful situations
- Lack of ability to initiate and maintain effective relationships
Individuals with reduced work and social reliability and productivity receive a 50% rating. Their symptoms may include:
- A flat affect (little to no emotional response)
- Stereotypical or circumstantial speech
- More than one panic attack per week
- Trouble understanding and following complex instructions
- Impaired short- and long-term memory
- Altered judgment, abstract thinking, motivation, and mood
- Trouble establishing and keeping effective social and work relationships
A 30% rating is given for those with occasional problems with work and social situations. They can usually function at work, but at times, they become inefficient or unable to perform. This may be due to depression, anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks that happen less than once a week.
VA rating for Tinnitus Related to Pseudotumor Cerebri
The VA Diagnostic Code 6260 denotes a diagnosis of tinnitus and receives a 10 percent rating. It is the most common VA disability for a lot of reasons.
The reason why it applies to Pseudotumor Cerebri is that sometimes the additional pressure in your head pushes on parts of your ear canal. This can cause tinnitus even without exposure to loud noises.
This type of tinnitus can actually go away if the Pseudotumor Cerebri is treated. As the pressure goes down, the ear canal goes back to its normal shape and your ringing in your ears goes away. If you are seeking a VA rating for symptoms surrounding Pseudotumor Cerebri, you should add tinnitus to the list because hearing problems for veterans are so common.
Filing A VA Disability Claim
To begin the VA disability claim process, you must complete and submit an application. Before you start the application, it’s often wise to speak with a VA disability lawyer. They have experience in submitting claims and know what the VRAs look for.
It’s also important to gather all forms and evidence first. You will need your DD214 or other separation papers. Collect all documentation about your medical condition or injury.
This includes medical records from the VA or private medical visits. Make sure that your provider documents all your symptoms.
You may include letters from family, friends, clergy, or law enforcement to show the impact on your life. Also, gather documents showing your income and net worth.
After speaking with an expert, collect your evidence, and download the application. It’s best not to try and complete this on a smartphone or tablet because the forms are too big. If you work with us, we help you fill it all out and we track down evidence for you.
Ask your attorney if you should file a Fully Developed Claim or a standard claim. There are pros and cons to each choice. We can help you decide which is best for your situation.
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You Have the Right to Appeal the VA Decision
If you disagree with the VA rating, you have the right to appeal that decision. Again, speak to a VA Disability attorney for advice before beginning the process.
Begin by filing a written intent to appeal with the local VA office or medical center. If you’re appealing a VA decision dated on or after February 19, 2019, there are three options:
First, you can file a Supplemental Claim. This is an option if you have new or relevant evidence not already submitted.
The Certification Board will review the paper briefs. You may or may not schedule a hearing. The Board will decide to deny, grant, or send your claim back to the VA Regional Office.
Second, if you disagree with the decision, you can appeal to a Veterans Law Judge. This type of judge is part of the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA).
If you still disagree with the BVA decision, your third option is to submit new evidence. The appeal will then go to a Higher-Level Review.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers discusses how supplemental claims are used in VA disability appeals:
Living with Pseudotumor Cerebri
As described in the symptoms associated with PTC, you may have problems with daily life. Increased ICP can cause headaches, migraines, dizziness, and memory problems. You may also experience decreases in your vision.
This may make it difficult to work, attend social events, or even take care of yourself. Many people ask, “can I drive with intracranial hypertension?” It depends on your unique symptoms. You will need to talk with your healthcare provider to determine if it is safe for you to drive. Also, find out if you may operate machinery.
It’s important to visit your doctor for routine checkups. This will allow them to watch for any increase in symptoms.
Are You Looking for Help with a VA Claim or Appeal?
If you experienced any head trauma during your time on active duty, watch for signs of PTC. Having the condition diagnosed and treated early may make living with pseudotumor cerebri easier.
Woods and Woods attorneys are experts in VA disability benefits. We’ve helped thousands of veterans get the settlements they deserve.
You won’t pay any fee unless you win your case. Our reasonable fee agreements allow injured and disabled veterans to get the help they need. We’re here to help veterans as well as surviving spouses of deceased service members.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation.