As a veteran, you may experience a number of conditions, including physical issues such as diabetes, or mental-health related ones like PTSD.
While you might wonder if there’s a connection between diabetes and PTSD, the VA rates each of these conditions in its own unique way.
Read on to learn more about a possible connection between the two and what you can do about it to get the benefits you deserve.
In this article about PTSD and diabetes for veterans:
Veterans and Diabetes: Important Facts
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to use or produce insulin. When the body cannot make or respond to insulin, sugar remains in the bloodstream and can cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket.
Over time, people with diabetes suffer from a number of conditions including circulation problems, failing eyesight, and issues with the kidneys. As high blood sugar continues to be an issue, it can damage vital organs as well as the blood vessels in the body.
According to the CDC, over 34 million Americans have diabetes, and over many millions more are at risk of developing it in adulthood. For disabled American veterans of the Vietnam war, exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to the disease.
Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include fatigue, hunger, weight loss, blurry vision, and excessive thirst. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s crucial to have your blood sugar levels checked, and your A1c levels checked every three to six months.
Type 2 diabetes is the name for the condition in which the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at a normal level. Almost all adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, and most are also at risk of being overweight or obese.
Approximately 25 percent of VA patients have diabetes. It’s also a major cause of blindness and amputations for many VA patients.
Diabetes, Obesity, and How it Affects Your Disability
In some cases, diabetes develops as a result of someone being overweight or obese. According to the VA, obesity is not considered a qualifier for disability on its own. That’s because obesity is not an “in-service event,” which means most American veterans are not obese as a result of something that happened while in service.
Obesity typically develops over time, and it can be caused by a wide range of factors. Some of these might include a poor diet, genetics, or other factors that tend to make obesity secondary to other health issues.
The Department of Veterans Affairs states that obesity is not considered a disability. However, it can be the result of a service-connected disease or injury. If it creates a serious impairment, it may be considered an extra-schedular impairment.
Veterans can face the same challenges qualifying for disability if they are obese as they might if they are diabetic. It’s crucial to be able to prove that there’s a link between your service and your diabetes and/or obesity.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about one of the most important parts of a winning veteran’s disability claim: the nexus letter.
Communicating with the VA
In order to apply for a disability claim, you likely need to go through a rigorous process of filing paperwork and dealing with the VA. You should obtain a copy of your C-file, and locate any and all references you can find to any early symptoms you had while serving in the military.
Always obtain and keep your medical records together, including from the time you served up to the present day. This crucial information can serve as proof that there was a timeline when your symptoms first appeared while in service. If you were diagnosed with diabetes after your service is over, these records can help prove that it developed earlier on.
The key is proving that your service and your diabetes are somehow connected. Since this disease develops over time, you’ll need to be able to show that there was a chain of health-related events that led to your diagnosis.
While VA obesity guidelines may change, currently, they don’t state that this alone is typically enough to be approved for disability. You should be able to make a clear connection between your obesity, your diabetes, and your service.
If you want to demonstrate that your diabetes is secondary to another condition, you’ll need to show that you have an existing service-related injury. You must prove that the injury is what caused your diabetes, which can be extremely challenging.
Diabetes and PTSD: Is There a Link?
PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is quite common among veterans. At least 500,000 veterans who have served in modern wars have been diagnosed with PTSD. So, what is the PTSD and diabetes connection?
Suffering from this condition (PTSD) can lead to a number of lifestyle changes including smoking, overeating, and high levels of stress. All three of these factors can contribute to the development of diabetes.
While it may seem obvious how diabetes and PTSD can be linked, there is still no concrete scientific evidence to prove it. However, obesity is twice as common in patients with PTSD as those without, which means that it is certainly a contributing factor. Obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes within the general population, with a rate of approximately 44 percent.
Obesity isn’t the only thing that can contribute to diabetes. Other factors that may increase the onset of diabetes include alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle. All of these factors are closely linked to patients who have been diagnosed with PTSD.
A recent study showed that veterans who effectively treat their PTSD are at a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study examined almost 1,600 medical records of veterans who had received treatment for their PTSD and who had regular examinations where they rated the severity of their symptoms.
Many participants had treatment for PTSD at the beginning of the study and rated their PTSD symptoms from moderate to severe. After a period of two to six years, 105 veterans developed diabetes, but those who received effective PTSD treatment saw a 49 percent reduction in their likelihood of developing diabetes.
The VA Rating formula for mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders is explained by one of our veteran’s disability lawyers in this video:
PTSD and Your Health
Aside from the many mental effects, PTSD can also have a profound effect on physical health, too. In fact, many veterans who are dealing with PTSD may experience a myriad of other health issues besides diabetes.
Heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and sexual dysfunction have all been linked to PTSD. One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is chronic stress, which can cause a ripple effect when it comes to your health.
When you undergo chronic stress, it can cause an increase in blood sugar that could directly lead to depression, obesity, and diabetes. By controlling your habits and behavior such as smoking, heavy drinking, and being sedentary, you may be able to prevent diabetes.
Most people who have both PTSD and diabetes suffer from chronic stress and are often obese. It’s not clear whether one starts before the other, but what is clear is that these two conditions are often closely linked together.
In addition to the direct health implications, many veterans are prescribed anti-depressants to help treat their PTSD. Many connections are shown between taking antidepressants and obesity, which means this can also lead to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Extreme stress can also alter the body’s hormones and cause you to produce more cortisol. Increases in this “stress hormone” are often associated with weight gain that can easily lead to obesity.
Injuries, Obesity, and Diabetes
Veterans with PTSD and diabetes may suffer from both directly as a result of a service-related injury. If you were hurt while in combat or during any time of your service, it can cause a myriad of negative effects on your health and well-being.
If your injury causes you to have limited mobility or a limited range of motion, this can eventually lead to obesity. Lack of exercise and constant pain can make it difficult for you to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight.
Over time, weight gain can lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. While it may seem clear that the injury, obesity, and diabetes are connected, you have to prove it with evidence for the VA to award your case.
If a veteran can show that their PTSD was connected to their service, the VA will give him or her a disability rating. This rating is based on the earnings lost due to PTSD, and the VA will use medical evidence to determine the severity. A C&P exam is required, and the results will go to a VA adjudicator to apply the rating for PTSD.
However, in many cases, diabetes is considered a “secondary condition.” Diabetes is a physical condition, while PTSD is considered a mental health condition. While the connection between the two seems obvious, showing an indisputable link between the two can seem like an uphill battle.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
How the VA Rates PTSD
The VA uses a General Rating Formula to determine the severity of PTSD. This formula takes mental health symptoms and translates them into a numeric rating. For PTSD, the ratings are 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% based on your symptoms.
If your symptoms fall between the 30 and 70 percent range, most veterans receive a rating of 50%. If you express or demonstrate suicidal ideations, you should receive a rating of 70%. It’s important that you make your symptoms clear and get all documentation of your visits and medical records.
A rating that is not listed on the PTSD scale is something called IU, or unemployability. Since many veterans have PTSD, it causes them to be unable to work, which is considered IU by the VA. If this applies to you, make sure you file for IU in order to get the full benefits possible.
All veterans who have PTSD should make sure they’re getting the correct rating in order to receive the highest level of benefits they’re entitled to. Make sure that you advocate for yourself and consider hiring an attorney who specializes in veteran’s disability claims and appeals.
If you feel that you’ve received a low rating from the VA, you can appeal the decision. It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the complicated process of filing for your benefits and dealing with the appeal procedures. Appealing a lower rating for PTSD and diabetes can be a challenging process that requires a professional to help you through it.
How to get 100% TDIU for PTSD from the VA according to a veterans disability lawyer:
Coping with PTSD
It’s clear that veterans coping with PTSD may also be at higher risk of diabetes. Proving this to the VA can be a difficult and often exhausting process, so it’s best to try and treat your PTSD if you can before it turns into something that can affect your physical health.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to mitigate and reduce the negative effects of PTSD on your mental health and your life. Finding a network of support and enrolling in group therapy has been shown to be a highly effective form of treatment for many veterans.
Remember to practice self-care if you suffer from PTSD. Whether it’s taking a daily walk, journaling, or getting a support animal, these small things can help you feel better mentally.
The sooner you develop healthy coping strategies, the better. Daily exercise and a healthy diet can reduce your chances of becoming obese, which may prevent the development of diabetes.
Get the Help You Need
While a number of studies and statistics show a clearer link between PTSD and diabetes, it may be difficult for many veterans to receive the benefits they deserve. Remember to document your visits to healthcare professionals and keep track of all medical records.
With help from an attorney, you can appeal any decisions you disagree with and start working toward a better life.
To learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation, visit our website, or contact us today.
We’ll work with you to make the strongest link (nexus) to what happened while you were in the service. If we can prove that the obesity was caused by the PTSD, it doesn’t matter how long it took to happen. It still counts.
No, let’s start working on your claim today. You may find that the conditions that led to your diabetes diagnosis should already be getting money from the VA.