Are you a veteran recently diagnosed with a condition like chronic sarcoidosis? Then you may be eligible for more than $3,621.95 per month in disability benefits.
Chronic sarcoidosis of the lung is an approved condition that also has a presumptive service connection for qualifying veterans exposed to burn pits, which may help you when applying for VA disability benefits.
You may be wondering: “How can I get VA benefits for my sarcoidosis? What exactly does ‘presumptive service connection’ mean? How will it help when filling out a VA disability benefits application?” We will help you answer these questions and more.
In this article about chronic sarcoidosis VA disability:
- What is Chronic Sarcoidosis?
- Symptoms of Sarcoidosis
- Getting the VA to Diagnosis your Sarcoidosis
- Going for Sarcoidosis Treatment
- Is Sarcoidosis a Death Sentence?
- Cause or Etiology of Sarcoidosis
- Are There Risk Factors for Sarcoidosis?
- Sarcoidosis and Navy Service
- What Research Found About Service-Connected Sarcoidosis
- All About Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung
- Four Stages of Chronic Lung Sarcoidosis
- Chronic vs. Non-Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung
- When is Sardiocosis a Presumptive Condition?
- What is the VA Rating for Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung?
- Let Us Help You File for VA Disability for Chronic Sarcoidosis
What is Chronic Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition, meaning it affects the immune response. It occurs when small inflamed cells bunch together inside a tissue. This forms an abnormal cell mass called a granuloma.
Granulomas have been known to form in any tissue of the body, including skin, eye, and heart tissue. However, they’re most commonly found in the lungs and the lymph nodes. Once a granuloma forms, it often causes symptoms that dissipate over time. Some people report experiencing no outward symptoms at all.
With chronic sarcoidosis, granulomas tend to reoccur over the course of your life. Worse, they may not go away like they do in less severe cases of sarcoidosis. This can cause debilitating symptoms that can affect your VA disability rating.
Symptoms of Sarcoidosis
Depending on where the granuloma is located, symptoms of sarcoidosis vary. The most commonly reported symptoms are dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Others have reported additional symptoms like:
- Patches of bumps on the skin
- Teary eyes or blurred vision
- Swollen or painful joints
- Enlarged lymph nodes (in the throat, armpits, or groin)
- Pain in the extremities
- Kidney stones
- Arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat)
- Hearing loss
More severe symptoms can include heart failure, meningitis, seizures, dementia, and even psychosis.
Getting the VA to Diagnosis your Sarcoidosis
Unfortunately, diagnosing sarcoidosis isn’t very clear cut. The symptoms of this disorder are the same as or similar to many other more common illnesses, so your physician will have to do a thorough physical and verbal examination of your medical history and current symptoms.
However, your physician will have a few diagnostic tools up their sleeve. Here are the tests you may have to undergo before receiving your sarcoidosis diagnosis:
- High-Res CT Scans
- Breathing Exams
The exact diagnostic tool your physician uses will depend on the type of tissue affected. For example, they may use bronchoscopy and breathing exams to diagnose lung sarcoidosis.
Going for Sarcoidosis Treatment
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for sarcoidosis currently. For people without chronic sarcoidosis, the disease progression may slow and even improve over time. Treatment may not be necessary for these people at all since mild sarcoidosis causes very few symptoms.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case for those with more chronic symptoms. But there is good news! Physicians have figured out ways to treat some of the worst symptoms of this disorder using medication and lifestyle changes.
If you have chronic sarcoidosis, your physician will more than likely prescribe you to corticosteroids. They help ease inflammation while also combatting the fatigue and cough often seen in individuals with this illness.
Your doctor may also prescribe something as simple as a few tweaks to your daily habits. For example, a sarcoidosis treatment diet with lots of fruits and veggies may help reduce sarcoidosis-related inflammation.
Drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking are also common recommendations for people with sarcoidosis.
Is Sarcoidosis a Death Sentence?
Not normally. Many people with sarcoidosis never know they have the disorder because their symptoms appear briefly before mysteriously disappearing for good.
Still, estimates show that 20-30% of people do experience permanent lung damage from sarcoidosis of the lung. Others undergo a complete break down of the organ infected with granulomas.
Chronic sarcoidosis is extremely rare. In cases of chronic sarcoidosis affecting the brain, heart, or lungs, this illness has been known to cause death in some extreme cases.
Cause or Etiology of Sarcoidosis
So far, researchers aren’t 100% sure how sarcoidosis develops. There’s speculation that sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disorder since inflammation is its hallmark feature. Clearly, we need more research on chronic and non-chronic sarcoidosis.
Are There Risk Factors for Sarcoidosis?
Women between the ages of 20 and 40 are most likely to be diagnosed with sarcoidosis. People of African-American, Scandinavian, German, Irish, or Puerto Rican descent have a greater risk of developing sarcoidosis than other ethnicities.
Veterans who served aboard pre-1970s military aircraft carrier ships also had a higher risk of developing this disorder.
Sarcoidosis and Navy Service
Sarcoidosis is a relatively rare disorder, affecting only 4 in every 10,000 people. That’s why it was so surprising when researchers uncovered an alarmingly high rate of chronic sarcoidosis in military service members.
Before the 1970s, chronic sarcoidosis diagnoses in military service members were at an all-time high. This led researchers to start looking into the connection between the two.
What Research Found About Service-Connected Sarcoidosis
When the United States Navy and the CDC looked into the prevalence of sarcoidosis and military service, they found something surprising. Military members who served on aircraft carrier ships had a significantly higher rate of sarcoidosis of the lung.
These results prompted further research into the connection between sarcoidosis and military service. From an analysis of military members who served between 1975 and 2001, researchers discovered that exposure to certain deck-grinding abrasives was correlated with sarcoidosis.
The connection extended beyond servicemen alone. Military-related chronic sarcoidosis of the lung was also found in barbers, mechanics, dry cleaners, and even mess management workers aboard these aircraft carriers.
Due to this research, the VA has named sarcoidosis as a presumptive condition if you are diagnosed within one year of your discharge from the military.
All About Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung
Lung sarcoidosis is also the most common form of sarcoidosis, accounting for up to 90% of diagnoses. It’s no wonder that we have more research into this illness than sarcoidosis affecting other organs.
For example, we now know that chronic sarcoidosis of the lung occurs in four stages.
Four Stages of Chronic Lung Sarcoidosis
The first stage of lung sarcoidosis is known as lymphadenopathy.
During this phase, granulomas begin to cluster in your lymph node tissue. Note that even though this illness is technically a disorder of the lungs, it begins with the lymph nodes.
That is, until the second stage: lymphadenopathy and pulmonary infiltrates.
During this second phase, inflamed cells spread to the lungs. It’s important that this stage features inflammation in both the lungs and the lymph nodes. However, we don’t yet understand how the inflammation spreads between organs.
Stage three of lung sarcoidosis is pulmonary infiltrates.
As its name suggests, the third phase occurs when inflammation is only present in lung tissues. Early cases of lung sarcoidosis may revolve back and forth between phases one and three, or skip a phase altogether.
While phases one through three are milder in symptoms, phase four is when this illness can really do damage to your body.
That’s because the fourth stage is pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis occurs when lung tissue is scarred by the effects of prolonged inflammation. This damage is completely irreversible and can cause future complications.
Chronic vs. Non-Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung
People with non-chronic sarcoidosis may experience only a single flare-up of granulomas in their lifetime. For individuals with chronic sarcoidosis, though, this isn’t always the case.
Symptoms usually arise and stick around. Otherwise, they go through cycles, known as active and non-active phases. During the active phase of chronic sarcoidosis, granulomas cluster in your lung tissue. This is when symptoms usually appear. It’s also the time when you’ll be moving through the four stages we mentioned above.
The non-active phase occurs when granulomas stop actively growing. They may remain dormant until the next active phase or these lumps may decrease in size.
Symptoms may still occur during the non-active phase. A presence or lack of symptoms usually depends on the size of the granuloma and whether pulmonary fibrosis has occurred.
Proving service-connection is the most important part of your VA disability claim.
When is Sardiocosis a Presumptive Condition?
Before you apply for VA benefits for sarcoidosis, you may want to explore whether there could be a presumed connection between your service and your condition, as it eliminates the need for a medical nexus proving the two are related. A presumptive service connection means that there’s proof of military service causing or aggravating certain conditions.
In this case, there is a presumptive service connection if you are a Gulf War or post-9/11 veteran who was exposed to toxins from burn pits during your service and has since been diagnosed with sarcoidosis.
What is the VA Rating for Chronic Sarcoidosis of the Lung?
As we mentioned above, you must receive a 10% or greater VA rating for chronic sarcoidosis in order to qualify for disability.
The VA calculates sarcoidosis ratings as follows:
- 100% – sarcoidosis complicated by heart failure or treatment-resistant pulmonary disease
- 60% – sarcoidosis complicated by pulmonary issues requiring corticosteroid treatment
- 30% – sarcoidosis complicated by persistent symptoms requiring corticosteroid treatment
A 0% rating means you have been diagnosed with chronic sarcoidosis, but the VA can find no symptoms that impair your ability to function.
If you receive a 0% rating or if your disability claim is denied, you may be able to fight it. Learn more about how an attorney can help you appeal the decision.
Let Us Help You File for VA Disability for Chronic Sarcoidosis
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic sarcoidosis, your military service may be to blame. Can you prove you developed your illness because of your service? If so, you have the right to claim VA disability benefits.
Filing for VA disability with chronic sarcoidosis can be a confusing and lengthy process. Yet, it doesn’t have to be when you work with our attorneys at Woods and Woods.
Looking for a VA disability benefits attorney to represent you in your case? Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.