STDs can be an embarrassing topic, especially if you contracted the sexually transmitted disease while you were in the service. But if that’s when you got it, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation.
In 2018, 4.7 million veterans, or about 25% of all veterans, received compensation due to a service-connected disability. The majority of these vets are from the post 9/11 generation. There are 833 conditions related to service that allow vets to claim disability. While it is controversial, STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, are among those on the list.
Read on for more information on how you may be able to claim VA benefits due to an STD you or your deceased spouse contracted in the service.
In this article about getting VA disability for STDs:
- The Most Common Forms of Disability Due to Service
- How Long Have Veterans Claimed VA Disability for STDs?
- Does How an STD is Contracted Make a Difference When It Comes to VA Claims?
- Contracting an STD Without Sexual Activity
- Claiming VA Disability Claims for STDS: Which Are on the List?
- Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
- Genital Warts
- Other STDs the VA Will Consider as a Disability
The Most Common Forms of Disability Due to Service
Firstly, it should be noted that STDs connected to service are not anywhere near the top 10 reasons why vets seek disability. In fact, one of the most common VA disability claims due to service is hearing loss or a constant ringing in the ear.
Other common disabilities due to service include scarring, migraines, neck injuries and the limited ability to flex joints. Additionally, PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is incredibly common. The VA disability claims list is always growing, but currently, these are the most common.
Because these types of injuries are the most common, those who have STDs connected to their service may think they are not entitled to any kind of help.
Does it matter how the man or woman got the STD? What about the type of STD?
Let’s explore those questions in the rest of the article.
How Long Have Veterans Claimed VA Disability for STDs?
Before 1972, a veteran could not claim benefits for contracting an STD while serving. Prior to that year, it was stated that a veteran who contracted an STD while in service had committed an act of wilful misconduct. Changing the rule marked changes in the way the United States perceived sex and some argue it was an outcome of the era of hippies of free love.
After 1972, veterans have been able to claim benefits due to STDs they’ve contracted during their time in the service. They may even be able to claim disability for an STD contracted prior to 1972. It was only that the law was changed in that year.
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Does How an STD is Contracted Make a Difference When It Comes to VA Claims?
No, which is part of the reason STD Disability benefits is controversial. If you contracted an STD due to your own negligence, such as sleeping with someone without using protection during your time in the service, you might still receive compensation. In fact, there are veterans who receive claims who acknowledge that their STD is rooted in their own negligence or poor judgment. Still, the VA doesn’t investigate, as long as we can prove that the STD was contracted while you were enlisted.
Why is the VA so lax about how the STDs were contracted? Well, there are a few reasons, and when looking at it in a bit more depth, it does make sense why the VA would allow vets to receive compensation for service-related STDs.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
Contracting an STD Without Sexual Activity
While yes, a good chunk of those who get these benefits contracted the STDs on their own, there are other reasons why people may have developed STDs. Many reasons are beyond their control.
There are many ways that people can contract STDs, and some of them are beyond the scope of consensual sexual activity.
For example, in some cases, unfortunately, rape can occur within the military. While it may happen between two members of the same company, it can also happen as an act of violence if someone is taken as a prisoner of war. During these situations, it is clear that it is not the veteran’s fault.
Additionally, there may have been incidents of sexual coercion or making a person feel as though they have to participate in sexual activity to keep their role or to appease someone. While this may fall into a gray area between consensual and non-consensual, it still leaves room for an individual to catch an STD.
Finally, there are ways you can spread STDs without having any sort of sexual congress. Kissing can spread STDs, especially herpes. While this may still count as sexual, keep in mind that even kissing someone on the cheek may spread the virus.
You may also spread STDs through contaminated bedding or towels, as well as sharing these. In situations, especially on the front line, where supplies are short, you may find yourself sharing them with a friend. Your friend may, without your knowledge, be carrying an STD, as such, using the towel or sleeping on the bedsheets may pass them between you.
Sharing razors, which can be common among men, especially if someone simply forgot theirs, can cause the spread of an STD. This is due to the fact that it can pierce the skin, giving the infection a great place to nestle itself.
Another way that STDs may pass between one another is by doing intravenous drugs. Drug use is more common than people like to admit among troops, especially those who are in the line of duty. And sometimes, vets are in places where they may not have access to clean needles. As such, it is very easy to spread diseases like HIV and hepatitis C between people while doing intravenous drugs.
Because the VA does not ask how you contracted an STD, you may be entitled to benefits if you contracted one during your service.
Let’s take a look at the STD diagnoses that you may claim disability benefits for if they affect your life enough to do so.
Claiming VA Disability Claims for STDS: Which Are on the List?
VA payment rates, and claims, are predicated on how much the STD still affects your life today. If the STD was something you had in 1995 and you took antibiotics and it cleared up immediately, the VA won’t grant you benefits. The VA grants compensation based on how much it affects your daily life.
The VA disability rating for chlamydia is very low, or almost non-existent, for instance, because most people who have it do not have symptoms.
Let’s explore which STDs the VA will give you benefits for, assuming it affects your life today. For example, if you’re here to answer the question, “What is the disability rating for HPV?”, it is usually zero due to the fact that it does not usually have symptoms. You may, however, receive some benefits if cancer is found to be caused by an untreated HPV infection.
Please bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Only a lawyer who knows your personal case history will be able to tell you if you have a good chance of receiving VA benefits if you decide to apply. That’s why you should take us up on our free and private phone consultation at (866)232-5777
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are bacteria that can affect both men and women. They can infect the urethra, the throat, the rectum, and cervix. A mother who has gonorrhea can pass it along to their child.
While it is most often symptomless, Gonorrhea can go on to leave you infertile. It can spread to other areas of the body, and cause a specific form of arthritis. Untreated chlamydia can cause PID (pevlic inflammatory disease). As it spreads, it can cause other disabling conditions and problems.
VA disability for gonorrhea is often granted to those who have let their gonorrhea go untreated, either due to ignorance that they had the disease or procrastination. The disease can be cleared up easily via a round of antibiotics. But if the individual is not proactive, it can lead to arthritis or issues with the urinary tract. That can render someone a percentage disabled, according to the VA.
Although not a common reason to seek VA benefits, it has been granted in the past. In fact, one Texas veteran receives $350 a month for genital warts contracted in the mid-1980s, as he cited that this was a major cause of his depression.
Genital warts are amongst one of the few STDs that can be passed on through sheets and clothing. But this can only happen if this is shared during an outbreak of warts.
If left untreated, syphilis can become a very serious illness. Syphilis can be transmitted through vaginal sex as well as anal sex. Individuals can also contract it through oral sex.
The first stage of syphilis, known as primary syphilis, is when an individual has sores at the site of infection. Secondary syphilis is when the infection has not been treated and spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, a rash, and sometimes a fever.
If the infection is not treated at this stage, it can turn to tertiary syphilis, which is very serious. It can spread to your organs, including the heart and the brain. You can also develop arthritis associated with syphilis, as well as dementia. Both of these are separately categorized on the VA claim form.
HIV, which can later develop to AIDS, is a disease that can be very serious. Luckily, today, doctors have developed medication that can reduce the symptoms and damage of HIV/AIDS. These medications have made it a largely manageable condition. Manageable, however, should not be mistaken for curable, and once someone becomes infected with HIV, it will be with them for the rest of their lives.
It was first identified in 1981, and the panic over the STD ensued.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, in which the body attacks the cells that are supposed to fight off infection. If left untreated it will progress to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. With the progression to AIDS, the body cannot fight off any infection, and it will lead to death. Tragically, a person with AIDS can die of almost any type of infection. The common cold may be fatal.
HIV/AIDS is an STD, but it can also be transmitted through non-sexual contact. While you cannot transmit HIV/AIDS through kissing or hugging, it can be transmitted through the exchange of blood, even if it is accidental. The disease is commonly spread through sharing needles. A mother can also transmit HIV/AIDS to her child while it is in utero.
Again, the VA doesn’t investigate the exact event in which you contracted the STD. The key is did your get the infection while enlisted or not. If you did, then you need to prove the service-connection with time and symptoms. You won’t need to share the details of the whole interaction or sexual event.
Other STDs the VA Will Consider as a Disability
The aforementioned STDs are the most common for VA disability. They are also those that the VA most often recognizes as STDs that have an effect on someone’s life. While there are many STDs recognized by the VA, they are usually categorized with these four STDs. For instance, gonorrhea may count as one STD, while arthritis from gonorrhea will count as another. Similarly, syphilis, dementia caused by syphilis and then arthritis caused by syphilis will all count for separate STDs.
Additionally, when deciding whether you wish to submit a claim to the VA, you’ll need to think about how these diseases impact your life. If they have very little impact on your life, it isn’t worth the trouble of applying for compensation. In many cases, if you cannot prove it has affected your life, you will not receive anything, anyway.
Do you have questions on whether an STD you acquired during service can merit you VA disability claims? If so, don’t hesitate to contact us.