Incontinence is a sign of aging in some people, but if you’re a veteran and it’s caused by an injury during active duty, you should look into getting VA disability compensation.
Urinary or bladder incontinence is a disability that is quite common in people aged 60 years or older, and especially prevalent in both female and male veterans of all ages.
If you have experienced leaking or the urgency to urinate, these are all symptoms of urinary incontinence. If you are a veteran, these are symptoms that may entitle you to disability benefits, but the VA may limit this access due to their complex claims process.
In this article about urinary incontinence:
- What is urinary incontinence?
- Causes of urinary incontinence in veterans
- What is the VA disability rating for urinary incontinence?
- VA disability rating for urinary incontinence
- Secondary service-connected disability rating
- How to prove your eligibility for a disability rating
- Conditions similar to urinary incontinence
- VA disability claims process
- We Want to Help You Get Your Benefits
The VA applies a disability rating for urinary incontinence ranging from 20% to 60%. Although this is treated as a VA disability, it is trickier to define incontinence as a disability entitled to compensation. A veteran would need to include this condition as a secondary service-connected disability when applying for their VA benefits to receive compensation.
Understanding these ratings and how to adequately prove and link a secondary incontinence issue with a primary condition helps veterans to secure VA disability for incontinence. We highly recommend seeking counsel from a VA disability lawyer to walk you through this difficult process.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the failure to control one’s bladder. You might experience urine leakage triggered by a physical action like coughing or sneezing. You might also leak a little while waiting to use the bathroom or driving over bumps in the road. These are all symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Types of urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence can be broken down into several different categories:
This type of incontinence may cause your bladder to feel full even when it is empty and give you the frequent uncontrollable urge to urinate. This may be caused by a neurological issue.
Stress urinary incontinence
This type of incontinence causes urine to leak from your bladder during physical exertion, such as laughing, sneezing, or coughing. This may be due to weak bladder muscles.
This incontinence may cause you to be aware of your desire to urinate, but a physical or mental cause may restrict you from making it to the restroom.
This type of incontinence prevents your bladder from completely emptying when you urinate. A blockage in your bladder may cause just some of your urine to trickle out in small amounts, leaving your bladder to still feel full afterward.
This is concurrently experiencing a combination of one or more types of incontinence.
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.
Causes of urinary incontinence in veterans
Urinary incontinence is quite common in veterans. The VA has listed this disability as one of the top five reproductive conditions for female veterans using their services. Medical studies have found that this condition is also prevalent among male veterans. One study found that male veterans are three times more likely than non-veterans to experience this condition. While another study shows that 32.3% of 840 male veterans reported urinary incontinence within one year.
This condition occurs from the weakening of the pelvic muscles which can be triggered by a temporary medical disability such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a more permanent condition such as prostate cancer or a neurological disorder.
Veterans are prone to urinary incontinence because of:
- Their active-duty experience: Veterans usually have limited access to restrooms and good hygiene during active duty. As a result, many female veterans experience UTIs which can trigger incontinence.
- PTSD: Female veterans with PTSD experience urinary incontinence at high rates.
- Traumatic brain injury: Veterans who experience traumatic brain injury can also experience urinary incontinence due to this disorder.
These are just a few of the many factors that can lead to this condition in veterans.
What is the VA disability rating for urinary incontinence?
A disability rating is a percentage that the VA uses to score the severity of a disability based on how this condition negatively impacts your health and lifestyle function. The VA refers to the diagnostic codes outlined in 38 CFR § 4.115b to determine how they will rate a veteran’s condition. For example, VA diagnostic code 7523 identifies how they rate atrophy of the testis, whereas VA diagnostic code 7517 identifies how they rate a bladder injury.
The VA then uses this rating to calculate the amount of monthly compensation you are eligible to receive from them.
VA disability rating for urinary incontinence
The VA has specific guidelines for rating dysfunctions such as urinary incontinence. 38 CFR § 4.115a. VA diagnostic code 7517 provides that a bladder injury should be rated under the voiding dysfunction system.
Voiding dysfunction is when the bladder muscles and urethra are uncoordinated, causing the pelvic floor to be overactive when passing urine. The VA applies diagnostic code 7517 to urinary incontinence; therefore, this voiding dysfunction rating guideline applies:
- The VA gives a 20% rating for veterans who wear absorbent materials but only need to change them no more than once per day.
- The VA assigns a 40% rating for veterans who wear absorbent materials and need to change them 2 to 4 times per day.
- The VA gives a 60% rating for veterans who wear an appliance to assist with their urinary dysfunction or wear absorbent materials that they need to change more than 4 times per day.
The VA will then use the disability rating that applies to your condition to determine your incontinence disability living allowance and then send you a monthly, tax-free payment.
Of course, if you are stuck in bed all day, your measure of how many times you have to change your incontinence briefs in a day will be different. You want to make that clear on your VA disability application so that the board reviewing your application can understand your condition.
Secondary service-connected disability rating
Veterans need to prove that their disability is connected to their military service before receiving compensation. If a veteran can make a direct connection between their disability and service, this makes it easier for you to prove your eligibility for compensation. However, some disabilities are not directly connected and can be categorized as a secondary service-connected disability.
A secondary service-connected disability is a condition that is caused by a direct service-connected or primary disability. For example, if you have severe back pain from combat trauma, this back pain could ultimately lead to anxiety or depression. In this scenario, the back pain would be the direct service-connected disability, whereas the anxiety would be the secondary service-connected disability.
A veteran would need to prove that the secondary disability is connected to the direct service-connected disability when filing a disability claim. The VA will then combine both the primary and secondary disability ratings in calculating a veteran’s compensation benefits.
Urinary incontinence is usually a symptom of a primary disorder and would therefore need to be proven as a secondary service-connected disability. This condition is frequently caused by primary disorders such as prostate cancer, back pain, traumatic brain injury, etc. Do not forget to submit your urinary incontinence disability rating along with your primary disability rating to receive a combined rating calculation and higher compensation.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
How to prove your eligibility for a disability rating
To prove your disability rating for urinary incontinence, you would need to:
Validate your diagnosis
You can validate your diagnosis by providing medical records and doctor reports to the VA that confirm you have been diagnosed with urinary incontinence. The medical records should outline your diagnosis and any treatment plan you may be on. A report from your doctor that confirms this diagnosis is also a strong piece of evidence to include. The VA can then use these records to determine whether you are entitled to a 20%, 40%, or 60% rating.
Provide medical proof to show a nexus
Urinary incontinence is treated as a secondary service-connected disability. Therefore, you will need to show a nexus between your incontinence and a direct service-connected disability to receive benefits. You can provide medical proof such as your Claims File (C-file), medical records, or doctor reports to show that your urinary incontinence is connected to a direct service disability.
Your C-file should include any conditions and treatments you received during your military service. Therefore, this may confirm a direct service physical condition such as back injury, pelvic injury, or neurological damage that could now be the cause of your bladder incontinence.
Medical records showing any disability, physical condition, etc. that you suffer from can also help to confirm a direct service disorder. Your doctor can provide a report outlining why your incontinence is connected to a direct service issue.
Conditions similar to urinary incontinence
Urinary frequency and urinary tract infection are two conditions that are similar to bladder incontinence. Understanding the disability ratings for these conditions is helpful as you may experience them in tandem with your incontinence.
This is a condition that causes you to urinate repeatedly throughout the daytime or nighttime or both. The VA applies the below disability ratings to this condition:
- 10% rating if you only have a 2 to 3-hour lapse between urinating in the daytime or you wake up to urinate two times each night.
- 20% rating if you only have a 1 to 2-hour lapse between urinating in the daytime or you wake up to urinate three to four times each night.
- 40% rating if you only have a less than 1-hour lapse between urinating in the daytime or you wake up to urinate five times or more each night.
Urinary tract infection
This is a condition where bacteria infect your urinary tract causing you to experience urine urgency, urine frequency, pressure on your pelvic area, a burning sensation during urination, etc. The VA applies the below disability ratings to this condition:
- 10% rating if you have been hospitalized once or twice each year for this condition or received extended drug therapy treatments.
- 30% rating if you have repeated infections with symptoms and/or need to go through continuous intensive management for treatment.
Keep in mind that these are also conditions that can be submitted as a secondary service-connected claim for disability benefits.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
VA disability claims process
The VA disability claims process may seem daunting at first look, however, we have experienced lawyers on our team as well as this comprehensive guide to get you through this process. This process can be complex but the three primary steps are:
1. Gather your evidence
Gather all the evidence that you need to successfully prove your disability claim. Before submitting your application, be sure to reach out to all your doctors for any medical records or reports needed to prove diagnosis and a direct service-connected link.
2. File your application
You can file your application online, via mail, or in-person. If filing online, be sure to set up your eBenefits account so that you can easily track your claim. Because everything is electronic now, you don’t need to hire a disability lawyer that is nearby. We help US veterans and their surviving spouses all over the world.
3. Wait for VA decision
After submitting your application, you will then need to wait for your Veterans Service Representative to review your evidence and make a decision on your claim. Once they have made a decision, the VA will then mail you a VA Rating Decision letter.
We Want to Help You Get Your Benefits
Woods and Woods is a family-owned law firm dedicated to helping veterans get the service and representation they deserve.
Contact us today to receive help with:
- Calculating your disability rating.
- Gathering your medical evidence to prove your eligibility.
- Filing your application with the VA.
- Appealing your case if it is denied.
We never charge veterans seeking help with their VA applications until we win your case. Even then, we charge a one-time payment when you collect your back pay. You won’t be charged any ongoing fees and will keep the majority of your retroactive payment.
Call our team at (866) 232-5777, or click here to schedule a free consultation.
Many veterans get disability for incontinence as a secondary-connected disability. When you explain your condition to the VA doctor or our legal team, make sure you give us all of the details.
Those would be handled as SMC along with your disability claim. You might try to get at least a 0% disability rating which would then make you eligible for SMC.