VA Disability for Cirrhosis of the Liver—Do You Qualify?
Chronic liver diseases cause scarring that, over time, is irreparable. When you reach this phase of liver damage, it is called cirrhosis.
Can you qualify for VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver?
Like all health conditions covered under the VA disability, veterans must prove that the condition is service-related and that it adversely impacts their life.
If you have severe liver damage, the initial symptoms of fatigue and weakness can make it difficult to work, do normal activities around the house, or engage in hobbies you enjoy.
As the disease progresses, so do the symptoms, making it impossible to work. At this stage, you may even qualify for 100% VA disability.
In this article about cirrhosis of the liver VA ratings:
- Can You Qualify for Disability for Cirrhosis?
- How to Successfully Submit a VA Disability Claim
- What You Need to Know About Cirrhosis of the Liver
- Is Cirrhosis Painful? Common Symptoms of Cirrhosis
- Cirrhosis vs Psoriasis—What Is the Difference?
- Woods and Woods—Helping Vets for Over 25 Years
Can You Qualify for Disability for Cirrhosis?
At this time, the VA does not list liver cirrhosis among its Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions. However, that does not mean you cannot qualify for VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver.
A presumptive service connection simply means that you do not need to provide a medical nexus for the VA to approve your claim. A medical nexus is a letter from a medical professional that connects a disease/health condition to service-related activity. With a nexus, you have a stronger claim and are more likely to receive a disability rating for cirrhosis.
Patients with presumptive conditions only have to provide:
- A diagnosis of a condition that is related to Agent Orange exposure
- Evidence that they served in a qualifying location and period of time
Qualifying times and locations for Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions include:
|Veteran service location||Dates|
|Vietnam (boots on the ground, inland waterways, and within 12 nautical miles of Vietnam)||Jan. 9, 1962 -May 7, 1975|
|Veterans who flew on or worked on C-123 aircraft||Vietnam War era|
|Korean DMZ||Sept. 1, 1967 – Aug. 31, 1971|
|On or near Thailand military bases||Feb. 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975|
|Thailand (at any U.S. or Royal Thai base)||Jan. 9, 1962 – June 30, 1976|
|Laos||Dec. 1, 1965 – Sept. 30, 1969|
|Cambodia (at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province)||April 16, 1969 – April 30, 1969|
|Guam or American Samoa (or in the territorial waters)||Jan. 9, 1962 – July 31, 1980|
|Johnston Atoll (or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll)||Jan. 1, 1972 – Sept. 30, 1977|
The Woods and Woods legal team can help you find other active-duty qualifiers approved by the VA.
Liver Cirrhosis and Herbicide Exposure
For decades, the US government dismissed claims that exposure to herbicides damaged people’s health—both in civilian and veteran cases.
The VA now acknowledges that exposure to certain herbicides—like Agent Orange—can cause a variety of diseases. However, their list of presumptive conditions is still somewhat limited, making it more difficult for veterans to receive their due compensation.
Thankfully, over the past few years, there have been a variety of studies that show a link between herbicide exposure and health conditions like cirrhosis. In fact, in 2018, a California court saw such a distinct link between the herbicide Round-Up and a groundskeeper’s cancer, that he was awarded $289 million in damages.
In the past, the VA refused certain claims based on a lack of evidence or legal precedent. Now, there is a clear standard, which is opening up legal cases and can potentially result in settlements and the acceptance of VA disability benefit claims.
The VA doesn’t usually give 100% TDIU for just a single disability. They typically add up disabilities and veterans meet the criteria like this:
1. You have at least 1 service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling, or 2 or more service-connected disabilities—with at least 1 rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more—andTaken from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/special-claims/unemployability/
2. You can’t hold down a steady job that supports you financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of your service-connected disability. Odd jobs (marginal employment), don’t count.
In the meantime, if you are seeking VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver caused by herbicide exposure, you will need:
- A current cirrhosis diagnosis
- Evidence that you were exposed to herbicides during active duty service
- A medical nexus letter that links your cirrhosis to the active-duty herbicide exposure
Though cirrhosis is not currently considered an Agent Orange Presumptive Condition, if you can provide the information above, it may warrant a direct service connection and disability claim approval.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866)232-5777
It may be prudent to also include recent studies in your claim that point to a link between cirrhosis of the liver and herbicide exposure. As far back as 2005, a book entitled Veterans and Agent Orange from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that “Cirrhosis is the most commonly reported liver disease in epidemiologic studies of herbicide or TCDD exposure.” TCDD is the most toxic of a group of chemicals called dioxins and is one of the main contaminants in Agent Orange.
Environmental Health Perspectives reported in 2017 that persistent exposure to even low levels of TCDD can cause liver fibrosis (scarring).
A 2019 study performed by Boise State University found that TCDD exposure can exacerbate a previous liver injury. Liver-diseased mice exposed to TCDD experienced liver inflammation, as well as changes in gene expression that is consistent with NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). Therefore, there is a good chance that if you had some form of liver damage prior to your active-duty service, exposure to Agent Orange could have led to disease progression, including cirrhosis.
Secondary Service Connection: Liver Cirrhosis and Agent Orange Exposure
Another way to qualify for VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver is through a secondary service connection. If you can prove that Agent Orange caused a disease that, in turn, caused cirrhosis, you may be eligible for benefits.
Some conditions related to Agent Orange and liver damage include:
- AL amyloidosis: A rare disease that causes improper distribution of amyloid proteins in various organs (including the liver), leading to damage of those organs.
- Type 2 diabetes: Diabetes raises your risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which over time can cause cirrhosis.
- Porphyria cutanea tarda: A rare metabolic disease that is inherited or acquired. It causes thinning of the skin and blistering when exposed to the sun. It also leads to liver damage.
- Hodgkin’s disease: A cancer that causes the enlargement of various organs, including the liver.
- Soft tissue sarcoma: This is another type of cancer that can develop on tissues including fat, blood, connective tissues, lymphatic tissues, and muscle. The liver is part of the lymphatic system. If a sarcoma develops there, it can cause tissue damage.
How to Successfully Submit a VA Disability Claim
Here are the steps you should take to increase the likelihood that your claim for VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver is accepted.
Find Out If You Are Eligible
The first step is to determine whether you are eligible, which includes finding out what conditions are covered, whether active-duty service requirements are met, and figuring out your disability rating.
The VASRD code for cirrhosis of the liver is 7312. Under this code, you can receive a benefit rating of between 10% – 100%. The following symptoms will help your legal team and the VA determine your rating.
|VA Rating||Cirrhosis Symptoms|
|10% VA Rating||Malaise, abdominal pain, weakness, anorexia|
|30% VA Rating||Malaise, abdominal pain, anorexia, weakness, weight loss, splenomegaly (enlarged spleen), and portal hypertension (elevated pressure in the portal vein, the main vein of the liver)|
|50% VA Rating||History of one episode of one or more of the following: Hemorrhage caused by varices (enlarged, abnormal veins within the esophagus), hemorrhage caused by portal gastropathy (changes in the lining of the stomach), ascites (swelling of the abdomen), or hepatic encephalopathy (loss of brain function due to improper elimination of toxins from the blood)|
|70% VA Rating||History of two episodes of one or more of the following (with periods of remission between each episode): hepatic encephalopathy, hemorrhage from portal gastropathy, hemorrhage from varices|
|100% VA Rating||Substantial weight loss, persistent jaundice, generalized weakness, in addition to one of the following that is not responsive to treatment: hemorrhage from portal gastropathy, hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, hemorrhage from varices|
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.
Gather Evidence for Your VA Claim
You will need evidence of:
- Active-duty service
- Being honorably discharged
- A relationship between your active-duty service and the development of your disease or worsening of an existing condition
At Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, we help you with this entire process. We even pay for the postage to send it to us as you gather it together. Our team stays in touch with you so you always know the status of your claim and what needs to happen next.
Thoroughly Complete the Claim Form
A fully developed claim will help expedite the claims process. The VA provides resources to help you complete your form properly. It might also be prudent to have a VA disability attorney walk you through this process or double-check the claim once you have completed it. Doing so will give you peace of mind and ensure there are no mistakes that can result in a denied claim.
What You Need to Know About Cirrhosis of the Liver
What causes cirrhosis of the liver?
Multiple conditions contribute to liver damage, including exposure to hepatitis viruses or herbicides, various diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc.), and alcoholism.
Regarding alcoholism, the VA recognizes that there is a strong link between active-duty service, PTSD, and substance abuse. At least 20% of veterans with PTSD also struggle with substance abuse. The VA also recognizes that veterans with alcoholism tend to binge drink (consuming over four alcoholic beverages in under two hours). Binge drinking is a common cause of late-stage scarring of the liver, or cirrhosis.
Is Cirrhosis Painful? Common Symptoms of Cirrhosis
Does cirrhosis cause pain? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and the pain gets worse as the disease progresses. Over 80% of cirrhosis patients experience pain, with over half of those stating that their pain is chronic.
Other symptoms of cirrhosis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Bruising or bleeding
- Ascites (abdominal swelling)
- Brown/orange urine
- Light-colored stools
- Bloody stools
- Red hands
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
What Is the Prognosis for a Cirrhosis Diagnosis?
Is cirrhosis reversible? Generally speaking, no.
Cirrhosis is late- or end-stage liver damage. The liver is a resilient organ, so if you can catch the damage early, there is a good chance you can reverse or prevent damage. Unfortunately, advanced cirrhosis is fatal.
Treatment Options for Cirrhosis of the Liver
In the early stages of liver disease, treatment can include:
- Substance abuse treatment
- Weight loss (if the patient is overweight or obese)
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Medications for hepatitis
- Medications that can slow the progression of cirrhosis
Advanced cirrhosis is treated by:
- Draining fluid from the abdomen
- Consuming a low-sodium diet to prevent edema and portal hypertension
- Taking medications to control portal hypertension
- Taking medications to reduce toxin/chemical build-up in the liver/blood
- Liver transplant
A behind the scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
Cirrhosis vs Psoriasis—What Is the Difference?
It is easy to mistake one disease for another, especially if their names look, sound, or are spelled similarly. One such case is this: Mistaking psoriasis for cirrhosis.
Psoriasis is a skin condition thought to be caused by the immune system. The body produces more skin cells than are necessary and in quick progression, resulting in dry, scaly patches of skin that flake and itch.
While we get plenty of calls for “VA disability for psoriasis of the liver,” we’ll still help you out. What matters is that we get your paperwork clear with the VA like we have for thousands of other veterans that have called Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
What Is the Difference Between Cirrhosis and Fatty Liver?
A person does not have to consume alcohol to have a damaged liver. A condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) results in liver scarring that is caused by too much fat in the liver.
In advanced stages of NAFLD, the patient can experience liver inflammation, cirrhosis, and liver failure. The damage that can result from excess fat in the liver is the same as that of alcoholics.
Woods and Woods—Helping Vets for Over 25 Years
Finding out if you are eligible to receive VA disability for cirrhosis of the liver can feel like a daunting task. Woods and Woods—The Veteran’s Firm—is here to help.
We provide a free VA disability calculator to help you determine your combined disability rating. We also have a huge staff that can help you complete your claim properly. And, if your claim is denied, our team will fight for you during the appeals process.
If you have cirrhosis of the liver or any other service-related health condition, our team can help you get the disability benefits you are entitled to receive.
Even if you’ve had a liver transplant, you know you aren’t out of the woods yet. If your condition prevents you from gainful employment, you should still talk to a VA disability lawyer to get your liver condition service-connected.
Not necessarily. There are many veterans that struggle with alcoholism but have service-connected liver disease. Alcoholism can also be service-connected to PTSD, so you can actually get a rating for your liver and your alcoholism to combine into a higher rating.