Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD, is a relatively common disorder that affects many veterans. GERD is a more severe version of acid reflux than heartburn. It has many different causes, including medications, physical trauma, and psychological stress. That means many veterans may be entitled to VA disability benefits for GERD either as a primary or secondary service-connected disability.
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Over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers are your best friend. You have to take them with just about every meal, or you get uncomfortable heartburn. But did you know that your reflux may be related to your military service? This post explains the VA rating for GERD.
In this article about the GERD VA rating:
GERD in veterans
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disease that happens when acid or stomach bile climbs into the esophagus.
GERD and acid reflux are often used as interchangeable terms, but this is not exactly accurate. Both conditions cause heartburn, a burning pain in your chest that sometimes feels like it’s rising into your throat after you eat. However, GERD is more severe than acid reflux. If you experience heartburn twice a week or more, you’re most likely dealing with GERD.
GERD often is rated as a secondary condition related to another service-connected condition. About 10-15% of people with GERD also develop Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that causes the tissue like that in the lining of your intestine to replace the tissue in your esophagus. People with Barrett’s esophagus are more prone to esophageal cancer, which veterans may already be at an increased risk of developing.
GERD VA disability
There is no diagnostic code in the VA’s rating schedule for GERD or acid reflux. However, this does not mean veterans cannot receive a GERD VA rating.
GERD is rated using the diagnostic code 7346 for hiatal hernia, which rates at 10%, 30%, or 60%, depending on the frequency and severity of symptoms.
The GERD VA rating, using code 7346, is as follows:
|Monthly payment (vet only)
|Symptoms of pain, vomiting, material weight loss, and hematemesis or melena with moderate anemia; or other symptom combinations productive of severe impairment of health
|Persistently recurrent epigastric distress with dysphagia, pyrosis, and regurgitation, accompanied by substernal or arm or shoulder pain, productive of considerable impairment of health
|With two or more of the symptoms for the 30% evaluation of less severity
Barrett’s esophagus VA rating
Over time, the damage to the esophagus caused by GERD can result in a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This damage causes thickening and reddening of the esophageal lining.
Like GERD, Barrett’s esophagus does not have its own diagnostic code. The VA rates Barrett’s esophagus using diagnostic code 7203 for stricture of the esophagus as follows:
|Monthly payment (vet only)
|Permitting passage of liquids only, with marked impairment of general health
|Severe, permitting liquids only
Conditions related to GERD
Veterans may be able to prove that their GERD was directly caused by their service. If your GERD predated your service, you may also be able to establish a service connection on the basis of aggravation if your condition became worse because of your service.
GERD may also be a secondary disability if another service-connected condition caused it. Likewise, if you have a service-connected condition that causes you to develop GERD, you may be owed VA disability compensation for both conditions.
- Mental health disorders. Research suggests GERD can cause higher rates of mental health disorders like anxiety and PTSD. If you have both a mental health condition and GERD, it’s possible you could be owed VA disability for both.
- Medications. Many medications can cause GERD. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medication, can lead to GERD or intensify already existing symptoms of GERD GERD. Muscle relaxants can also cause GERD. Similarly, high blood pressure medication can also relax the muscles around the esophageal sphincter, causing GERD. You could be owed additional compensation if you have a service-connected condition like chronic pain or high blood pressure and your medication causes GERD.
- Sleep disorders. GERD may cause sleep apnea. GERD is more likely to occur during sleep because the muscles are relaxed, your esophagus is horizontal with respect to your stomach, and you swallow less frequently. This allows gravity to pull acid from your stomach past the valve.
- Disabilities involving coughing. Researchers believe there may be an association between chronic coughing and GERD, though the extent of this relationship is not fully clear.
If you are taking medication for a service-related condition that you think may have caused or worsened your GERD, you should ask your doctor about whether there could be evidence the two are connected. Similarly, if you believe your GERD may be connected to another condition, you can discuss this with your doctor. If your GERD is secondary to a service-connected condition or if your service-connected GERD is causing other health problems, you could be owed additional monthly VA compensation.
Can I get TDIU for GERD?
TDIU pays at the same level as a 100% disability rating, even when the veteran’s combined rating is below 100%.
Veterans will typically be eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
Based on this formula, you’re unlikely to get TDIU for a GERD VA rating or Barrett’s esophagus rating alone unless you have a severe case. However, you may be able to combine your GERD or Barrett’s esophagus rating with other service-connected conditions to be eligible for TDIU.
“If you were injured while serving this country and are reading this review, I encourage you to contact Woods and Woods right away. They are always standing ready to assist veterans in need.”
J.B., a Navy veteran in VirginiaGoogle review
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If you have a service-connected condition that affects your ability to live and work comfortably, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods today for a free consultation to see how we can help. You only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, GERD qualifies for VA benefits if it’s connected to your military service. Although there is no diagnostic code for GERD, the condition rates using the criteria for hiatal hernia at 10%, 30%, or 60% disabling.
Yes, Barrett’s esophagus qualifies for VA benefits if it’s connected to your military service. Barrett’s esophagus rates at 30%, 50%, or 80%, depending on the severity of your condition.
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