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VA Ratings for Eye Disability & Blindness

VA Ratings for Eye Disability & Blindness

Hundreds of thousands of Veterans suffer from eye conditions, such as blindness, because of their military service to our country. If you or a loved one have one or more eye conditions or blindness in one or both eyes, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, you need to know how the VA rates eye disabilities and blindness so you can determine how much to expect in terms of monthly compensation and how to prepare an effective disability benefits application. Read on to learn more about VA eye disability ratings.

Which Eye Conditions Have VA Disability Ratings?

The VA rates a wide range of service-connected eye conditions and disabilities. These ratings allow the VA to properly categorize a Veteran’s level of physical difficulty or disability. So long as an eye condition was caused or aggravated by an illness, exposure, or injury in the military or as part of one’s military service, a disabled Veteran may receive benefits. 

The VA rates the following disabilities if you can show a chronic condition began in service or your condition was caused or aggravated by an event, injury, or disease during service:

  • Loss of one or both eyes
  • Loss of muscle function 
  • Loss of eyelids, eyelashes, or eyebrows
  • Corneal conditions
  • Lacrimal gland disorders and lid disorders
  • Ptosis of one or both eyes
  • Conjunctivitis and related conditions
  • Blurry vision or double vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Loss of light perception, which may lead to blindness
  • Cataracts and lens conditions in one or both eyes
  • Glaucoma
  • Inflammatory eye injuries or conditions
  • Retinal conditions
  • Eye tumors and neoplasms
  • Neurologic conditions that affect the eyes
  • All other eye conditions that can proveably be connected to one’s service in the military

All of these ratings are under the Schedule of Ratings – Eye System used by the VA. All of these ratings are under the Schedule of Ratings – Eye System used by the VA. Based on a veteran’s diagnosis, VA will assign a Diagnostic Code from 6000 to 6091 and then apply the applicable rating under the matching Rating Schedule.

You may be able to recover VA disability compensation for eye conditions that are caused or aggravated by a disability that is already service-connected with secondary service connections. These involve eye conditions and other medical conditions or medications that treat a direct service-connected condition caused or aggravated.

Some several medical conditions or complications may cause secondary vision problems, such as:

  • Diabetes, which can cause glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy
  • Sarcoidosis, which can cause optical neuropathy
  • Lyme disease, which can cause optic disc enema and retinal vasculitis
  • Thyroid problems, which can cause double or blurred vision
  • Multiple sclerosis, which can cause a gradual loss of vision, optic neuritis, and changes in vision
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which can cause your eyes’ corneas to thin
  • Cerebrovascular events like strokes, which can cause blind spots

If you believe your eye conditions directly result from service or from other service-connected injuries or disabilities, speak to a Veterans law attorney. They may be able to help you increase your disability rating to compensate you for these developments.

VA Disability Ratings for Most Eye Disabilities Aside from Blindness

Most eye conditions aside from blindness or cancer are rated under the General Rating Formula for Diseases of the Eye, ranging from 10% to 60%, as follows:

  • 10% disability rating if you have documented incapacitating episodes that require at least one but fewer than three treatment visits over the last 12 months
  • 20% disability rating if you have documented incapacitating episodes that require at least three but fewer than five treatment visits over the last 12 months
  • 40% disability rating if you have documented and incapacitating episodes that require at least five but fewer than seven treatment visits over the past 12 months
  • 60% disability rating if you have documented and incapacitating episodes that require seven or more treatment visits over the last 12 months

Certain conditions also get a minimum rating, even without documented incapacitating episodes. For example:

  • Angle-closure or Open-angle glaucoma: Minimum 10% rating if it requires continuous medication
  • Trachomatous conjunctivitis: 30% minimum
  • Chronic conjunctivitis: 10% minimum

And some conditions get their own Rating Schedule, without using the General Schedule. For example:

  • Tuberculosis of the eye: 100% if active
  • Malignant neoplasms of the eye: 100% during active treatment and for 6 months after treatment ends

How the VA Measures Eye Conditions and Disabilities

For conditions affecting a veteran’s field of vision or visual acuity, the VA measures the severity of the disabilities by examining three distinct aspects: Central visual acuity, visual field, and muscle dysfunction.

Central visual acuity describes how focused or blurry images may be at different distances. These go from 20/20 to 5/200, which is legally considered blindness. 

Note that the VA rates both your eyes together and your vision when corrective lenses like contacts or eyeglasses are applied. For example, if you are blind in one eye but have a rating of 20/40 vision in the other eye, you’ll likely receive a 30 or 40 percent rating.

The visual field measures the area or field of view your eyes see. Most eye exams have charts that include 16 meridians for both eyes. The meridians move outward from the center of the charts. These exams allow the VA to determine whether you have any peripheral vision loss or vision loss in certain areas of your eyes. Ratings for reduced visual field depends on what portion of visual field is affected.

Lastly, muscle dysfunction tells the VA how well your eye muscles move. This is measured using the same visual field chart described above.

An optometrist can examine each of these factors and rate your eye conditions using different scales that combine the three measurements to produce a holistic, comprehensive description of your sight abilities.

VA Disability Ratings for Blindness

A person with a rating of 5/200 visual acuity is legally considered blind. However, the VA only considers visual acuity and accuracy with use of corrective lenses, such as glasses or contacts. In essence, you must still have a vision rating of 5/200 in both eyes (or loss of your eye or only light perception) even while wearing corrective lenses to be deemed legally blind by the VA.

If you are only blind in one eye, your VA rating will instead be based on your acuity and quality of vision in your other eye. The exact breakdown of disability ratings for partial blindness can range from up to 100% down to 10%. 

If you are blind in one eye but have exceptional vision in your remaining eye, you may not receive a disability rating at all. This only occurs if your other eye’s vision is rated better than 20/40.

Meanwhile, if you are blind in both eyes (or have lost both eyes), you automatically receive a disability rating of 100% and may be entitled to additional special monthly compensation as well.

Contact Berry Law Today

As you can see, your eye conditions or disabilities may receive one of several potential ratings. You may also combine them with other disabilities or injuries you received due to your military service, which can push your total disability rating up higher.

With knowledgeable Veterans disability attorneys at Berry Law, you’ll maximize your disability benefits application and secure as much monthly compensation as possible to pay for medical expenses and more. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation and more information.

Sources:

38 CFR § 4.79 – Schedule of ratings – eye. | Cornell

What Does 20/20 Vision Mean? | American Academy of Ophthalmology

What Is Legal Blindness? | VisionAware

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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