GERD VA Disability Claims

By Daniel Kuhn – Veterans Advocate and Army Veteran

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic disease caused by stomach acid flows into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus. GERD is fairly common among Veterans, and it can typically treated by lifestyle changes. However, some conditions may require medication. Most Veterans don’t know that they can file a GERD VA disability claim and receive disability benefits if their GERD was caused by military service.

What is GERD?

GERD is a long-term condition where gastric acid and partially digested food flow up from the stomach into the esophagus.  When this happens, it results in a painful sensation which is associated with heartburn.

GERD can be a problem if it’s not treated because, over time, the reflux of stomach acid damages the tissue lining the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. In adults, long-lasting, untreated GERD can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus and sometimes even cancer.

GERD Symptoms

Symptoms of GERD include

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Pain in chest or upper abdomen
  • Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
  • Respiratory problems
  • Vomiting

When you lay horizontally to sleep, you may experience the symptoms of:

  • Coughing
  • Sleep issues
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme discomfort in the chest and throat

Service Connecting GERD on a Direct Basis

If you experienced and have documented treatment for any of these symptoms while in service, you may be eligible to obtain disability compensation for GERD on a direct basis. For your GERD VA disability claim to be successful, it will need to be service connected. This means you will need:

  1. A current medical diagnosis
  2. An event, injury, or symptom that happened in-service
  3. A link, also known as a nexus, connecting your current condition to service

If you have all three elements, you claim should be granted, resulting in VA compensation for GERD.

Secondary Service Connection for GERD

If you didn’t experience symptoms of GERD until post-service, you can still obtain service for your GERD VA disability claim on a secondary basis. This is known as secondary service connection and means that GERD was caused by another service-connected condition. For example, if you take medication for PTSD and that medication has caused GERD symptoms as a side effect, you may file a claim for GERD secondary to PTSD.

Also, medical evidence establishes that anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder, can lead to overproduction of stomach acid. This, in turn, can lead to GERD.

How the VA Rates GERD

If VA grants service connection for GERD, they will rate the condition based on the presence and severity of your symptoms. Therefore, it is important at the beginning of your claim you provide written communication on the severity, frequency, and number of symptoms you experience.

Typically, GERD is rated analogous to a hiatal hernia under 38 C.F.R. 4.114 diagnostic code 7346. Ratings under diagnostic code 7346 range from 10% to 60% disabling depending on the presence and severity of symptoms.

Were You Denied VA Disability Compensation for GERD?

Veterans who file VA disability claims for GERD are often denied. However, Veterans have the right to appeal the VA’s decision.

At Berry Law, we are committed to helping Veterans in their fight for disability benefits. With a team consisting of award-winning attorneys, Veterans, former VA employees, and military spouses, we are dedicated to providing Veterans the firepower they need to get the disability benefits they’re entitled to.

If your GERD VA disability claim was denied or rated too low, we may be able to help. Contact us today to receive a free case evaluation.