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VA Compensation for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
VA Compensation for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Veterans who are dealing with thyroid issues that are related to service are entitled to disability compensation. Thyroid conditions occur when the thyroid fails to produce the correct level of certain hormones. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that is part of the endocrine system and helps regulate body functions by releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. The two types of thyroid conditions covered in this article are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
What are Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, classified by the VA as diagnostic code 7903, is a condition that occurs when an individuals’ thyroid gland fails to keep hormone levels as high as they should be. Conversely, hyperthyroidism, classified by the VA as diagnostic code 7900, occurs when a person’s thyroid gland overproduces certain hormones.
Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism Symptoms
While both of these conditions involve the thyroid gland, the symptoms associated with each are quite different. According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, some common symptoms for hypothyroidism include:
- Fatigue: Hypothyroidism can cause a lingering sense of exhaustion, making it difficult to engage socially, focus on your career, and carry out basic everyday tasks. Activities that previously may have been simple and enjoyable can feel so tiring that the condition can make it hard to live normally.
- Weight Gain: One of the most commonly reported side effects of hypothyroidism is unusual weight gain. Even if you are not taking in a significantly higher amount of calories each day, underproduction of hormones by your thyroid can prompt your body to retain abnormal amounts of weight. This weight can be extremely stubborn, and is often difficult to lose through conventional methods like diet and exercise.
- Depression: An underactive thyroid can wear you out mentally as well as physically. In addition to causing fatigue, hypothyroidism can also leave you feeling apathetic and even depressed.
- Impaired Memory: Hypothyroidism can make it hard to remember basic details of your day-to-day life. If you are struggling with memory issues, it may be a sign of an underactive thyroid.
- Muscle Weakness: The underproduction of certain hormones can cause chronic muscle weakness, adding to the feelings of fatigue caused by hypothyroidism.
- Joint Pain: In addition to muscle weakness, an underactive thyroid can also cause chronic pain in your joints. The joint pain and muscle weakness caused by hypothyroidism can be some of the condition’s most debilitating symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, is typically accompanied by:
- Unintentional Weight Loss: Unlike hypothyroidism, which can cause weight gain, an overactive thyroid can make it difficult to hold weight. When your thyroid overproduces certain hormones, your metabolism may speed up, leading to a higher rate of calories burned, even when your body is at rest. This unintentional weight loss can lead to health problems over time.
- Anxiety: Hyperthyroidism, like hypothyroidism, can have an effect on a person’s mental health. However, while an underactive thyroid tends to lead to feelings of apathy and depression, an overactive thyroid usually causes hyperarousal and anxiety. For many Veterans, anxiety is already an issue due to traumatic experiences from time in the military. An overactive thyroid can compound a Veteran’s pre-existing anxiety, leading to a higher disability rating from the VA in some cases.
- Tremors: An overactive thyroid can lead to an uncomfortable form of body shakes known as tremors. Tremors can make it extremely difficult to work for many Veterans suffering from hyperthyroidism. If you are a Veteran with an overactive thyroid and suffer from tremors, you may be eligible for a higher disability rating from the VA.
- Abnormal Heartbeat: In addition to causing body shakes and anxiety, an overactive thyroid can also cause an irregular heartbeat. This side effect of hyperthyroidism can be uncomfortable, and it can cause anxiety for many who have the condition.
While the symptoms are quite different, each of these conditions may be caused by certain autoimmune disorders, certain medications, or even environmental triggers. Additionally, further complications can arise if these conditions are left untreated, possibly affecting a person’s heart, nerves, bones, eyes, and mental health. This makes thyroid-related issues serious disabilities that can leave many Veterans compromised in the realms of work, relationships, and everyday life.
If you are suffering from a thyroid condition, you should contact your medical provider as soon as possible. Once you have a diagnosis and a treatment plan, you can begin filing a claim with the VA. If the VA approves your claim, that means you qualify for disability benefits and can receive tax-free monthly compensation for your condition.
Veterans and Thyroid Problems
What does this mean for our Veteran clients? Military service often exposes service members to a wide range of chemicals and other hazardous materials, which can trigger hyper- or hypothyroidism. Additionally, military service may cause separate conditions which can cause complications or further aggravate a thyroid condition. In this case, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may be seen by the VA as secondary conditions.
A secondary condition is a medical or psychological problem that is caused or worsened by a service-related disability. While a secondary condition is not directly linked to a Veteran’s military service, it can still increase a Veteran’s disability rating. The VA considers secondary conditions, including hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, to be grounds for a higher disability rating in some cases. If the VA approves you for a higher disability score based on a secondary condition, this means your monthly benefits will increase.
Getting the right disability rating from the VA is crucial for any disabled Veteran. If you have thyroid problems due to a service-related disability, your thyroid issues can be considered a secondary condition by the VA. This secondary condition should make you eligible to receive disability benefits for the condition.
However, if the VA does not grant you the rating your condition warrants, you can appeal their decision to get a better outcome. You can dispute any VA decision, even if your claim is not denied but rated too low.
While the connection between thyroid problems and a service-related disability is not always present, it does provide a basis for talking to your doctor about the possibility that a connection is present. You can get an opinion from your doctor or another medical professional to determine whether your thyroid condition may have been caused by military service or aggravated by a service-connected condition. Each person’s situation is different, and your doctor or medical professional is best suited to determine whether your condition is related to your time in the military.
Veterans’ Disability Lawyers
Veterans who are suffering from illnesses related to service are entitled to disability compensation. If you are a Veteran and have thyroid problems caused or exacerbated by your time in the military, you deserve the proper compensation. If the VA does not recognize the connection between your thyroid problems and your military service, we can help.
Berry Law helps fellow Veterans get the disability benefits they deserve. Founded by Vietnam Veteran John S. Berry, Sr., the firm has been committed to helping Veterans in their fight for disability benefits for over 20 years. The firm now includes attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps dedicated to getting their brothers and sisters in service the correct disability rating.
If you were denied disability benefits for your thyroid condition or were given a lower than expected rating, Berry Law can help you appeal. The appeals process can be complicated when you go through it on your own, but with a skilled attorney at your side, making a strong case to the VA is much simpler.
The VA appeals process typically involves a review of the VA’s decision regarding your claim. During the decision review process, the VA may accept additional evidence that can change their decision, leaving you with a claim that is approved or a higher disability rating as a result.
During a decision review, the VA may also accept testimonials from trusted friends, family members, and fellow soldiers who can verify the connection between your thyroid problems and your military service. These testimonials are known as “buddy statements,” and they can play a key role in getting a better disability rating from the VA.
In addition to buddy statements, you can also present the VA with a professional medical second opinion in the form of an Independent Medical Examination (IME) results. An IME is administered by a private doctor, who can assess your condition and verify that your thyroid problems are connected to a service-related disability. The results of this examination can then be presented to the VA as evidence supporting your claim.
When navigating the appeals process on your own, it can be tough to know where to start. Fortunately, Berry Law is here to help you throughout the appeals process. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation and take the next steps in getting the disability benefits you deserve.
Josef Loukota is a VA disability attorney that fights to help fellow Veterans receive the disability benefits they earned. Joe served for six years in the U.S. Navy as an aircraft safety equipment mechanic and shop supervisor. He earned the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist insignia, two Navy Achievement Medals, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal. Prior to joining Berry Law, Joe worked with Legal Aid of Nebraska as part of a Veteran-to-farmer outreach program. Joe also worked at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Military and Veteran Services Office as part of a team helping Veterans access their G.I. Bill education benefits.