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VA Disability For IBS
Know the VA Disability for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
How The VA Handles Service-Connected Disabilities
Veterans with disabilities caused by their military service may qualify to receive monthly compensation from the VA. The benefits that Veterans can get from the VA each month can range in amounts depending on the severity of a Veteran’s condition. The primary criteria for qualifying for disability benefits from the VA are providing proof that there is a connection between your disability and your military service.
The VA often refers to the connection between a Veteran’s disability and their time in the military as a nexus. The nexus between your disability and your military service plays a key role in receiving disability compensation for your service-connected conditions. Without an established nexus, the VA cannot grant you monthly VA disability benefits.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common gastrointestinal condition that many Veterans suffer from. IBS is a chronic condition, meaning its symptoms can persist for years, even with treatment and adjustments to diet and lifestyle. The condition can be extremely uncomfortable for many of those who have it. It can also be exacerbated by many of the environmental and situational factors that many soldiers are exposed to on a daily basis.
IBS is a condition that impacts the gastrointestinal system and can lead to stomach pains, constipation, gas, and diarrhea. The exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, but there are a number of factors that can trigger it, including food allergies and stress. Additionally, the affected areas can vary – nerves, muscles, and the lining of the intestines are commonly affected by IBS. Regardless of which areas are affected, Veterans are entitled to VA compensation for IBS if they can prove that the condition was caused or worsened by their military service.
Service Connection for IBS
Veterans can suffer from a variety of different illnesses and disabilities related to service. One of the more common disabilities Veterans may deal with is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, many Veterans do not realize they can receive VA disability for IBS if they can prove it was caused or exacerbated by military service.
While many Veterans can develop IBS, the condition is more common among POWs and Gulf War Veterans. Specific environmental factors can make these groups of Veterans more susceptible to developing IBS, but the condition is common among the Veteran population at large.
If you have IBS, there are multiple ways that the condition can affect your VA disability score. Since the VA recognizes IBS as a condition that can be caused or worsened by events or injuries from a Veteran’s active duty, it can increase your disability rating. However, you will need to provide medical evidence that establishes a nexus between your IBS and your military service to establish service-connection.
Secondary Conditions: What They Are And Why They Matter
When it comes to service-connected disabilities, some conditions are easier to link to a Veteran’s military service than others. Some disabilities may even stem indirectly from a Veteran’s time in the military — these are called secondary conditions. Secondary conditions can also affect a Veteran’s disability score, even though they are not directly linked to an injury or event from a Veteran’s time in active duty. However, a secondary condition can only affect a Veteran’s disability rating if their primary condition is service-connected.
IBS as a Secondary Condition
Irritable Bowel Syndrome can also be connected to military service on a secondary basis, meaning it was caused by another service connected condition. For example, if you suffer from IBS as a result of the medication you are taking to treat your service connected PTSD, you may qualify for secondary service connection for IBS.
How the VA Rates IBS
The VA currently gives a 0, 10, or 30 percent VA disability for IBS. To determine your rating, the VA will consider the symptoms you are displaying.
- 0 Percent Rating: The Veteran’s symptoms are considered mild, which means the Veteran suffers from “disturbances of bowel function with occasional episodes of abdominal distress.” A 0 percent rating is not high enough to qualify a Veteran for disability benefits for IBS. The minimum rating for receiving benefits is 10 percent.
- 10 Percent Rating: The Veteran’s symptoms are considered moderate, where the Veteran suffers “frequent episodes of bowel disturbance and abdominal distress.” In this case, a Veteran’s IBS is severe enough to warrant receiving the minimum disability benefits.
- 30 Percent Rating: The Veteran suffers from severe symptoms with “diarrhea, or alternating diarrhea and constipation, with more or less constant abdominal distress.” This is the highest evaluation for IBS and would apply to Veteran’s who suffer from daily IBS symptoms. If you suffer from severe IBS and the VA recognizes it as a secondary condition, this 30 percent rating can be added to your primary disability to create a cumulative disability score that is higher.
While these ratings may seem small, it is important that Veterans receive VA disability for irritable bowel syndrome if they are displaying symptoms. In addition, qualifying for disability benefits for IBS on a secondary basis could help increase a Veterans overall disability rating. Because of this, it is essential that any Veteran suffering from IBS makes the VA aware of their condition.
If you are filing a disability claim for a service-connected disability but also suffer from IBS, make sure to include IBS in your claim. Since you can receive up to a 30 percent rating for IBS, your monthly benefits can significantly increase if the VA acknowledges that your IBS is service-connected, even if it is connected as a secondary condition.
IBS and Gulf War Veterans
The group of Veterans most affected by IBS may be Gulf War Veterans, who often display IBS as a symptom of Gulf War Syndrome. The VA describes gulf War Syndrome as a “chronic multi-symptom illness,” and it can manifest itself in the form of a wide variety of symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems like IBS. If a Veteran served in the Gulf War during a specific period of time, the VA will presume that any symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome that the Veteran exhibits are directly or indirectly connected to service.
Because the VA presumes that there is a service connection in the gastrointestinal problems suffered by many Gulf War Veterans, these Veterans often have the easiest path to qualify for benefits for IBS. However, Veterans will still need to provide the VA with the correct evidence to get their VA claim for IBS approved.
Getting service connection for IBS as a secondary condition is something Veterans should consider. Studies have found that psychological conditions such as PTSD can be a risk factor for the development or exacerbation of IBS.
One of the primary factors that can cause or worsen IBS in stressful situations is everyday occurrences for soldiers on the frontlines. If you are suffering from PTSD and have filed a claim for disability benefits for the disorder, you may be able to make a case that your IBS was caused or worsened by your PTSD. This will help to establish your IBS as a secondary condition, which can help to increase your cumulative disability rating.
Additionally, medications that are taken for other service-connected conditions may result in the development or exacerbation of IBS. Gastrointestinal problems, including many of the symptoms of IBS, can be side-effects of many medications.
If you are receiving treatment for another disability and have started experiencing symptoms of IBS as a result, you can make a case that your IBS was caused by your service-related disability.
GERD or IBS?
It should be noted for Veterans that are service-connected for gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, cannot also be separately service connected for IBS. This is done to avoid pyramiding or the stacking of similar disabilities with different diagnoses. If a Veteran suffers from both conditions, the VA will combine them and rate the more severe of the conditions.
Veterans’ Disability Lawyers
If you are struggling to get the VA to approve your disability claim, the best step to take is to recruit a skilled attorney to assist you throughout the appeals process. Appealing a VA decision on your own can be overwhelming and extremely difficult, but an attorney can make the process much more manageable for you. If you are trying to get your disability score raised or get a claim that was denied approved, an attorney can help.
Berry Law is dedicated to helping Veterans in their fight for disability compensation. As a team with Veteran attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, Berry Law provides fellow Veterans with the legal firepower they need to get their VA claim approved. If you were denied VA disability for IBS and need help appealing, Berry Law can help. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.