Veterans are exposed to numerous things in service that can cause permanent damage to the body or mind. For this reason, there are laws meant to compensate Veterans for the damage the military caused to them. Below is a list of the most common VA disability claims for Veterans.
Military training, exercises, and deployment cause wear and tear on the body that isn’t typically experienced by the civilian population. Physical activity in the military is more akin to that experienced by professional athletes, except the military often does not give service members the opportunities to let their injuries heal properly. Furthermore, in times of war, taking a break is not an option. The types of injuries are typically unique to the Veteran: bad knees from running too much; a bad neck or back from jumping off of armored vehicles or carrying heavy gear while ruck marching; shoulder strain from hauling heavy equipment; and flat feet from excessive running, to name a few. Unfortunately, the injuries you sustained in service often get worse as you get older.
Typically, the VA will only afford you compensation for your musculoskeletal injuries if you have some restricted range of movement (ROM). However, the VA is supposed to consider your range of movement during flareups, whether you’re having a flareup during the examination or not.
During the Vietnam War era, U.S. forces used agent orange and other herbicides to defoliate the dense jungle. By law, Veterans are presumed exposed to these herbicides if they served in at a certain time and place. If the Veteran was exposed to these herbicides, he or she is presumed service connected for certain diseases.
The most common VA disability claims which are presumptively service connected are diabetes mellitus type 2, prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers, soft tissue sarcomas, parkinson’s disease, hodgkin’s disease, non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, chloracne, and chronic B-cell leukemias.
There are also other common disabilities Veterans who served in the Vietnam era tend to claim, even though these conditions are not presumptively service connected. These can include other cancers caused by agent orange exposure, heart conditions, and high blood pressure. Fungal infections caused by Vietnam service are also common VA disability claims for Veterans.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health disorders caused by military service are much more common VA disability claims for Veterans today than they were in the past. Previously, it was not realized that in service trauma actually caused lasting mental health problems. Veterans returning home would be withdrawn or turn to alcohol to self-medicate. Personal and professional relations would suffer as a result. Thankfully, PTSD and other mental health disorders are acknowledged and accepted today, and treatment and compensation are available for Veterans who develop these disabilities as a result of their military service.
The Veteran will typically need to have experienced a traumatic event in service for the VA to compensate him or her for PTSD. If the stressor occurred as a result of combat, the VA should not require additional evidence that the stressor did occur, besides the Veteran’s own statements. Relaxed evidentiary rules also apply to Veterans who were victims of military sexual trauma, or MST. For most other mental health disorders, a causal relationship to service also must be established.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI is a claim especially prevalent among Veterans of the recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere (as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)), due to explosions from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Symptoms of TBI can include headaches, nausea, slowness in thinking, getting easily confused, change in sleep patterns, sensitivity to light, mood changes, memory problems, and blurred vision. Veterans who suffer from TBI often also suffer from PTSD, and these two conditions have symptoms that overlap. TBI may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Sleep apnea is one of the most common VA disability claims for Veterans of both the Vietnam Era or the modern wars. Sleep apnea usually is caused primarily by respiratory toxins or damage to the nervous system, or secondarily by the Veteran’s other service connected disabilities, to include PTSD; shift work sleep disorder; chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or other respiratory conditions; TBI; gastrointestinal disorders; or as a result of Southwest Asia service.
Due to chemicals that leached into the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, Veterans stationed there are entitled to presumptive service connection and compensation for some disabilities. These disabilities include adult leukemia, aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and associated Hepatitis, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Parkinson’s disease. Veterans are also entitled to free VA health care, but not monthly compensation payments, for other disabilities. These disabilities include esophageal cancer, breast cancer, renal toxicity, female infertility, scleroderma, lung cancer, leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, hepatic steatosis, miscarriage, and neurobehavioral effects.
Other disabilities may be subject to compensation if the Veteran was exposed to harmful chemicals as a result of his military service, but these disorders typically aren’t afforded presumptive service compensation. That is, even though you were exposed to the toxins, you will still have to argue that the exposure caused your disability, rather than the VA assuming that the exposure did cause your disability. The most common toxin exposure includes exposure to jet fuels, lead, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), trichloroethylene (TCE), and tetrachloroethylene (PCE).
In addition to upticks in claims for PTSD and TBI, Veterans of the Gulf War and the Iraq War have increased numbers of claims for numerous other conditions. The VA provides presumptive service connection for some “undiagnosed” conditions arising from this service. However, the term “undiagnosed” is a bit of a catch-22, as it may not be possible to describe the symptoms of the condition without diagnosing it as something. Even so, if the VA decides that the Veteran is not presumptively entitled to service connection for the condition, he may still be entitled to service connection on a primary basis, due to his or her exposures to toxins in that area. These toxins can include fumes from burn pits, sand, fungal and bacterial infections, and other chemical exposures. The common VA disability claims from Southwest Asia service includes gastrointestinal conditions, respiratory conditions, skin conditions, migraines, allergies, sleep apnea, fatigue and sleep disturbances, fibromyalgia, joint pain or muscle pain, cardiovascular conditions, headaches, menstrual disorders, and abnormal weight loss.
Very commonly, the Veteran’s service connected disabilities may cause secondary disorders. The most common VA disability claims are secondary conditions are sleep apnea or sleep disorders caused by PTSD or TBI; gastrointestinal disorders caused PTSD; hypertension caused by PTSD; sleep apnea caused by gastrointestinal or respiratory disorders; chronic fatigue syndrome caused by respiratory disorders; medication; pulmonary hypertension caused by COPD; radiculopathy or peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness, or loss of movement in the legs or arms) secondary to musculoskeletal injuries or diabetes; and diabetes caused by musculoskeletal disorders or PTSD, due to the Veteran’s inability to exercise.
Fighting the VA for compensation is sometimes harder than it should be. Understanding what compensation you are entitled to and how to receive it are two entirely different things. Our team has experience appealing VA claims and helping Veterans receive the payments they are entitled to. As a Veteran owned and operated law firm, we are committed to helping Veterans receive disability benefits. If you or somebody you know has been denied disability benefits from the VA or was rated to low, contact Berry Law to schedule a consultation and let us fight for the benefits you deserve.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.