Is Diabetes a VA Disability?

Is diabetes a VA disability claim?

The short answer is yes. Diabetes mellitus (type 2) is considered presumptive of service for Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during military service in Vietnam if they meet specific criteria.

Additionally, diabetes can be claimed for VA disability benefits as a secondary condition to another service-connected condition. For example, studies indicate diabetes may be connected to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, and sleep apnea. In these cases, you must prove the connection between diabetes and other service-connected condition or conditions.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that results from the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. In the context of VA disability, understanding the specific aspects and challenges of diabetes is fundamental to establishing its eligibility. To prove direct service connection involves demonstrating that the onset or aggravation of diabetes occurred during active duty.

As diabetes becomes an increasingly prevalent health concern, diabetes can significantly impact your daily life, affecting your ability to work and maintain overall well-being. Here is a closer look at the criteria and processes associated with diabetes as a VA disability.

If you’re seeking assistance with your VA disability claim related to diabetes, consider consulting a VA disability benefit lawyer.


Diabetes as Presumptive of Service

The VA has established diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes) as a presumptive service condition for Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other similar herbicides during their military service. This means that the VA will presume a service connection between Agent Orange exposure and the development of type 2 diabetes. There are eligibility requirements:

  • You must have served in the Republic of Vietnam at some point between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. The VA notes that “you must have physically served or visited in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), including service in the waters offshore if the conditions of service involved duty or visitation in Vietnam. This means the ship must have come to port in the RVN and you disembarked.” 
  • Discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Have diabetes mellitus (type 2).

Other eligible vectors include:

  • “Blue Water Veterans”
  • C-123 airplanes
  • Korean DMZ
  • Thailand military bases
  • Herbicide tests and storage outside of Vietnam

For more information, visit the VA web page listing exposure to Agent Orange by location.

Also, there are considerations for hazardous materials exposure including Agent Orange at:

  • Laos
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province
  • Guam
  • American Samoa
  • Johnston Atoll
  • Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base
  • Westover Air Force Base
  • Pittsburgh International Airport

The VA has additional information on hazardous materials exposure on its website.

There are other specific criteria required by the VA regarding locations and service times that may affect qualification. An experienced VA disability benefits lawyer can help you review the requirements to determine your eligibility.

The Department of Veterans Affairs linked the development of type 2 diabetes and exposure to Agent Orange in November 2000. VA News noted that approximately 16 percent of Veterans being treated in VA medical facilities have been diagnosed with diabetes. Additionally, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States as well as the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The VA diabetes regulation went into effect May 8, 2001.

Veterans will still need to supply medical records verifying their diabetes mellitus or undergo a VA examination to verify the condition. The VA will assign a rating depending on how severely the condition affects your daily life. Factors affecting your disability rating may include lifestyle changes like dietary restrictions and activity levels required to manage the condition, required medications and medical treatment, and any complications. Complications from type 2 diabetes may include vision, cardiovascular, renal, and neurological complications, as well as amputations.

Vietnam Veterans may be eligible for retroactive benefits if they applied for disability before the VA diabetes regulation went into effect. You may also apply to have your disability rating reevaluated if your condition has worsened.

Diabetes as a Secondary Service-Connected Condition

Some Veterans may mistakenly believe that only injuries directly incurred during combat qualify for disability benefits. However, disabilities, including conditions like diabetes, can result from various aspects of military service.

Scientific Studies Linking PTSD and Diabetes

Recent studies have shown a link between service-connected conditions like PTSD and sleep apnea and the development of diabetes mellitus. The study found Veterans with a PTSD diagnosis have a high prevalence of “cardiometabolic risk factors.” More than half of those studied were found to have a high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and 54 percent of participants, mostly those with higher OSA risk, had prediabetes or diabetes.

The study authors reviewed more than 4 million Veterans’ electronic medical records and found a “strong association” between OSA and stroke, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, depression, sleepiness-related accidents, cancer, and increased mortality.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that PTSD is a chronic condition affecting up to 30 percent of Veterans.

Combined Disability Rating

The VA assigns a disability rating based on the severity of your service-connected condition. The rating determines the amount of your disability benefits compensation. You may claim multiple related disabilities.

Building Your Case for Secondary Service-Connected Diabetes

If your diabetes is a secondary condition linked to another service-connected injury or disability, securing disability benefits will require showing the VA that there’s a clear connection. You’ve got to demonstrate that your diabetes is a result of or made worse by an existing service-related issue. This might take some digging into your medical history and connecting the dots between the conditions.

The key here is solid evidence. Include medical records, doctor’s notes, and anything that paints a clear picture of how your diabetes is tied to the primary service-connected condition. You’re essentially building a case, so the more detailed and comprehensive your documentation, the better. Don’t hold back on sharing how your health has been impacted—it’s all relevant.

Be honest about the day-to-day stuff. How does diabetes affect your life? Your ability to work? Expressing this impact is crucial. Whether it’s managing medications, dealing with fatigue, or any other challenges, paint a vivid picture of how diabetes is more than just a medical term—it’s a part of your daily reality. The VA needs to understand the practical impact to make a fair assessment.

Berry Law.

Filing a VA Disability Claim for Diabetes

Filing a disability claim can seem like a maze, but let’s break it down. Start by submitting a formal claim with the VA. Clearly outline how your diabetes is connected to your military service or another service-connected condition. Be specific and provide a detailed account of your situation. This is the first step in getting the support you deserve.

Next, gather up all your medical records related to diabetes and the primary service-connected condition. The more comprehensive, the better. This includes doctor’s notes, test results, and any documentation illustrating the progression of your condition. The VA needs a clear trail to understand your situation fully.

Tips for a Successful VA Disability Claim

  • Be thorough and don’t leave any details out. If you’re unsure about something, ask for help.
  • Keep a copy of everything you submit.
  • Stay on top of deadlines, and don’t be afraid to follow up with the VA for updates on your claim. Patience is key, but persistence is just as important.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

Consider bringing in some reinforcements—a lawyer with focused experience in VA disability claims. Our Berry Law team can guide you through the process, ensuring your claim is solid and all the necessary elements are covered. We understand the legal nuances, can help with gathering evidence, and can represent you in case of appeals. Having a legal ally significantly increases your chances of a successful claim.

Remember, this process might seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Reach out if you have questions or need assistance. Berry Law is here to help you navigate this journey.

Potential Challenges and Appeals to Your Diabetes Disability Claim

Denials can be disheartening, but it’s not the end of the road. If your claim is denied or you receive an unfavorable decision, the first step is understanding the reason. The VA usually provides a detailed explanation. Address those concerns directly in your appeal. If there’s additional evidence or information, make sure to include it. Patience and persistence are crucial in addressing denials.

Sometimes, bringing in legal support can make a significant difference. Consider consulting with a legal professional who focuses on VA disability claims. They can review your case, identify potential weaknesses, and guide you on strengthening your appeal. Having someone well-versed in the intricacies of VA law can be a valuable asset in navigating the appeals process. At Berry Law, we have lawyers who are Veterans. We have a unique understanding of the challenges you’re facing and a track record of success with these types of claims.

Appeals Process

The appeals process follows a structured path. It typically involves filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within one year of the denial. This starts the appeal process. Subsequently, the case may go to a Decision Review Officer (DRO) or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). Each stage allows for additional evidence and arguments to be presented.

Understanding the specific reasons for denial let us tailor your appeal accordingly. Keep track of deadlines, respond promptly to requests, and stay engaged in the process. If your case reaches the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you may even have a hearing where you can present your case in person.

The appeals process is designed to ensure fairness, and you have the right to appeal decisions you disagree with. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from legal professionals to navigate this process effectively.

Contact Berry Law to Help With Your VA Disability Claim

Veterans deserve every benefit owed to them. At Berry Law, we’re more than a law firm; we’re a team of Veterans who understand your challenges. Our firm has experience handling claims for VA disability benefits for diabetes, both presumptive and secondary to service-connected illness or injury. We can help you navigate the complexities of these types of disability claims, ensure you meet all requirements to qualify for disability benefits, gather essential evidence for your case, and advocate for the maximum benefits you have earned.

Our team is ready to stand by your side, just as you’ve stood for our country. Call our legal team at 888-883-2483 or fill out our online contact form. We represent Veterans in all 50 states and our legal team is available to you 24/7. Your fight is our fight. Let’s secure the benefits you deserve together.

John S. Berry, , Attorney for VA Disability Benefit
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Benefit Lawyer
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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