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VA Benefits for Pacemakers and Heart Conditions

VA Benefits for Pacemakers and Heart Conditions

Heart conditions and pacemakers can make life difficult for Veterans. With checkups, doctors visits, and the like, the amount of money it takes to pay for these things can also add up. Because of these things, as a Veteran, you are entitled to benefits for your time in the service.

But what is the VA rating for pacemakers and heart conditions, and what are the benefits for these things? Before you go to make a claim through the VA, you should know all that you are entitled to so that you will not run into future problems. We will also go over what we at Berry Law can provide to get you the compensation you deserve.

What Is Heart Disease?

Before you make a claim, you should know what heart disease is and what causes it. Heart disease is a broad term to signify any issues with the heart or cardiovascular system. It is a very common condition, particularly in the United States, and is the leading cause of death, with about a quarter of deaths being caused by heart disease.

Here are some common heart conditions that the VA covers:

Hypertension

Another name for high blood pressure, hypertension can cause strokes, heart disease, and sometimes death, depending on the severity of the condition. Hypertension happens when your heart pumps a lot of blood but you have narrow arteries, making it more challenging for blood to travel through your body. Hypertension can develop into a secondary condition, known as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). When this occurs, you can receive a secondary disability rating through the VA.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

This is the most common form of heart disease. When cholesterol builds up in the arteries inner walls, the arteries leading to the heart harden and become narrow. Some of the symptoms of CAD are sweating, indigestion, difficulty breathing, and pain in the upper body. As for the cause of CAD, there are several things that can cause it, such as tobacco use, being overweight, or a family history of heart disease.

How To Establish a Service Connection

Once you determine that you have heart disease, the next step is to make a service connection. You can either claim through the VA a primary or secondary connection for your heart disease.

Primary

In order to establish a primary connection for your heart disease, you have to have three things: a current diagnosed heart condition, an in-service event or illness, and a medical nexus. As a Veteran, you can send in evidence to help support your claim. The evidence can be anything from service records, medical records, or anything similar.

Secondary

Suppose your current heart condition was not directly caused by your service but was aggravated by an already existing service-connected condition. In that case, you can make a secondary connection through the VA for your heart disease. 

Recent studies have shown that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has caused certain heart conditions. This can be through certain medications that are used to treat primary service-connected conditions that affect the performance of the heart. Because heart conditions can be caused by already existing service-connected conditions, you should explore any possibility you can when going to make a claim through the VA so that you can get the compensation that you deserve.

Presumptive: Agent Orange

A presumptive connection considers a Veteran’s qualifying service (in a specific area for a defined time) and their potential exposure to harmful chemicals and environmental hazards. If the VA believes that the Veteran has been exposed to such things and developed heart disease, the Veteran may be eligible for compensation and benefits. If a Veteran has coronary artery disease and served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, then the Veteran should receive benefits based on this presumption. 

This only applies to coronary artery disease. There has been no evidence that connects hypertension to Agent Orange exposure. But, you can receive service-connected compensation with hypertension if you are able to connect it to your coronary artery disease.

PTSD

Because underlying conditions can cause heart disease, such as PTSD, it is important to have experienced lawyers to back up your claim and fight on your behalf. 

At Berry Law, not only will we assist you to get the proper VA rating if you have PTSD, but we will also help you connect your PTSD and heart condition. This will ensure that you get the proper compensation and benefits based on the symptoms of your conditions.

What Is the VA rating?

The VA uses a particular rating schedule for cardiovascular issues. They use MET testing (which tests the energy levels that your body exerts and how your heart performs when doing physical activities) to determine whether or not a Veteran needs a higher level rating. The higher the level of energy that the body exerts, the higher the MET number. 

When your MET number is around 5-7, and you start experiencing the symptoms of heart disease, the VA will rate you at 30%. When you go to get testing, whether it shows up on an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or X-ray, make sure you send the results to the VA to verify your claims. Especially if it is done through a doctor that is not associated with the VA, you will want to send in the testing results.

Beyond that, the VA will rate you at 60% if you have symptoms at a lower MET. This could include anything from light yard work or walking at a fast pace. If you take any heart medication, make sure to make the VA aware of this as well. The VA will assign you a rating of 100% when you experience the symptoms of heart disease at a minimal level of METs. This could be from eating, dressing, showering, or slow walking. They can also rate you at 100% if you have a type of coronary heart disease or chronic congestive heart failure.

Getting an IU

As with many disabilities, you have to consider whether or not it will keep you from maintaining unemployment. If your heart disease prevents you from maintaining consistent employment, then you will want to consider claiming an Individual Unemployment (IU) through the VA. 

When you get tested for your symptoms, have your doctor record these things as evidence when you go to make a claim. Because of the symptoms and high morbidity rates of heart disease, many Veterans are unable to maintain employment when they experience symptoms. If this is your case, have your doctor make a note of that to show the VA.

Temporary Total Rating

The VA will give out a temporary total rating for certain heart complications. 

If the Veteran suffers from a heart attack, they will get a total rating for three months following the heart attack. After the three months, the VA will re-evaluate their rating by observing further MET testing. You need to get MET testing after the three months of the heart attack to get a proper VA rating.

If the Veteran needs a pacemaker, the VA will assign a total rating for two months after the surgery. After two months, the VA will re-evaluate the rating based on how severe the condition is after the surgery.

If the Veteran gets heart valve replacement surgery, the VA will give the Veteran a 100% rating for the length of the treatment and six months following the surgery. After six months, the VA will re-evaluate the rating based on the Veteran’s impairment from the result of the surgery.

Conclusion

Heart disease can be a life-threatening and debilitating condition. Because of this, it prevents some Veterans from work and can also be the result of other underlying service-connected conditions. To get the compensation you deserve, you submit as much evidence as possible for your heart condition.

At Berry Law, we have had years of experience fighting for Veterans to get the benefits and ratings they deserve. If you need help getting the correct rating, fighting an appeal, or just need assistance in making a claim, be sure to visit our website to find out more information.

Sources:

Getting Veterans VA Disability Benefits for Heart Conditions

VA Disability Ratings for Heart Disease

The METS Test for Ischemic Heart Disease

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm 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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