Heart conditions can be debilitating and difficult to live with, especially those that require surgeries or medications. In some cases, Veterans affected by heart conditions may require one or more heart stents installed to treat their immediate condition or to prevent future heart health complications.
In these circumstances, you may be entitled to disability compensation. Let’s look at the VA disability ratings for heart stents and related heart conditions.
A heart stent is a small mesh tube that physicians may use to open passages within the body. These include any weak or narrowed arteries. Arteries are the organic corridors through which blood flows; they provide blood to the heart and take blood out of the heart to reach other body areas.
Certain types of heart diseases may occur because of collapsed or narrowed arteries or may cause the arteries to narrow in the future. In either case, a heart stent may expand the arteries again, allowing blood to flow normally throughout the body.
Stents are most often used to treat narrowed coronary arteries. These provide the heart with oxygen-rich blood. However, stents may also treat certain types of aneurysms (bulges in artery walls) or narrowed airway passages within the lungs.
Fortunately, installing a heart stent (called “stenting”) is minimally invasive, so it’s not treated like a major surgery. Still, it’s important to look into disability benefits if you require one or more heart stents, as it means you experience heart disease.
You could receive monthly compensation and other VA healthcare benefits if your heart disease relates to your military service.
Depending on the heart disease treated and your unique circumstances, your physician or surgeon may use one or more different types of stents. Most stents are made of metal mesh, though they may also be covered with silicone. Other measures are made completely with silicone, as silicone can be more easily molded into a specific shape.
Recently, the FDA approved the use of 3D-printed stents. In some surgeries, surgeons will create uniquely molded stents for each patient to ensure that the stents don’t become loose or slip away for one reason or another.
Other stents, such as biodegradable stents, may be designed to dissolve after a few months. These can be useful in temporary stenting procedures.
Heart stents often treat heart conditions like heart attacks or coronary artery disease. These open the arteries around the heart, allowing blood to flow normally where the arteries had previously collapsed or narrowed.
This isn’t to say that every heart disease surgery requires stents. However, your physician will tell you whether you need stents and whether the stents will be permanent parts of your physiology.
Veterans may develop various heart conditions because of their time in the military, either due to ongoing stressors or in-service injuries, illnesses, or events. Here are some of the most common heart conditions that Veterans may develop.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It is characterized by hardened and narrowed arteries, which normally supply blood to the heart muscle. CAD may occur because of cholesterol buildup or when plaque accumulates on the inner walls of the heart arteries.
Coronary artery disease symptoms include severe pain or discomfort in the upper body, sweating, indigestion, or difficulty breathing. If left unchecked, it can result in heart failure.
A myocardial infarction or heart attack is very serious. It may occur if a portion of the heart is deprived of oxygen because one or more coronary arteries have become blocked.
The symptoms of a heart attack include tightness in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, and potential heart failure. Note that the symptom severity of a heart attack can vary from person to person.
Coronary bypass surgery is a procedure that restores normal blood flow to the heart. It does this by diverting blood flow around a certain section of a blocked artery in the heart.
Coronary bypass surgery doesn’t cure heart disease but may ease symptoms. It can reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, for example.
A Veteran with any of the above service-connected conditions may be eligible for disability benefits. However, the amount they will receive is contingent on the symptoms they experience, whether their symptoms prevent them from maintaining employment, and how long their symptoms are expected to last.
The VA does not rate heart stents, but it does rate heart conditions that may require heart stents to be used in the first place. Most heart conditions are rated based on the Schedule of Ratings – Cardiovascular System.
A Veteran’s rating depends on their score on a METS test, which measures how much energy it takes to complete a task and determines how much blood moves through the heart.
The ratings can include a:
Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you provide substantiating evidence, like medical records and lay statements, to maximize your disability compensation. By increasing your disability rating, you’ll receive more money that you can use to pay for medical bills like heart stent surgery and to compensate you for lost money due to the time you have to take off work.
As seen from the rating breakdown above, the VA may assign a Veteran with heart disease a 60% rating if they have debilitating symptoms while performing low levels of exercise, such as walking. To receive a 100% disability rating, Veterans must prove that there is an escalation in symptomatology.
In a nutshell, they must show that they experience symptoms of heart disease or conditions at low-intensity exertions, like showering, dressing, or eating. Thus, a 100% disability rating is very rare. On top of that, if a Veteran has chronic or congestive heart failure instead of occasional episodes, they might be eligible for a 100% disability rating.
Lastly, Veterans receive a 100% temporary total rating for heart conditions if they require a temporary hospital stay. The temporary 100% rating persists for the duration of the hospitalization and the first three months after.
As you can see, the VA does not provide a disability rating for heart stents specifically. However, it may assign you a disability rating for one or more heart conditions requiring heart stents. If you’ve already had a heart stent installed because of service-connected heart health condition, contacting Veterans law attorneys immediately is important.
At Berry Law, we can help you file a disability benefits application based on your current symptoms and your service connection. We’ll also help you file an appeal with your initial benefits application was denied or if you wish to increase your disability rating. Contact us today to learn more.
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