The VA offers benefits to disabled Veterans for all manner of physical ailments or disabilities, ranging from chronic conditions to paralysis and more. Some Veterans may acquire eye conditions or experience blindness in one or both eyes due to their military service, either in combat or after being exposed to potential hazards or toxins.
If you’ve developed an eye condition or blindness because of your military service, you may qualify for a VA disability rating and monthly compensation. This page will break down how the VA rates eye disabilities and Veterans and what types of compensation you can expect once your disability benefits claim is accepted.
To provide Veterans with the support they deserve after their service, the VA rates common and severe eye conditions with the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities or VASRD.
For eye conditions and specifically, they are rated under 38 CFR 4.79, Schedule of Ratings – Eye. Eye conditions rated by the VA are listed under Diagnostic Codes 6000 to 6091. These include:
As of 2018, diseases of the eye further include conditions like retinal dystrophy, diabetic retinopathy, post-chiasmal disorders, and more. In this day and age, Veterans should receive benefits to treat or pay for their eye-related medical treatment or surgeries no matter their symptoms.
Applying for disability benefits for eye conditions is not always straightforward because there are two ways for Veterans to have a service connection for their conditions.
The first is a direct service connection. To qualify for disability benefits in this way, Veterans have to establish a clear service connection between their active-duty service and their current eye condition symptoms through proving or providing:
Establishing a direct service connection is usually the easiest way to acquire a disability rating for your eye condition.
However, Veterans may also receive secondary service connections for eye conditions if they are either caused or aggravated by one other service-connected condition the VA already has on record. These secondary service connections are usually qualifying medical conditions that may affect Veterans’ eyes and lead to the development of conditions, like:
Furthermore, a Veteran taking medication for a service-connected condition may be eligible for a secondary service connection to their eye condition if that medication is known to cause vision problems as a side effect. For example, some medications for depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions may be linked to glaucoma.
The VA rates eye conditions on a percentage basis like it does all other disabilities for which it rewards benefits. To determine accurate ratings for eye conditions, the VA measures three primary factors.
The first of these is central visual acuity. This is the eye’s ability to distinguish the details or shapes of objects at specific distances. The better visual understanding, the more focused and clear an image is when looking at it.
However, poor visual acuity can lead to object blurriness either when it is far away or up close. Both nearsightedness and farsightedness refer to the extremes of central visual acuity. To determine central visual acuity, the VA will order a test to be performed, often a typical eye chart examination.
If a Veteran receives a vision rating of 5/200, they will be considered legally blind. Both eyes are rated together for a combined score on this test.
The next factor is the visual field, which describes the range of vision a Veteran can see when looking at a fixed point in front of them. The better the Veteran’s visual field, the better their peripheral vision and detail recognition.
Visual field testing involves taking several automatic tests that can measure the range of vision in the eyes without physically moving your eyeballs. A normal visual field can see objects 65° down, 50° down nasally, 60° nasally, 55° up nasally, and so on. In total, a normal visual field will be about 500°.
If a Veteran’s visual field doesn’t reach this measurement, they may receive a disability rating as a result.
The last factor is muscle dysfunction, which deals with how well eye muscles can move around or whether they are noticeably weakened. It’s measured using similar charts as are used to measure visual field clarity and strength. Some Veterans may experience muscle dysfunction and have difficulty moving their eyes from side to side or up and down.
Once all three measurements are obtained, the VA will rate a Veteran’s eye conditions through scales that combine the three measurements into a total rating percentage.
All diseases of the eye are rated under VA Schedule 38 CFR 4.79. Diseases of the eye or eye conditions may be assigned readings from 10% to 60% with the exception of blindness, which may carry a rating of 100% depending on the full circumstances of the Veteran and any related disabilities.
A C&P Exam for eye conditions should be straightforward and relatively short. However, you should make sure that your exam is administered by a licensed optometrist or eye doctor, not a general practitioner.
If a GP or another doctor administers your exam, contact the VA immediately and reschedule. Your eye condition(s) and vision quality can only be fully examined and verified by a licensed optometry practitioner.
Disability benefits for one or more eye conditions could cover various medical bills and ongoing costs related to daily life.
A Veteran with a service-connected condition (or several service-connected conditions) that is considered very serious or debilitating by the VA may receive special monthly compensation or SMC.
To qualify for SMC, the Veteran’s rating must total more than 100%. It should be automatically awarded to qualifying Veterans during the claims process.
In most cases, patients who receive SMC for eye conditions receive the first level of extra compensation. This compensation is added to regular monthly compensation rates, so you can consider it a bonus benefit. This is usually paid to Veterans who have blindness in one or both eyes.
Furthermore, Veterans may receive some or all of their healthcare costs covered through their VA benefits, like routine eye examinations, preventative vision testing, and eye surgeries (if needed). VA benefits may also cover the cost of eyeglasses if the eyeglasses are needed for certain health conditions related to their service.
Overall, the VA rates eye conditions similarly to how it rates other disabling conditions for Veterans. Understanding the intricacies of this system – and knowing how to file your claim correctly and establish a service connection to your eye condition – is vital if you want to receive the maximum benefits possible for your eye condition.
That’s why you should contact Berry Law ASAP. As experienced and specialized attorneys in the area of Veterans law, we’re well equipped and ready to help you navigate the complex VA claims and appeals process. Whether you need to file for eye disorder benefits for the first time or appeal a VA decision, our attorneys can help you get the benefits you deserve for your service to our country. Contact us today.
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