If you have tried to get multiple claims service-connected, you may have heard or read the term “pyramiding.” In the case of VA disability compensation, pyramiding means receiving separate ratings for the same disability or the same manifestation. In other words, a single symptom cannot be rated more than once, even if the cause comes from two different disabilities. If a veteran has two different conditions causing the same symptom, only the highest-rated condition will be counted.
Veterans looking to avoid VA pyramiding need to argue that they suffer from a variety of symptoms covered by non-duplicate diagnostic codes without overlapping symptomatology, or the same set of symptom characteristics. For instance, a veteran who suffers from painful scars, facial muscle damage, and disfigurement can be rated separately under different diagnostic codes. Each condition is the result of the same disability, but the symptoms are completely different.
Symptoms must be the exact same for VA pyramiding to apply. When filing a VA disability claim, it is in a veteran’s best interest to think of every symptom caused by disabilities. If a veteran has two back conditions, one causing pain down the arms and the other down the legs, they can be rated separately.
It gets more complicated when there are many symptoms involved and some are shared. Because the same symptom can’t be rated twice, the shared symptoms must be separated. So if two different conditions share one specific symptom, it can only be applied to one of the conditions for rating considerations.
While you may receive service connection for multiple mental health conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, you cannot receive separate ratings for those conditions. Instead, the VA will consider all symptoms together and issue one rating for your acquired psychiatric conditions. It can be difficult to determine which manifestations result from one mental disorder and which result from another.
Many conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system have similar restrictions. Although you may have separately diagnosed conditions like GERD and irritable bowel syndrome, you cannot receive separate ratings for those conditions, and the totality of your symptoms will be considered together to establish a rating.
The rules against VA pyramiding can be found in the federal rules and regulations regarding diagnostic codes. The regulations will state which diagnostic codes in that section may not be given separate ratings because doing so would result in pyramiding. In some cases where there isn’t a specific diagnostic code assigned to your condition and it’s rated “analogously,” we may be able to argue for a separate rating under a code that would not be considered pyramiding.
Berry Law Firm was founded by a veteran, has many veterans among its attorneys and staff, and has been helping veterans increase disability ratings for decades. We understand what it’s like to fight against the VA as a current or former member of the armed services.
If you need to appeal a VA rating decision, contact Berry Law Firm today. Your consultation is free.
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