Urinary incontinence affects a large part of the population and can pose many challenges to the quality and enjoyment of every aspect of life. In addition to the challenges posed by this condition, Veterans may also face significant difficulties in navigating the complex VA claims process. It can be confusing to try to unpack how the VA disability rating system works.
Each Veteran’s case will be different, but Berry Law has experience helping Veterans from all walks of life as they go through the appeals process to receive the benefits their service and sacrifice have earned.
Urinary incontinence is a common medical condition that involves a loss of ability to control urine flow. The severity of this condition can vary from case to case, with some individuals experiencing an occasional involuntary leaking of urine after an intense cough or sneeze. In contrast, others suffer from extreme urges to urinate that are so strong that they are unable to get to the toilet in time.
The most important thing to remember when addressing this condition is its common occurrence, especially as individuals age; however, there are also many younger adults whose lives are impacted by urinary incontinence. Up to a quarter of men and women in America experience this condition.
The symptoms of urinary incontinence are generally characterized as a small to moderate loss of urine when certain triggers occur. These triggers can be different for each individual, and many people with urinary incontinence have multiple triggers that cause loss of urine.
Stress incontinence occurs when an individual exerts pressure on their bladder, causing a small amount of urine to leak.
This stress can be a cough, a laugh, or a more strenuous activity like lifting weights or jumping. This can impact an individual in many ways that often go unnoticed, from a decreased desire to engage in activities that may trigger a loss of urine to anxiety about experiencing a urine loss in public.
Urge incontinence manifests as a sudden and overpowering urge to urinate. It can often be a major impediment to individuals who may not be able to make it to a toilet in time.
This can severely impact an individual’s life by discouraging them from engaging in activities or attending public events where bathroom access may be limited or remote.
Functional incontinence is often defined as an individual who already suffers from a physical or mental impairment that limits their motor function or ability to reach a restroom in time.
This can occur for any number of reasons, from limited access to proper facilities due to wheelchair dependence to a fine motor skills impairment that prevents an individual from opening doors or manipulating articles of clothing without great difficulty.
These conditions can present alone, but some individuals may struggle with multiple forms of urinary incontinence. For Veterans, urinary incontinence can add another barrier to the enjoyment of life and, in many cases, can exacerbate or arise out of existing disabilities.
If you or a loved one has served in the armed forces and are experiencing symptoms that match those listed above, scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms could lead to a diagnosis of urinary incontinence. Still, there are several underlying causes which may need to be addressed as soon as possible.
The biggest cause of urinary incontinence is aging. As we age, people frequently lose control of some muscle groups in part or almost entirely. However, many underlying factors can cause this condition in younger adults, especially Veterans.
Obesity is a major cause of developing urinary incontinence. Additional weight on the body leads to increased pressure on the groin and bladder, which can factor heavily into how strong urges to urinate become.
Unfortunately, many Veterans with existing disabilities are at a higher risk for obesity, either caused by health conditions like hypothyroidism or as a result of physical disabilities, which limit or impair their ability to remain active out of the service.
Another major cause of urinary incontinence is an obstruction or tumor near the urinary tract, which can lead to decreased flow while urinating and often is the cause of urine leaks occurring even though you do not have the urge to urinate.
In Veterans, this may be caused or aggravated by service-connected injuries or cancers that create increased pressure or blockages in the urinary tract.
Prostate cancer can create symptoms of urinary incontinence, which is often an early warning sign of this form of cancer. Prostate cancer is a condition that has numerous service-connected causes. These can range from radiation exposure as experienced by “atomic Veterans” to the long-term effects of exposure to toxic chemicals like those leaked into the water supply at Camp Lejeune.
Even though you may have been told previously that urinary incontinence was just something that happened as you aged, it is important for Veterans to understand that several service-connected disabilities can cause or aggravate this condition.
Treatment for urinary incontinence generally involves a drastic change in lifestyle in some way. While some can find relief from symptoms through physical therapy and dietary changes, not everyone suffering from urinary incontinence can see an improvement after beginning physical therapy or making changes in their habits.
When patients are unresponsive to treatment or in instances of persisting urinary incontinence, medical professionals generally recommend using protective devices and wearable solutions that attempt to handle the symptoms by preventing urine leaks from spreading.
However, these devices impose their own set of obstacles, as they can be invasive, uncomfortable, and expensive for long-term use. As such, when dealing with urinary incontinence, which can be traced to a Veteran’s service, it is important to have competent legal counsel familiar with the intricacies of the VA Claims system.
The process for getting a disability rating for urinary incontinence is similar to other disabilities. You can start by getting a diagnosis and filing for benefits. You will need to prove that your condition is connected to your service and offer evidence of its impact on your quality of life.
Getting diagnosed with urinary incontinence is as simple as identifying your symptoms and seeking medical care. You may, in fact, already have a diagnosis or have been treated for urinary incontinence in connection with another already existing disability.
Your next step will be applying for benefits through the VA. To do this, you must start by demonstrating that your condition is related to your service or caused or aggravated by a condition you have already proven is service-connected.
An important step to establish that your urinary incontinence results from your military service will be to collect all relevant records from your service. Any eyewitness testimony, written notes from medical staff, or official diagnosis received during your service can help establish when and how your condition developed.
With the information you have obtained from your service record, your healthcare provider can link your service to your current condition in a Nexus Letter, an important component of establishing your service connection.
At this point, your VA claim evaluator will be able to make a determination on whether your condition was service-connected.
At this point, if your condition is determined to be service connected, the VA will assign a rating to your file quantifying the percentage of the impact your disabilities have on your quality of life. The more you can demonstrate the impact of your urinary incontinence and other conditions, the higher your chance of receiving the full compensation your service has earned.
Berry Law has worked with thousands of Veterans dealing with the full spectrum of service-connected conditions. Berry Law’s team of Veterans and military family members knows how it feels to have many of the same questions and concerns about the complex VA benefits system and will work tirelessly on your behalf if your initial claim has been denied.
If you or a loved one struggle with urinary incontinence or other disability and are a Veteran, there is a chance that you are not receiving the benefits you earned as a result of your service. Call Berry Law today to help appeal a denial of benefits or increase your disability rating.
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