When you think of a service-connected disability, gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD, acid reflux, or heartburn) probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, since GERD can be caused by psychological stress, physical trauma, or the side effect of certain medications, it can be considered a primary or secondary condition when applying for VA disability benefits. Most commonly, it is a secondary service-connected disability for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
VA Ratings for GERD
There is no specific rating schedule for GERD. Claims are evaluated under a schedule that produces “a common disability picture characterized in the main.” This is often under is 38 C.F.R. § 4.114, Diagnostic Code 7346, which discusses issues affecting the digestive system.
Disability ratings for GERD can range from 10% to 60%. To receive a 60% rating, the condition must cause weight loss, vomiting, pain, and blood in the vomit or blood in the stool with moderate anemia or produce a combination of symptoms that cause a severe impairment of health.
GERD and PTSD
GERD can develop when the symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety, stress, and depression, lead to an overproduction of stomach acid. In some people, medications taken to treat PTSD can also lead to GERD as a side effect. If you have service-connected PTSD, the VA will approve benefits for any secondary disabilities with a nexus to the condition.
If you were treated for GERD before entering the military, your condition could still receive a secondary service connection if your PTSD aggravated your symptoms. For example, if you were able to control your condition with over-the-counter treatments before entering the military and are now experiencing pain and vomiting despite taking prescription medication, this supports the claim that your service-connected PTSD worsened your GERD.
When GERD is approved as a secondary service-connected disability, the rating will be combined with the rating for the primary disability using what’s often referred to as “VA math” to arrive at an overall disability rating. VA math deducts each disability from a running body total and rounds to the nearest 10% since a veteran can’t be more than 100% disabled.
Contact Us Today
Our legal team can explain your options if you are suffering from GERD as the result of PTSD and help you determine the best way to maximize your available disability benefits. Contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.