What Is Ischemic Heart Disease?
Ischemic heart disease is a catch-all term for many conditions, including coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease, ischemic cardiomyopathy, and myocardial ischemia. Patients suffer a hardening of the arteries that reduces blood flow to the heart, preventing the heart from getting enough oxygen (ischemia). Over time, the heart muscle weakens, causing angina, congestive heart failure, or even a heart attack.
Symptoms of ischemic heart disease can include:
- Pressure, squeezing, or pain in the chest
- Pain in the back, neck, jaw, or arm
- Lightheadedness or dizzy spells
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained fatigue after activity
- Severe chest pain after coughing
- Sensations of indigestion or heartburn
- A heartbeat that seems loud or feels “harder” in the chest
VA Diagnostic Codes and Disability Ratings for Ischemic Heart Disease
The VA rates coronary artery disease and related conditions based on their severity. For example, under Diagnostic Code 7006, a Veteran can be considered 100% during and for three months following myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Ongoing cases of arteriosclerotic heart disease are rated using Diagnostic Code 7005, with the following disability schedule:
- 100% - Complete disability is reserved for documented coronary artery disease that results in 1) chronic congestive heart failure, 2) a workload of 3 metabolic equivalents (METs) with shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, or 3) has evidence of ventricular dysfunction with less than 30% of blood pumped out with each heartbeat. Veterans who are unable to work due to their ischemic heart disease but do not meet the 100% scheduled disability rating could receive total disability benefits based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating.
- 60% - This rating is given to Veterans with 1) two or more episodes of congestive heart failure during the past year, 2) a workload of 4 or 5 METs with shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, or 3) has evidence of ventricular dysfunction with 30-50% of blood pumped out with each heartbeat.
- 30% - Veterans may be assigned a partial rating if they have 1) a workload of 6 or 7 METs with shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, or fainting, or 2) evidence of cardiac hypertrophy or dilation on an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or X-ray.
- 10% - The lowest rating is applied for Veterans with a workload of between 8 to 10 METS with shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, or fainting. Conditions that require continuous medication may also qualify.
Do I Need a Direct Service Connection to Get VA Disability Benefits?
Not necessarily. The VA has acknowledged that Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 likely suffered exposure to tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange. As a result, Veterans exposed to Agent Orange are entitled to presumptive service connection for ischemic heart disease even if they have other risk factors.
Veterans who suffered herbicide exposure during military service and their families may qualify for:
- Disability benefits. You might collect disability compensation if you served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone, or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed or stored during the relevant time period.
- Health care. Veterans with ischemic heart disease may have their treatment costs covered by the VA for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
- Survivors' benefits. A surviving spouse, dependent child, or dependent parent of a Veteran who has died as the result of ischemic heart disease after exposure to herbicides during military service.
What if My VA Disability Benefits Were Denied?
Now that there is a known link between ischemic heart disease and herbicides, the VA has a duty to reopen claims of Vietnam-era Veterans who were denied heart disease compensation in the past. If you think your condition could be related to Agent Orange exposure, it’s worth it to file your claim as soon as possible. Even if it’s denied, the VA could later recognize your disability as service-connected, entitling you to an earlier effective date with significant back pay.
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, serves Veterans nationwide who are struggling to get the compensation they need for a service-related disability. If you need help with your benefits, call (877) 629-1712 or use our online contact form to set up a free, no-obligation consultation or learn more about your claim in our free guide, VA Benefits Handbook.