Dementia is a progressive loss of cognitive functioning that eventually makes a person unable to care for themselves. There is currently no cure, but treatments are available to slow the progression of the disease.
A person’s risk of developing dementia increases with age and many types of dementia have a strong genetic component. However, Veterans who’ve previously suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) should be aware that this also increases their dementia risk.
Even a Mild TBI Increases the Risk of Dementia
Although research into the link between dementia and traumatic brain injury initially focused on moderate or severe TBI, we now know that even a mild TBI can increase a Veteran’s dementia risk. VA research involving Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan found that Veterans who experienced a mild TBI without loss of consciousness were 2.36 times more likely to develop dementia than those who did not experience a brain injury.
Receiving a Presumptive Service Connection
If you have already received a service connection for your TBI, you may be eligible to receive a presumptive service connection for your dementia diagnosis. The VA allows for a presumptive service connection for dementia if you are diagnosed within 15 years of suffering a moderate or severe TBI. This means that the VA accepts your dementia is the caused by the TBI you experienced while serving your country and you do not need to submit any additional records to establish the connection. However, you will need to submit records outlining your symptoms so you can be assigned the appropriate disability rating. You may also be required to attend a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam to assess how your condition impacts your cognitive functioning.
If you suffered a mild TBI or were diagnosed outside of the 15-year timeframe, you do not qualify for a presumptive service connection. In order to receive benefits for dementia, you’ll need to submit evidence showing a medical nexus between your condition and your military service.
How Dementia Is Rated
Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, TBI, Lewy Body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, mixed dementia, and other types of cognitive impairment are rated on a scale ranging from 0% to 100% based on the severity of symptoms that a Veteran experiences. Higher ratings lead to higher monthly compensation. The rating scale is as follows:
- 0%. The condition doesn’t interfere with work responsibilities or social obligations and does not require the use of medication.
- 10%. The condition rarely interferes with daily obligations. The Veteran may be taking medication, but it allows them to lead a fairly normal life.
- 30%. The Veteran experiences symptoms such as panic attacks, depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulties.
- 50%. The Veteran suffers frequent changes in mood and behavior. Their condition leads to a reduced ability to meet obligations at work and at home.
- 70%. The impact of dementia is obvious in most aspects of the Veteran’s life and can include symptoms such as irritability and neglecting personal care.
- 100%. The Veteran is unable to care for themselves due to symptoms such as hallucinations and permanent disorientation.
Depending upon the rating a Veteran receives, they may also be eligible for benefits such as home-based primary care, respite care for caregivers, assisted living care, memory care, nursing home care, or hospice care.
Why You Should Apply for Benefits as Soon as You Are Diagnosed
At first glance, it may seem as though it would be best to wait until a Veteran is experiencing significant impairment to apply for disability benefits. While it’s true that more severe symptoms lead to higher monthly compensation, it can be difficult to determine how dementia will progress and the process of being approved for benefits can be time-consuming. Taking immediate action is the best way to ensure a Veteran has access to the resources they’ll need to address their condition. If needed, a Veteran can file for an increased rating at a later date.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
A dementia diagnosis can be emotionally difficult for Veterans and their families to process. During this time, you shouldn’t need to worry about being approved for VA disability benefits. Our experienced Veterans benefits attorneys can help ensure that you receive the highest possible rating for your condition. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.