Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. It can cause severe symptoms such as stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and gas. The cause of IBS remains unknown, but certain triggers can be associated with it. IBS is common among Veterans, and if there is an established service connection can qualify for disability benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Diagnosing and Treating IBS
There is no diagnostic test to confirm IBS, but the condition can be diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms. Laboratory tests can rule out other possible causes of symptoms. Once it is determined that IBS is the cause of the symptoms, not another condition, treatment options can be discussed. IBS can be triggered by food allergies or stress.
There is also a link between a Veteran’s time in service and IBS. Veterans who were POWs or served in the Gulf War are more vulnerable to IBS due to certain environmental factors. Gulf War Syndrome is an illness that affects Veterans who served in the Gulf War. This illness results in a variety of symptoms including those that are gastrointestinal. If the Veteran has Gulf War Syndrome, it will be presumed that IBS is connected to their time in service.
Treatments for IBS
- Dietary changes
- Changes to lifestyle
- Alternative therapies
Many Veterans with IBS report that they have a poor quality of life due to the severity of the condition. They may miss work and avoid social situations due to the symptoms associated with the condition. IBS can impact all aspects of their life and make it difficult to do the things that they once enjoyed.
How the VA Rates IBS
Veterans may qualify for VA disability benefits for IBS if they can prove that the condition was due to their time in service or worsened by their military service. If the Veteran was not diagnosed with IBS until after their time in service, they will need to establish a service connection. This may be done by linking the IBS to a specific event that occurred or to a specific chemical or pollutant. IBS may also be linked to bacterial contamination or psychological stress.
Once a connection has been made, the VA will give a rating for IBS based on the severity of the condition.
VA Ratings for IBS
- 0 percent. IBS is considered mild and may consist of symptoms such as occasional episodes of abdominal discomfort or disturbances in bowel function.
- 10 percent. IBS is considered moderate and may consist of frequent episodes of bowel disturbance or abdominal distress.
- 30 percent. IBS is considered severe and may consist of diarrhea or alternating diarrhea with constipation, with more or less constant abdominal distress.
Other Conditions Common With IBS
IBS can be related to other conditions. Since IBS can cause chronic pain in Veterans, it can lead to other conditions such as depression and anxiety. These types of mood disorders can also worsen the symptoms of IBS.
If you are a Veteran who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), IBS may worsen or develop due to the condition. In this case, IBS would be considered a secondary condition to PTSD. If a Veteran is taking medication to treat a condition such as PTSD and it causes IBS, you may qualify for a secondary-service condition. In addition, if you have an established service-connected disability that you are receiving treatment for and develop signs of IBS as a result, it may be considered a secondary service connection.
Contact a Veterans Benefits Attorney Today
If you have been denied VA disability benefits for IBS or need help filing an appeal, contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help protect your legal rights so you can get the benefits you deserve. Call us today at 877-629-1712 or use our online contact form to find out more.