According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for one in four deaths. There are many conditions that can put you at risk for a heart attack or heart failure. If you are a Veteran and have a service-connected heart problem or developed ischemic heart disease after being exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides while in service, you may be eligible to receive disability compensation. To find out more, consult with a disability attorney who can help determine if you are eligible for disability payments.

Heart Attack Service Connection

Heart, Stethoscope, and EKG PaperworkIn order for a Veteran to qualify for benefits for a heart condition, they must show that it is a direct service connection. This can be done by showing medical and service records as well as providing proof that the condition started while in service.

There are also secondary service conditions that can be linked to heart disease or a heart problem such as a heart attack. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Stress

Ischemic Heart Disease and Agent Orange

Another type of service connection to a heart attack is a presumptive service connection. This type of connection is given to those who have served in the military and were placed in an area where they were exposed to a hazardous chemical such as Agent Orange.

Ischemic heart disease or coronary artery is caused by the narrowing of the heart arteries due to the build-up of plaque. When this happens, the heart is not able to get enough oxygen and flow of blood. A heart attack can occur when an artery becomes blocked. Those with ischemic heart disease may have symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pains. This condition can develop gradually over the years and is considered a presumptive service connection by the VA.

Veterans who were former POWs or in Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides have been linked to ischemic heart disease. Those who have the condition are eligible for disability compensation as well as health care benefits.

How the VA Rates Heart Attacks

If a Veteran suffers a heart attack, the VA will give them a temporary 100% disability rating for three months following the event as long as it is due to service-connected heart disease. The VA assumes that you are totally disabled for a period of three months after a heart attack, no matter the severity.

A temporary rating may also be given to those Veterans who not only had a heart attack but may have had a pacemaker, cardiac defibrillator implanted, heart valve replacement, or coronary bypass surgery.

After the three-month period, you will need to be re-evaluated and will be given a rating based on the resulting condition of your heart. The VA rates heart disease according to the condition you are heart is in after the three-month temporary period ends. Metabolic Equivalent Threshold scores, or METs, are used to rate heart disabilities based on the level of physical activity you can endure before showing certain cardiac signs. The higher level of exertion, the higher the METs score. A higher score results in a lower rating.

Ratings are as follows:

  • 100% disability is given for a score of three METs or less
  • 60% disability is given for a score of four to five METs
  • 30% disability is given for a score of six to seven METs
  • 10% disability is given for a score of eight to ten METs
  • 0% disability is given for a score that is more than ten METs

Contact a Veterans Benefits Attorney Today

If you had a heart attack and have questions about your disability benefits and ratings, contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can also assist those Veterans who have been denied benefits and need assistance with appealing their claim. Don’t wait another day, contact us today to schedule an appointment.