Gastroesophageal reflux disease is commonly referred to as GERD, which is caused by acid reflux that occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus. If left untreated, it can lead to a painful erosion of the esophagus lining, cause ulcers, increase the risk of cancer, and other serious conditions.
Veterans suffering from GERD may be able to claim disability benefits if they meet the requirements for this debilitating condition.
An Overview of the VA GERD Rating
When a specific condition does not have its own diagnostic code, analogous ratings are assigned based on what condition most closely matches the symptoms the veteran is exhibiting.
GERD has no separate diagnostic code, so the VA applies rating criteria analogous to other digestive disorders. In this case, GERD is rated similar to a hiatal hernia (Diagnostic Code 7346), which is sometimes a cause of GERD.
Using this as a basis and considering the severity of symptoms, the VA will rate a GERD disability as 10%, 30%, or 60%.
Causes and Symptoms of GERD
GERD occurs when stomach acid and other contents inside the stomach flow back into the esophagus and create a reflex episode That leads to other possible health issues including:
- Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
- Epigastric distress
- New or worsening asthma
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
Some people experience acid reflux occasionally, but GERD occurs more than twice a week for several weeks.
Symptoms can worsen when you lie down or after eating fried, spicy, and acidic foods like citrus and dairy products. Other risk factors include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Certain medications
Traumatic brain injury, heart disease, sleep apnea, and mental health conditions like PTSD are also linked to GERD.
Veterans and service members may be at higher risk for GERD due to military service activities such as high-stress situations, diet changes, chemical exposure, and more. Military members with GERD may find that symptoms worsen during active duty because of these factors.
How the VA Determines Disability Ratings for GERD
GERD can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities, sleep and diet limitations. The degree to which these things are affected determines how the VA decides the level of disability for a GERD claim.
The VA can assign disability rating for GERD symptoms in the hiatal hernia classification as follows:
- 60% disability when a Veteran experiences symptoms of pain, vomiting, material weight loss, and hematemesis or melena with moderate anemia or other combinations of symptoms that severely impair health
- 30% disability when a Veteran experiences persistent and recurrent epigastric distress with dysphagia, pyrosis, and regurgitation, accompanied by substernal or arm or shoulder pain, that produces a considerable health impairment
- 10% disability when a Veteran experiences two or more of the symptoms for the 30% evaluation but with less severity
Veterans must meet the requirements to qualify for a GERD/hiatal hernia VA disability rating. Veteran Ratings’ consulting partners can guide them in pulling together the following types of information.
- Detailed medical records created when a patient received medical treatment in the service, were treated at a VA medical facility, or were treated by a private physician that demonstrates you have been diagnosed with GERD/hiatal hernia.
- Proof that your GERD/hiatal hernia was caused or made worse by your active-duty military service by an in-service event, injury, or illness.
- Persistent and recurring symptoms of GERD/hiatal hernia substantiated by medical records that document details about the frequency, severity, and duration of GERD/hiatal hernia symptoms and a description of any functional loss due to GERD.
Veterans can also have combined VA disability ratings if they have multiple medical conditions. It is possible to integrate a GERD VA rating with other ratings, some of which include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Establishing Direct Service Connection for GERD
Veterans must submit evidence to support that their GERD claim was caused by or exacerbated by military service. This can be established through medical records, test results, related military service records and a VA C&P exam.
Veteran Ratings’ consulting partners can help guide Veterans as they pull together forms of supporting documentation to help establish a strong claim.
Secondary Service Connection for GERD
GERD symptoms are linked to other disabling conditions recognized by the VA. If you are already receiving disability payments for one of those conditions, you may be able to apply for a secondary disability rating for your GERD symptoms.
GERD is frequently linked to conditions such as:
- Anxiety disorders or PTSD
- Medications for pain and high blood pressure and muscle relaxants
- Chronic coughing
- Peritoneal adhesions
How to Increase Your GERD VA Rating
If the symptoms of your service-connected GERD prevent you from being able to get and keep a job, you may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). TDIU allows you to have your disability rating raised to 100% even though the rating on your disability does not equal 100%.
If a Veteran is not employable due to GERD, this is a mechanism the VA uses to acknowledge some Veterans with disability ratings below 100% can’t work due to their impairments.
To qualify for a TDIU rating, a Veteran must have served on active duty and been honorably discharged. It must be shown that military service caused or worsened a physical or mental condition. Veteran Ratings can’t help with a TDIU rating but you can contact the VA directly.
The other way to increase a GERD disability rating is to link it through a secondary service connection.
Filing a Claim for a VA GERD Rating
To qualify for VA disability benefits for a GERD, you must prove that your military service caused or aggravated your symptoms. Service records should contain information about any pertinent injuries or illnesses. You can also provide your medical records to show how the symptoms are curtailing your normal activities.
If your GERD diagnosis happened after leaving active duty, you might still qualify for benefits. Some causes of GERD can be linked to active duty activities that can later lead to an onset of GERD.
To apply for benefits for GERD as a primary disability, Veteran Ratings can pair you with one of our Veteran consulting partners who can guide you through the process of filing for the first time, or an increase
If you are applying for secondary benefits for GERD, you can utilize a private doctor network who will spend time with you to understand your current conditions.
Appeals and Reconsiderations
If your disability claim for GERD is denied, you will receive a denial letter from the VA on how they reached their decision. You can use this information to determine what new evidence you should submit with your appeal, which you must do within one year after you get the decision letter.
Due to the complex nature of supplemental claims and appeals, Veteran Ratings and our consulting partners only guide current clients.
Using Veteran Ratings to Navigate VA GERD Claims Effectively
To ensure the best chance for the highest disability rating, Veterans must have a qualified medical professional diagnosis and show proof that they developed GERD or other back conditions after serving in the military.
Veteran Ratings can pair you up with a Veteran consulting partner who can guide you in what evidence and documentation are needed for your GERD claim. We have a 95% success rate in assisting Veterans with their initial claim submissions.
When you meet with us for a free consultation and subsequently work with medical professionals in our partner’s nationwide network of providers, you will save time and gain peace of mind knowing you are creating your best chance for approval.
FAQs About VA GERD Ratings
Can I claim a service connection for GERD even if symptoms appeared after military service?
Yes. Sometimes GERD symptoms are triggered or made worse by active duty activities that may not appear until long after service is complete. You will need to pull together medical records and tests from active duty treatment to help support your claim, but it is possible to win a disability rating after the fact.
Is there a time limit for filing a VA GERD rating claim?
There is no time limit on filing a post-service claim. However, the process may become more complex the longer you wait so it is best to file a claim sooner rather than later in most cases.
Can my VA GERD rating change over time?
The VA can assign a temporary or permanent rating to Veterans with GERD. A temporary rating may be assigned if it is determined the Veteran’s condition can improve over time. A permanent rating is assigned if GERD is likely to remain persistent. The VA may also assign a combined rating, depending on the severity of the Veteran’s symptoms.
Are VA disability benefits for GERD taxable?
All VA disability benefits are not taxable.
How much will I receive if my GERD disability claim is approved?
You can view the VA’s complete schedule of disability ratings and corresponding payments to understand better what to expect when you’re approved.