Acid Reflux and VA Disability Rating

Acid reflux, more formally known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition in which the muscle at the top of the stomach does not operate properly, allowing stomach acids and partially-digested food to enter the esophagus. 

The stomach has a thick lining designed to withstand the acids used to break down foods, but the esophagus, which is the tube that takes your food from your mouth to your stomach, has no such lining. If you have acid reflux, you are probably experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Burning in the chest or throat (heartburn)
  • Feeling like food is coming back up
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain upon swallowing
  • Respiratory problems

GERD can be caused by medications that weaken or relax the muscle above the stomach. Obesity, respiratory disorders, smoking, alcohol use, and certain health conditions such as hiatal hernia can also cause GERD. Additionally, various studies indicate that stress can worsen or bring on GERD symptoms. 

Obstacles to Rating for GERD

There are several challenges for receiving a rating for GERD. First, it is not listed in the VA’s Schedule of Rating Disabilities. When a condition is not rated, the VA must choose an analogous condition, such as hiatal hernia, and use those requirements to determine the rating. 

Second, it is not considered presumptive. Oddly, while some gastrointestinal conditions are, these regulations apply only to functional gastrointestinal disorders, which involve the abnormal function of an organ. GERD is considered a structural gastrointestinal disorder. It makes no sense why functional conditions would have a presumed connection but structural conditions would not. However, at this time, that is the regulation. 

Third, the VA has regulations that prevent what they call “pyramiding” such that no veteran can receive multiple ratings for the same symptoms.  For instance, a vet could not be rated for both anxiety and depression, since both conditions often present the same symptoms. The VA uses this same ruling regarding gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel (IBS) and GERD, even though they primarily affect different ends of the digestive tract. 

Obtaining a rating for your GERD

Even though there are challenges, we at the Law Office of Robert B. Goss have years of experience helping veterans receive the benefits they deserve for their service to our country. There are several approaches we can take to get you rated for GERD or increase your existing rating to increase your monthly benefits. 

Acid reflux or GERD can be mild or severe, frequent or rare. Its severity or frequency would affect your VA rating. It is important to get a medical diagnosis that clearly demonstrates the severity of your condition. When talking to your physician, don’t act tough. You need to be honest about your symptoms. You will also need to demonstrate an in-service experience that may have triggered the acid reflux.

If you have more than one gastrointestinal condition, we will help you determine which will get the higher rating. Another useful strategy is to demonstrate a secondary condition. If you are taking medication for a rated condition, those medications may cause weakening of the muscle above the stomach or irritation of the esophagus, eventually causing GERD. Since stress can also cause acid reflux, your GERD could be a secondary factor of already-rated PTSD. 

We’re disabled veterans ourselves, and we know what it’s like to struggle with the VA to get benefits. We will do all we can to help you get a fair rating as quickly as possible. Call us today at (877) 425-4838.

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