Autoimmune Diseases and Your VA Benefits Claim

Autoimmune disease is a term that covers at least 80 different known conditions. An autoimmune disease or autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system is unable to distinguish between foreign invaders and healthy tissue, producing antibodies that destroy the body’s own tissue instead of the infection. 

Some of the most commonly-recognized autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia. Autoimmune diseases can be debilitating and they are difficult to diagnose because symptoms are broad, including fatigue, chronic joint pain, digestive problems, muscle weakness, inflamed skin, hair loss, and chronic, unspecified pain. 

Rules for VA Compensation

In order for you to receive compensation through the VA, you must have been honorably discharged, served on active duty or in active or inactive duty training, and have a disability rating for your service-connected condition. In addition, one of the following must be true:

  • You got sick or injured while serving in the military and can link this to your current illness or injury
  • You had an illness or injury before joining the military which was worsened by your service
  • You have a disability-related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended service (post-service disability) 

Post-service disability diseases are also known as “presumptive.” A presumed disability must appear within one year after you were discharged and be at least 10% disabling. Exceptions to the 1-year rule are if the presumed disability is caused by contact with contaminants or hazardous materials or is connected to your time spent as a prisoner of war. Other exceptions are Hansen’s disease, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hansen’s disease and TB can occur up to 3 years after discharge, MS up to 7 years, and ALS at any time. 

Connecting Autoimmune Disease to Your Service

More and more is being learned about autoimmune disease every year, and the VA is beginning to recognize the connections of these illnesses to service – particularly to PTSD. Recent studies have found that veterans with PTSD have a two-fold increase in autoimmune diseases over veterans without PTSD. In addition, veterans with PTSD have higher immune cell counts and higher antibody counts, which are features of autoimmune disease.

Connection does not prove causation. However, if you have PTSD and an autoimmune disease, we only need to demonstrate a 50% probability that your condition is related to your service, based on the studies that have been done. 

With a thorough review of your service record and any contact you have had with any contaminants or hazardous materials, we will work to find evidence to support a connection between your illness and your service. Even the area in which you served could be a connection, as more and more evidence suggests that veterans who have had active duty in Southwest Asia (Gulf War region) are experiencing a high frequency of chronic multi-system illnesses. 

As a disabled veteran myself who was originally denied compensation for my visual injury while on duty, I am dedicated to helping disabled veterans receive the compensation they deserve for their service. Our law office is staffed with disabled veterans and family members of veterans, so we understand the frustration of being denied compensation when you are living with pain or limitations every day. 

If you have been denied compensation for your autoimmune disease, reach out to us at the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, the Veterans Attorney. We will help you get the compensation you deserve for your service to our nation.

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