Young overweight veteran taking a break while jogging

Obesity Caused by Service-Related Injuries and Mental Illness

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  • Obesity is a prevalent condition among veterans caused by service injuries.
  • Not just physical injuries but mental disorders as well can cause veteran obesity and disability. 
  • Veterans can potentially seek VA benefits for obesity

United States Military veterans have been found to suffer from increased rates of obesity. One VA study found that almost 80% of veterans receiving primary care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can be classified as either overweight or obese. 

The prevalence of this issue among veterans is no coincidence and can be connected to a wide range of service-related injuries both physical and psychological in nature. 

Veterans suffering from the effects of obesity may be able to receive VA disability benefits if they are able to connect their obesity to a service-related injury. Many veterans seek benefits through VA claims for this disability but are denied the help they need. 

VetLaw’s accredited veteran lawyers have assisted countless veterans with their VA claims and can help you appeal your denial of benefits. Reach out to VetLaw about scheduling a free consultation by filling out a contact form on our website or calling (336) 355-8387.

Defining Obesity and Its Status as a Disability

Obesity is a serious condition where an extreme excess of body fat interferes with healthy bodily function. Body fat is a necessary component of your physical makeup that plays a role in your ability to store and use energy but as with most excesses, can potentially cause problems. 

A severe accumulation of body fat impedes your internal organs’ functionality, puts additional stress on the structure of the body, and increases the risk of many diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Veterans suffering from obesity caused by service-related injuries may find that treating other injuries is more difficult. 

Body Mass Index and Obesity

Whether someone is obese is determined through the use of body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated with the formula weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. A BMI of 25-29 is considered overweight and 18.5-24 is considered healthy.

While BMI is used to determine obesity, it is not a direct measure of body fat and is criticized for its lack of reliability. There are other ways to measure body fat and determine obesity but they are often more involved and expensive measures that do not surpass the simplicity and cost-effectiveness that BMI offers for most.

Debilitating Effects of Obesity in Veterans

Obesity is not just a condition that affects many veterans but is regarded as one of the major contributors to health problems among Americans across the country. The United States’ problem with obesity has been long documented and so has its effects on public health. 

The most notable effect obesity has on health is its ability to significantly increase the risk of developing certain diseases such as the following. 

In addition to increasing the risk for severe diseases, obesity also has a significant effect on a person’s mobility. A severe excess in body fat can reduce endurance and limit the range of motion.

Excess weight can also put a strain on muscles and ligaments, causing conditions like Plantar Fasciitis. In turn, this can reduce physical activity and calorie burning even further and compound the problem. 

Obesity also has a significant effect on the body’s ability to heal and combat illness. Surgery on obese patients comes with higher risk and some treatments of diseases are less effective on obese patients. 

All of this can have a profound impact on a person’s finances when they require more medical help. Further, they may face limited employment prospects due to their reduced physical abilities and even social stigmas regarding their appearance. 

Can I Get VA Disability Benefits For Obesity Caused by Service-Related Injuries?

It is possible to get VA disability benefits for obesity even though the VA does not provide disability ratings for it. Obesity can be considered a condition connected to a service-related injury and therefore eligible for benefits. This is known as a Secondary Condition.

Veterans filing VA disability claims will need to be able to provide proof of their obesity diagnosis and a service-related condition, a connection of obesity to the service-related condition, and the negative effects of their obesity. 

This is possible with a medical nexus provided by your doctor, military service records, and any additional relevant documentation. Upon approving your claim, the VA will then determine what your obesity disability rating will be on a 10-100% scale. 

Understanding Veteran Obesity Caused by Service-Related Injuries 

Many veterans end their military service with injuries ranging from mild conditions that can inconvenience them to total disabilities that can prevent them from working.

 Development of obesity is possible both in physical and psychological injuries due to how many injuries cause sedentary lifestyles where a person cannot exercise or eat a balanced diet. 

Physical injuries of a wide range can cause obesity this way usually by inflicting damage that limits mobility. Physical trauma to the body that causes lacerations, broken bones, amputations, and internal organ damage can easily cause obesity this way. 

In other cases, repetitive strain might wear out joints or cause damage to the structure of the body and also limit mobility. Alternatively, injuries may alter eating patterns, metabolism, and hormonal balances which can lead to increased weight gain that leads to obesity

Mental Health Disorders Connected to Veteran Obesity

Psychological trauma is a major factor in the development of obesity among many veterans. The disruptive nature of mental disorders can cause veterans to suffer from obesity when they overeat as a coping mechanism, medication changes their metabolism and eating habits, or when the imbalances in their mental state reduce physical activity. 

Common mental disorders believed to contribute to obesity among veterans include the following. 

Contact VetLaw About Your Obesity VA Disability Claim

If you or a loved one have developed obesity as a result of injuries suffered during military service then you may be able to seek VA benefits for it. Filing a VA disability benefits claim for obesity can get you compensation that can help cover the costs of your disability but there is a real risk of denial

Veterans who have had their VA claims denied can still pursue benefits with the assistance of an experienced veterans lawyer from VetLaw. Our accredited VA claim lawyers have years of experience assisting veterans with denied claims and other bureaucratic obstacles in their pursuit of benefits. 

To contact VetLaw about your obesity VA benefits claim you can either fill out a contact form on our website or call (336) 355-8387.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can veterans treat their obesity?

In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, veterans may seek medical assistance to treat their obesity caused by service-related injuries. Before opting for invasive procedures like gastric bypass surgery, providers will often recommend medications. 

Recently, GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs like Ozempic have become a popular way to induce weight loss. However, veterans should be cautious about using these medications. There are growing concerns that using drugs like Ozempic increases the risk of stomach paralysis and other digestive problems.

How can an eating disorder lead a veteran to develop obesity?

Many people assume that individuals with eating disorders appear emaciated, but that is not always the case. Eating disorders are more about an unhealthy relationship with food, which can also look like binge eating disorders.

Consuming an excessive amount of food in a short period of time is a hallmark of binge eating, and chronic overeating can lead to significant weight gain.

Can I increase my disability rating by claiming obesity as a secondary condition?

The VA can increase your disability rating if it determines that your secondary condition is valid and causes you additional impairment. If the VA approves your obesity disability claim and increases your rating, you may become eligible for additional benefits.