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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) | Raise Your VA Rating

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Exposure to toxins during military service can cause veterans to develop GERD, making it difficult to swallow due to damage to the esophagus. 

Summary

  • Veterans with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience symptoms like nausea, aspiration, and difficulty swallowing.
  • There is a new VA rating schedule for GERD that increased the maximum percentage of disability. Veterans can also benefit from more accurate descriptions of their condition.
  • In veterans, GERD is often a secondary condition related to a mental health issue like PTSD or a physical illness like IBS.
  • To secure VA disability benefits for GERD, the condition must have been caused by or exacerbated by their military service.

Understanding GERD VA Ratings for Veterans

While simple heartburn does not seem like a disabling condition, persistent and continuous acid reflux can certainly interfere with your work and livelihood. Many veterans struggle with GERD, and the symptoms can quickly become severe enough to impact your life negatively.

GERD can either develop due to an event or incident during your military service. Alternatively, it can arise as a consequence of another condition, including due to medication taken for service-connected conditions.

If you suffer from symptoms of this condition, you may be eligible for benefits through a VA disability claim for GERD. As the law firm of choice for individuals across the United States, VetLaw was established to protect the rights of disabled veterans.

Using our breadth of knowledge and extensive experience with the VA process, we have successfully secured benefits for countless veterans. To learn more about how we can help, consider contacting us today at (855) 738-6732 or through our online contact form

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, is a condition in which the contents of the stomach move up to the esophagus. This can cause serious damage to the esophagus, respiratory tract, and pharynx.

GERD develops when the lower esophageal muscle weakens or relaxes when it should not. While many people experience reflux from time to time, persistent acid reflux can result in GERD. Some of the typical signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitating sour or bitter liquid into the throat and mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sensation of choking or having food trapped in the throat

GERD is an incredibly common condition, impacting roughly a fifth of the population. While gastroesophageal reflux disease can develop at any age, some risk factors may make a person more likely to develop GERD. Individuals who are overweight, pregnant, smoke, or take certain medications may be at a higher risk for GERD.

Does the VA Consider GERD to Be a Disability?

Yes, the VA does consider GERD to be a disability. GERD can become severe enough to interfere with work and daily activities. This can prevent veterans from maintaining gainful employment and living a normal life. The pain and discomfort can impact sleep and individuals affected by the condition may be forced to limit their diets, affecting energy levels.

Moreover, the primary treatment for GERD is medication, which can result in long-term costs. For these reasons, it is possible to obtain VA disability for GERD to offset these physical, emotional, and financial burdens.

To successfully qualify for VA disability benefits for GERD, you must prove that:

  • You have a diagnosis of GERD
  • An in-service event or incident occurred
  • Your condition was directly caused by or made worse by the in-service event or incident

Once these three criteria are sufficiently proven, you may be awarded disability benefits. The amount of compensation that you can receive will depend largely on your GERD VA rating, however, and it is important to understand how your symptoms will be evaluated under the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities.

The New VA Rating Schedule for GERD

Recently, the VA updated the rating schedules for digestive conditions, including GERD. GERD now has its own disability rating schedule under Diagnostic Code 7206, as of May 19th, 2024. Acid reflux is also evaluated under this code. 

The new GERD rating schedule now recognizes up to 80% disability, which is a victory for vets who could previously only claim up to 60% disability for GERD. The updated criteria for determining a VA disability rating based on GERD will focus on the presence of esophageal strictures and irritation. 

The current VA rating schedule for GERD is:

  • 10% for veterans with esophageal strictures that can be managed by daily medication
  • 30% for individuals who need no more than 2 dilation procedures annually to alleviate problems swallowing due to chronic esophageal strictures
  • 50% for those with chronic esophageal strictures that cause difficulty swallowing; they must also have undergone 3 or more dilations a year, taken steroid medication at least once a year to reduce symptoms, or had an esophageal stent placement.
  • 80% for veterans suffering from dysphagia due to esophageal strictures, leading to one or more of the following: aspirating food or liquids, malnutrition, or excessive weight loss. Additionally, a vet’s symptoms must be severe enough that they either received either a Percutaneous Esophago-Gastrointestinal tube (PEG tube) or had surgery to address their esophageal strictures.

What was the Old VA Rating for GERD?

Prior to May 2024, the VA relied on Diagnostic Code 7346 to rate GERD, as the symptoms of this condition are similar to that of a hiatal hernia. The severity of a person’s symptoms is the primary consideration when assigning a GERD VA rating.

Under the old VA rating schedule for GERD, the disability ratings for GERD symptoms, based on the hiatal hernia category, are as follows:

  • 10% for individuals who display two of the symptoms listed in the 30% evaluation, but the symptoms are not severe enough to justify the full 30% rating.
  • 30% for those who suffer from consistent and recurrent epigastric distress with dysphagia, pyrosis, and regurgitation, as well as arm or shoulder pain. These symptoms lead to a considerable impairment of health.
  • 60% for veterans who experience vomiting, pain, weight loss, and/or hematemesis or melena with moderate anemia. Individuals with this rating struggle with a severe impairment to their health.

While you do not need to be completely disabled to receive benefits, the VA will only compensate individuals with a 10% rating or higher. Your veterans disability benefits denial attorney can provide guidance regarding how to improve your GERD VA rating. They can also help ensure that you are able to receive the highest amount of compensation possible.

How is the Rating Impacted if GERD is a Secondary Condition?

The VA recognizes secondary conditions, which are disabilities or diseases that arise as a result of a service-connected condition. Disability benefits for secondary conditions can be granted if the veteran demonstrates a clear nexus, or connection, between their primary condition and their secondary disability.

It is common for veterans to develop symptoms of GERD as a secondary condition to another disability. For example, vets may develop GERD due to PTSD, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Vets can also develop GERD due to the effects of medication they take for a service-connected condition.

If you experience symptoms of GERD in conjunction with another condition, you may make a valid secondary claim for GERD. While the VA does not allow a person’s disability rating to exceed 100%, your combined rating may be greater than your individual rating for PTSD, anxiety, or IBS alone.

Navigating the GERD VA Disability Rating Process

As previously mentioned, to qualify for disability benefits for GERD, you must prove that your condition was caused or aggravated by your military service. This can be accomplished in several ways. One of the easiest ways to prove this connection is through documented medical treatment of your condition during service.

If symptoms develop after you were discharged, however, it is still possible to prove that your disability is linked to your time in the armed forces. Medical records, treatment reports, buddy statements, a C&P exam, and expert options may all be helpful in establishing a medical nexus between your GERD and your military service.

While the VA has a duty to assist veterans with securing this evidence, the VA can – and does – make mistakes and it is important to be your own advocate during the application process. Furthermore, the evidence you include in your claim will also be crucial to your GERD VA rating. Remember, this is the basis of your disability compensation.

What If the VA Denies Your Claim for GERD?

If the VA denies your claim for GERD, it is time to begin crafting your appeal strategy. At VetLaw, we have successfully appealed numerous denied claims and secured benefits for our clients. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may choose any of the following options to appeal your denied VA disability for GERD claim:

  • Filing a Supplemental Claim to provide new or relevant evidence that may change the outcome of your case.
  • Requesting a Higher-Level Review to ensure that detrimental errors were not made during the initial application process.
  • Appealing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where we can submit additional evidence to support your claim, request a direct review of your case, or schedule a hearing with a Veterans’ Law Judge in Washington, DC.

Hiring an Attorney Near You to Help You with Your VA Disability Appeal

At VetLaw, we see a denied claim as an opportunity to strengthen our clients’ cases and improve their approval chances. If you were denied VA disability for GERD, our team of experienced veterans disability attorneys are here to help.

For over a decade, we have dedicated our practice to fighting for veterans’ rights. Our team works diligently to appeal claims that were unfairly denied by the VA. For a free review of your case, consider connecting with us today. You can reach us at (855) 738-6732 or through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation today.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is GERD a serious condition?

Yes, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can indeed be considered a disability, especially when it significantly impacts one’s ability to work and perform daily activities. While occasional heartburn might seem manageable, persistent acid reflux associated with GERD can severely affect a veteran’s quality of life.

At VetLaw, we specialize in helping veterans navigate the complexities of GERD VA ratings and disability claims. Our experienced team understands the challenges veterans face and works tirelessly to secure the benefits they rightfully deserve. If you’re a veteran struggling with GERD-related issues, reach out to us today to learn more about how we can assist you in securing the benefits you need.

Will the VA use the old or the new rating schedule to evaluate my GERD disability claim?

Whether the VA judges your GERD disability claim by the old standards or the updated rating schedule comes down to when you filed. If you already had a VA decision prior to May 19th, 2024, the VA used the old rating schedule.

You need to file an appeal if you think that you deserve a higher level of VA disability benefits based on the new GERD rating schedule.

If your VA disability benefits claim was pending on May 19th, 2024, then the VA will apply both sets of standards. Then, it will go with the one that offers the vet more compensation. Veterans who file GERD disability claims after May 19th, 2024 can expect the VA to use the new criteria.

What is a veteran disability claims attorney’s fee?

VA-accredited disability claims lawyers charge a contingency fee for representing veterans in their appeals. The rate for their services is typically around 30% of the back pay benefits they recover. They don’t bill a client until after successfully securing their VA disability benefits. Additionally, they don’t charge anything if they are unable to.

Is GERD a presumptive condition for Agent Orange exposure?

As of May 2024, the VA has yet to recognize Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease as a presumptive condition for veterans who experienced Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. 

Although the lack of presumptive status does not preclude vets from seeking VA disability benefits for this condition, it does put the burden on them to show their GERD is service-connected.

This has been a source of frustration for some veterans. They believe there is a medical nexus between their GERD and their in-service exposure to Agent Orange. Some researchers have argued that exposure to dioxin, a chemical toxin in Agent Orange, may cause GERD.