Vet on wheelchair

Veterans Disability For Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

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 negatively impact your life. GERD can either develop due to an event or incident during your military service, or 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 VA disability 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.

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, preventing 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 obtain 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.

What Is the VA Rating for GERD?

Typically, GERD is rated using Diagnostic Code 7346, 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. 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 attorney can provide guidance regarding how to improve your GERD VA rating and 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 such as PTSD, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or due to the effects of medication taken 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.

Applying for VA Disability with GERD

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, which 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 client’s case and improve their chance of approval. If you were denied VA disability for GERD, our team of experienced attorneys are here to help. For over a decade, we have dedicated our practice to fighting for veterans’ rights and appealing claims that were unfairly denied by the VA. For a free review of your case, consider connecting with us today.