Vet on wheelchair

IBS VA Rating: Appealing a Irritable Bowel Syndrome Denial

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Understanding Your IBS VA Rating: What You Need to Know

It is common for veterans to experience digestive-system-related issues as a result of their time in the military. IBS is one of the most common conditions among veterans, which can affect the way a person works, engages with friends and family, and completes daily activities. Recognizing the impact of IBS on the lives of so many veterans, IBS VA disability benefits are available to individuals who struggle with this condition. Unfortunately, navigating the VA process and securing a compensable IBS VA rating can be stressful and overwhelming.

VetLaw was founded to guide United States veterans and their families in securing VA disability benefits. We act as trusted advisors, skilled advocates, and diligent litigators for our clients, fighting for the rights of veterans at every step of the process. To learn more about how our team of experienced attorneys can help, consider contacting us today.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, more commonly referred to as IBS, is a long-term condition that affects the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Research indicates that IBS impacts between 6% and 18% of the population worldwide, highlighting the prevalence of this disorder. Since IBS is chronic, this condition does not have a cure and individuals who struggle with IBS must learn to cope with the symptoms.

While IBS can manifest differently from person to person, some of the most common signs and symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Gas and bloating
  • Intolerance of certain foods
  • Tiredness and difficulty sleeping

Genetics, emotional distress and anxiety, food intolerance, sexual or physical assault, and serious infections in the digestive tract can all put a person at risk for developing IBS. Many individuals who struggle with IBS report experiencing low stamina that limits their physical exertion in work, leisure, and social relationships.

Does the VA Consider IBS to Be a Disability?

The VA does recognize IBS as a disability. The symptoms of IBS can be severe and difficult to predict, leading to interferences in work, your social life, and daily activities. This can easily impact your quality of life, and the VA recognizes this. To qualify for IBS VA disability benefits, you must prove that:

  • You were diagnosed with IBS by a medical professional
  • An in-service incident, injury, or illness occurred
  • There is a medical nexus, or connection, between your diagnosis and the in-service incident, injury, or illness

The VA recognizes the connection between irritable bowel syndrome and other diagnosed and undiagnosed functional gastrointestinal disorders and military service for POWs and veterans of the Gulf War. A presumptive service connection has been established to reflect this, which streamlines the application process for these veterans. Individuals who were POWs for a minimum of thirty days or who served in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations during the Gulf War to the present time may bypass the medical nexus requirement. This means that these veterans do not need to prove that their IBS or other functional gastrointestinal disorder was directly caused by their time in the armed forces.

What Is the VA Disability Rating for IBS?

According to the VA Schedule of Ratings for the digestive system, IBS is categorized under the listing for irritable colon syndrome, spastic colitis, and mucous colitis. The evaluation of IBS VA ratings is as follows:

  • 0% rating for individuals with mild symptoms like minor disturbances in bowel function or occasional abdominal stress.
  • 10% rating for veterans who experience moderate symptoms such as frequent bowel disturbances or abdominal stress. Examples of bowel disturbances include diarrhea, severe gas, or bloating.
  • 30% rating for people who suffer from severe symptoms. Alternating diarrhea and constipation, consistent diarrhea, and constant abdominal stress are all considered severe symptoms under this rating.

IBS can be severe at times and entirely disappear at other moments, so it is important to clearly document the severity of your symptoms and the frequency of your IBS episodes. This information will become important when establishing service connection or increasing your IBS VA rating.

How Do You Prove IBS for VA Disability?

All other individuals aside from POWs and Gulf War veterans must prove that their IBS was caused by or aggravated by their military service. There are a variety of strategies that can be used to prove this connection, including:

  • Medical records that show that the veteran received treatment for IBS during active duty or after leaving the service.
  • Service records demonstrating that the veteran experienced incidents during their service that caused them to function poorly.
  • Buddy statements from other service members who can serve as witnesses to the claims.
  • Statements from medical experts to provide evidence that the veteran suffers from IBS symptoms, which can help prove that the condition is legitimate.

Providing as much evidence as possible is essential to verify the link between your military service and your condition. The VA will holistically consider all of the documents you provide when determining your IBS VA rating and deciding whether your claim for disability benefits should be approved or denied.

What If You Have IBS and GERD?

It is important to note that the VA will not give two separate ratings for IBS and GERD. This is largely due to the fact that both conditions share common symptoms and affect the digestive system in similar ways. It is still possible to file claims for both IBS and GERD, however. The VA will evaluate both claims and assign a final disability rating based on whichever condition is more severe.

For instance, if a veteran’s GERD VA rating is 60% but their IBS VA rating is evaluated at 30%, the VA will grant a total rating of 60%. In other situations, the VA may assess a person’s symptoms holistically and assign a rating under one digestive system-related condition. An example of this would be if the VA granted a 30% disability rating for IBS with GERD symptoms.

What If the VA Denies Your Claim for IBS?

If the VA denies your claim for IBS, you have options to appeal the denial and continue your case at other levels of the VA process. Seeking assistance from a knowledgeable attorney is advised, as your lawyer will understand which appeal option is right for you. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may recommend submitting a Supplemental Claim to include new or relevant evidence in your claim.

On the other hand, if an additional opinion would alter the decision made by the VA, they must suggest requesting a Higher-Level Review. Finally, an experienced attorney may advise appealing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. At this level, you can choose to include additional evidence to support your case, ask for a direct review, or request a hearing with a judge. Ultimately, each claim is unique and a tailored legal strategy is required to win your case and successfully secure IBS VA disability benefits.

Fight Back on Your IBS Claim Denial with VetLaw

Being denied IBS VA disability benefits should not discourage you from continuing your case and fighting for your rights. At VetLaw, we advocate for disabled veterans at every step of the VA disability claims process. Drawing on our prior experience as VA attorneys and skilled litigators, we are committed to protecting the rights of veterans and assisting our clients and their families in securing VA disability benefits. To begin strategizing your case today, consider scheduling a free case review with our team today.