Many veterans have experienced digestive-system-related medical issues as a result of their time in the military. One of the most common is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you’re a veteran and the symptoms of your IBS prevent you from working, you may be able to get disability compensation through the VA. However, in order to receive these benefits, you’ll have to be able to prove that there’s a connection between your IBS and your service in the military.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects the normal function of the large intestine. Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. The precise cause of IBS isn’t fully understood. Some of the factors that appear to play a part in the onset of IBS include:
- Weakened muscle contractions in the large intestines
- Abnormalities in the function of the nerves of the large intestines
- Bacterial and Parasitic Infections
- Changes in gut microbes
While IBS may cause discomfort, it does not result in permanent harm to the intestines. Only a small number of people with IBS experience severe symptoms. Symptoms of IBS can be controlled through diet, stress management, and prescribed medications. Currently, there is no cure for IBS.
The VA rates Irritable Bowel Syndrome under 38 C.F.R. 4.114 diagnostic code 7319 for Irritable Colon Syndrome (spastic colitis, mucous colitis, etc.). Symptoms of IBS are classified as mild, moderate, or severe under the VA rating criteria.
Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits for IBS
To obtain disability benefits for your IBS, it’s not enough to show that the symptoms of your IBS are the cause of your disability. You must also be able to establish a connection between your illness and your military service. You’ll need to show a nexus — a link that connects your disability to a specific in-service event, injury, or illness.
Your claim should include a nexus letter from your physician(s). A nexus letter is a letter to the VA explaining how your IBS was incurred or caused during service. The opinion should be based on the veteran’s service medical and professional records, as well as their medical history before or following their service.
Not all veterans must demonstrate that their IBS is service-related. Certain veterans, including Gulf War veterans and former POWs, have a higher incidence of IBS than other veterans. For these veterans, there is a presumption that your IBS is service-connected, which will make it much easier to prove you qualify for benefits.
Even if you prove your IBS is service-connected, you’ll only be able to achieve a 30 percent disability rating. Still, it’s important to get the full disability rating you deserve. The higher your disability rating, the higher the amount of compensation you’ll receive in benefits.
Secondary conditions, or secondary claims, are conditions made worse by a service-related disability. IBS is often associated with PTSD and other mental health issues that affect veterans. A secondary claim for IBS, along with a primary claim for PTSD, can help boost your disability rating, getting you more benefits.
Get the Full VA Disability Compensation You Deserve
If your claim for disability compensation from the VA has been denied, or you failed to receive the rating you feel your disability warrants, you have a right to appeal the VA’s decision. Marc Whitehead is a certified VA disability claims attorney who has helped veterans get the benefits they deserve for their service-related disabilities. He will work closely with you and your primary healthcare providers to assemble the evidence needed to establish the cause and extent of your service-related impairments. Working with an experienced VA disability attorney greatly improves the chances of your claim being approved on appeal.
You only have a limited time in which to file an appeal with the VA. The sooner we get to work the better. Contact Marc Whitehead & Associates through our website, or call us at (800) 562-9830 to discuss your VA disability claim today.