Dementia refers to a group of symptoms related to memory loss, and impaired thinking, judgment, and social abilities that is severe enough to negatively affect daily life. It does not, in fact, refer to a specific disease or condition, but a number of diseases cause dementia, the most prominent of which is Alzheimer’s disease.
Unfortunately, veterans may be at a higher risk of developing dementia, particularly those who have endured traumatic service-related events or suffered serious head injuries. VA offers varying levels of disability compensation for those veterans who can prove a service connection for their diagnosis. The rating you receives depends on the severity of the condition.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is caused by damaged or lost nerve cells that connect to the brain. Again, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, while other kinds of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia. Also linked to dementia are Huntington’s disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Most types of dementia are incurable, but symptoms can be managed to an extent.
The most common symptoms of dementia may grouped into cognitive and psychological changes. Cognitive changes refer to impaired mental abilities, and include memory loss, confusion disorientation, poor spatial awareness, and difficulty communicating, planning, problem-solving, or performing complex tasks. Psychological changes refer to observable changes to a person’s personality, and include depression, anxiety, paranoia, agitation, hallucinations, and inappropriate behavior.
Disability Ratings for Dementia
VA rates monthly disability compensation as 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100%, depending on the severity of your condition and how much your condition interferes with your ability to function on your own. Because some veterans with dementia may not be able to function on their own, VA also provides support in the form of home-based primary care, homemaker and home health aides, respite care, adult day health care, outpatient clinic services, inpatient hospital services, nursing home services, and hospice care.
VA recognizes a strong link between dementia and related conditions like TBIs and Agent Orange exposure, though research is ongoing. It has not yet been added to the Agent Orange Presumptive List, though if you are diagnosed with some type of dementia within 15 years of a service-related TBI, VA will presume a service connection.
TBIs have a number of co-morbidities, and improvements in diagnostics and awareness have led VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) to increase its attention on TBIs and their effects, given how prevalent TBIs are in veterans. Nearly 414,000 TBIs were reported in U.S. service members between 2000 and 2019. Studies have also shown that veterans exposed to Agent Orange were twice as likely to develop dementia, too, after taking all variables into account.
Assistance with your Dementia VA Claim
Dementia is a difficult condition to live with, and it may be severe enough to warrant outside assistance in a veteran’s daily life. If you need assistance with a claim or appeal to VA to get disability compensation and other benefits for a veteran’s dementia, contact us at 844-VET-LAWS or fill out our online form.