Polycythemia vera is a myeloproliferative disorder, a type of blood cancer that is caused by an excess production of red blood cells in your bone marrow, causing a thickening of the blood that slows down circulation. If left untreated it can lead to blood clots, or in severe cases, a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or stroke. It may also lead to leukemia or myelofibrosis, too.
Symptoms aren’t always easy to spot, and polycythemia vera can sneak up on you over time. Dizziness, tiredness, weakness, headache, excessive sweating, and shortness of breath are all common indicators, if not particularly unique to this condition. More severe symptoms include bloating, nosebleeds, blurry vision, numbness in your extremities, joint pain, and redness of the face. If anything, this condition is a good reminder to continue scheduling regular physicals with your doctor as you grow older, and schedule blood tests where conditions like these can be spotted.
VA Ratings for Polycythemia Vera and Myeloproliferative Disorders
So what makes it important for veterans? For starters, it was at one time the only myeloproliferative disorder that the VA evaluated in its rating schedule. This has since been extended to other myeloproliferative disorders like essential thrombocythemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Service connection is difficult to prove since the condition likely isn’t caused by anything that has to do with your time in service. In fact, there’s very little evidence for any preexisting conditions or outside factors that might influence your likelihood of getting it. These conditions may transform into leukemia, at which point they’d most likely be rated under that condition.
Since the service connection isn’t that easy to prove, it’s good news that polycythemia vera is rare, to begin with. Its causes aren’t known; neither your lifestyle nor preexisting conditions seem to have anything to do with it. Most of those who suffer from it have a non-inherited genetic abnormality that affects the bone marrow’s production of red blood cells. What is known is that it gets worse with time, and is generally seen in men over the age of the 60, though it can strike women as well. Neither your lifestyle nor any preexisting conditions seem to cause it.
Treatment for polycythemia vera traditionally involves phlebotomy, from three to six sessions within a 12-month period, or in severe cases, chemotherapy or bone stem cell transplant. For the latter, the VA grants a 100 percent rating. For less severe cases, the VA proposes ratings of 10, 30, or 60 depending on the number of treatments required and your recorded red blood cell count.
Polycythemia vera doesn’t have a cure, per se, but those who contract it can still live long and productive lives as long as they seek treatment and adopt certain habits.
Getting Compensation for Polycythemia Vera
Thankfully, the VA includes this condition in its rating schedule, so as long as you present a strong case with medical evidence to support it, you should be able to earn compensation, regardless of the difficulty in proving service connection.
If you do find yourself struggling through a stalled claims process or need to appeal a decision, you can contact VA Disability Group PLLC at 844-VET-LAWS or via our online form. We will review your case and guide you through the rest of the process, ensuring that you present the strongest case for VA disability compensation for your condition.