Veterans who are suffering from heart disease may be eligible for VA disability benefits if they are able to establish a service connection to their condition. Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses a number of different conditions, the most common of which is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.
Not only does heart disease describe a number of serious conditions, it’s also the leading cause of death in the United State, causing nearly 1 in 4 deaths.
Common Conditions and Symptoms for Heart Disease
Here is a rundown of some common conditions associated with heart disease, and all of which put you at greater risk for heart attack, heart failure, or obesity.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD, or ischemic heart disease)
- Congenital heart defects
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiomyopathy (or, a diseased heart)
- Cardiomegaly (or, an enlarged heart)
CAD, which is caused by the buildup of plaque in arteries, is the most common type of heart disease in the US. Its symptoms include shortness of breath it difficulty breathing, fatigue, chest pain or upper body pain, dizziness, sweating, and fainting. Risk factors for CAD include diabetes, obesity or being overweight, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another common heart condition that can lead to further complications, including other heart disease or stroke.
How to Prove a Service Connection
You must be able to prove a service connection for your condition if you expect to gain VA disability benefits. To do so, you need to have a current diagnosis of your condition and medical and service records to back up your claim that the diagnosis can be traced back to your time in service.
- Direct service connection: You can establish this by providing three things: a current diagnosis of your condition, an in-service event or illness, and a medical nexus tying your diagnosis to the in-service incident.
- Secondary service connection: A secondary service-connected condition is one that was caused or worsened by a direct service-connected condition. For instance, if you have service-connected diabetes, hypertension, or PTSD, which has in turn exacerbated a heart condition, you may be able to start a claim trying to establish a secondary service-connection.
- Presumptive connection: If you have a qualifying service record, meaning you served in a time and place that exposed you to hazardous environments or chemicals, VA presumes a service connection. This applies to Vietnam veterans who have developed CAD and were exposed to Agent Orange. Hypertension, however, is not yet considered a presumptive condition.
Heart Condition Ratings
VA uses metabolic equivalent tests, or METs, to determine your rating for heart disease. Basically, VA will conduct exercise testing to determine the amount of energy you expend on ordinary activities to determine the severity of your condition. You will likely be given a rating of 0, 10, 30, 60, or 100 percent.
It is possible to get total disability or total disability individual unemployability (TDIU) for a heart condition that is so severe that you cannot perform even the most basic tasks on your own or hold gainful employment.
Temporary total ratings are also assigned to qualified veterans who have had a heart attack, pacemaker operation, cardiac defibrillator implant, heart valve replacement, heart transplant, or coronary bypass surgery.
Assistance with your claim
Heart conditions are very common in the US, and the veteran population is no exception. Don’t hesitate to seek the disability compensation you’re entitled to if you have a service-connected heart condition. And if you have been denied a claim and need assistance with your appeal, reach out to VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS to get your claim back on track and receive the compensation you deserve.