Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs in your body. It can cause inflammation, swelling, and pain in virtually any part of your body, and typically targets the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Its symptoms are similar to many other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. Such symptoms include fatigue, fever, joint pain, skin lesions that worsen with sunlight exposure, shortness of breath, chest pain, dry eyes, headache, confusion, and memory loss. The most telling sign of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and nose, as well as other rashes.
Most cases are mild, and are characterized by episodes — or flares — when symptoms worsen, followed by periods when they dissipate.
What causes lupus?
It’s likely that lupus comes from a combination of inherited traits and environment. People may be genetically predisposed to develop lupus, and may also be exposed to environments that bring on or worsen the condition. Sunlight exposure may be enough to cause lupus, as well as infections or medications like those for blood pressure, anti-seizure, and antibiotics.
It is most common for people of certain ethnic groups, including African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander. Women are also more likely than men to develop lupus. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, nine out of ten people with lupus are women.
Service Connection and Disability Ratings
Service connection is a little more difficult to prove for lupus than it is for some other, more common conditions. Since it is typically an inherited condition, as well as being chronic, thus occurring over a long period of time, the burden lies on you to provide proof that your military service brought about or worsened your lupus. Here are the three approaches for best establishing a service connection to your lupus and receiving a disability rating:
Chronic Illness Presumption: If you can prove your lupus began within one year of your discharge, you can make a claim for service connection. Luckily, lupus is one of the few autoimmune diseases VA will consider for service connection under this condition. Your claim doesn’t necessarily need to be made within a year of discharge, but you must have prove that symptoms started within that period.
In-Service Illness: This approach works when you were diagnosed with lupus during your military service. An important loophole to remember when considering this approach is that you may have experienced or been treated for symptoms of lupus without having been formally diagnosed with it. This emphasizes the importance of detailed records and accounts of your health while in service.
Illness was Aggravated by Service: This approach is meant for veterans who had lupus prior to military service, and whose service aggravated — or worsened — their condition. This may also mean that the lupus caused further complications, or brought about new conditions, because of your service.
Disability ratings awarded for lupus include 10, 60, and 100%, based on the prevalence of the flareups you experience. VA refers to flareups as exacerbations, and assigns the rating based on its acuteness, or frequency and level of debilitation.
Assistance with Your Claims and Appeals
It can be tricky to prove a service connection and get VA disability compensation for lupus. Lack of a proper diagnosis and supporting medical records is a common way for claims to be rejected, but that isn’t the end of the road. If you need professional assistance proving a service connection for your lupus, and want to ensure you’re getting appropriately compensated for the degree of harm caused by your condition, contact us at 844-VET-LAWS to get your claim or appeal started.