Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits with a Challenging Condition

If you served your country in the U.S. military and are now suffering from an autoimmune disease, you could qualify for financial assistance in the form of disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

But you’re facing the challenge of proving your condition is service-related. And even if you can demonstrate that connection, does your VA disability rating accurately reflect the severity of your condition—ensuring you get the amount of benefits you need?

A monthly benefits check from the VA could go a long way toward giving you back some much-needed stability so you can focus on your health, your friends and your family.

For veterans in Ohio, Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal is here to serve you.

Our Dayton-based, statewide veterans’ disability law firm can guide you through the VA disability process and moving toward a better future.

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    Getting VA benefits for an Autoimmune Disease

    When the immune system is working correctly, it fights off foreign invaders—like viruses, bacteria or fungi—to keep you from getting sick. It also attacks disease-causing changes inside the body, such as cancer cells.

    When the immune system malfunctions, as in autoimmune disease, it attacks the body’s healthy cells, tissues or organs. Examples of autoimmune disease include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, thyroid inflammation and inflammatory bowel disease. The law for veterans’ disability also treats arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis.

    The basic eligibility requirements for VA disability compensation also apply to autoimmune diseases.

    You must have a current illness or injury (known as a condition) that affects your mind or body, AND you must have served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. In addition, at least one of the following must be true:

    • You got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an in-service disability claim), OR
    • You had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a preservice disability claim), OR
    • You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (called a post-service disability claim)

    A veterans’ disability lawyer from HNB can take a look at your situation and let you know your best course of action for getting financial relief.

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    How to Link Military Service Experiences to Autoimmune Disorders

    Getting veterans’ disability benefits (VA benefits) for autoimmune diseases can be difficult because you have to demonstrate that your condition is service-related.

    Unlike a missing limb or PTSD, it can be tricky to establish the cause of an autoimmune disease. Researchers have developed many theories, each supported by some evidence, but they have not established definitive causes.

    Here are two ways to establish the links you need to get benefits:

    1) Tying your autoimmune disease to another, more easily recognized condition

    If the VA denied your disability claim, saying your autoimmune disorder was not service-related, you might be able to submit a new claim that links your autoimmune disorder to a disability that was proven to be service-related, such as PTSD.

    In 2015, results of a study of more than 666,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan showed that veterans with PTSD are twice as likely to have an autoimmune disease. If you are among those veterans, you may also have Gulf War-related impairments, such as exposure to burn pits.

    More studies continue to reinforce these connections. While the studies don’t directly prove that your autoimmune disorder was caused by your military service, the VA only needs to see a 50 percent probability that your disease is service-related.

    2) Showing how the timing of certain autoimmune disorders connect to your service

    Another way to qualify for veterans’ disability benefits for some autoimmune diseases is to show close timing of your military service and the onset of your condition.

    If you develop lupus severe enough to qualify for benefits within a year of your military discharge, for example, the VA may conclude that your impairment is “presumptively” service-connected—and award you benefits.

    With multiple sclerosis, you have seven years to show that presumptive service connection.

    You may have a lot of questions about what all of this means for you.

    The VA disability attorneys at HNB know all the rules, links, exceptions and options to get you the support that your country owes you.

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    Veterans’ Disability Ratings and Autoimmune Diseases

    Once your service-connected condition is established, the VA then assigns you a disability rating based on the severity level of your condition.

    They use that rating to determine how much disability compensation you’ll receive each month. For example, if you have lupus, you are considered to have:

    • 100 percent disability if your condition is acute, with frequent exacerbations, producing severe impairment of health
    • 60 percent disability if your exacerbations last a week or more, 2 or 3 times per year
    • 10 percent disability if exacerbations occur 1-2 times a year or if you have been symptomatic once during the past 2 years

    Every condition is assessed in its own way.

    If you disagree with your VA disability rating, you can file an appeal. You’ll need to do this within one year of receiving your decision notice.

    VA ratings are confusing, and you’ve got other things to do besides trying to navigate the veterans’ disability system.

    HNB’s veterans’ disability attorneys handle the process, so you can move forward with your life.

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    A man in military fatigues looks down at a table while meeting with a doctor. Get Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal’s PTSD lawyers to deal with the VA disability benefits system, so you can focus on managing your PTSD.