VA Disability Rating for Agent Orange and Ischemic Heart Disease

Many veterans were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War. This exposure caused various health problems, such as ischemic heart disease. If you are a veteran with ischemic heart disease and were exposed to Agent Orange, you may be eligible for better VA disability benefits. Veterans Guide can help you file your Agent Orange and ischemic heart disease VA claim and obtain maximum compensation.

Agent Orange was a toxic chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War that caused serious ecological and physiological issues. Many veterans have developed severe health conditions, such as ischemic heart disease, due to Agent Orange exposure.

If you are a veteran with ischemic heart disease exposed to Agent Orange, you are probably eligible for VA disability ratings and benefits. Since 2010, the VA has recognized the link between Agent Orange and ischemic heart disease.

Veterans Guide provides you with information about the process for obtaining maximum disability benefits when you leave military service. Contact us to learn more about your VA benefits eligibility for Ischemic Heart Disease and Agent Orange exposure.

Veterans, Agent Orange, and Ischemic Heart Disease

Also called coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease happens when the coronary arteries narrow, restricting blood flow to the heart. Constriction of blood vessels or blood clots can create this narrowing, but it usually results from atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup. If the blood flow to the heart is completely blocked, the heart muscle cells will die, leading to a heart attack. 

Common signs and symptoms of ischemic heart disease include the following:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Tiredness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight gain
  • Edema, swelling of the legs and feet
  • Cold sweats, vomiting, and nausea
  • Indigestion or heartburn

Agent Orange was a 50/50 mixture of two herbicides: 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. It contains a toxic contaminant, dioxin, that still causes health problems in the Vietnamese, Vietnam war vets, and others exposed to Agent Orange. The United States Army used Agent Orange to defoliate trees and shrubs that provided food and cover for opposition forces. 

Veterans exposed to Agent Orange are more likely to develop ischemic heart disease. According to a 2008 report by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, exposure to Agent Orange and other pesticides used during the Vietnam War is associated with a higher chance of contracting ischemic heart disease. As a result, the VA presumes ischemic heart disease is associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides during active duty.

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Is Ischemic Heart Disease a Presumptive Condition for Veterans?

If you were exposed to Agent Orange while in service and later developed ischemic heart disease, the VA automatically presumes the exposure caused your condition. You do not have to prove a connection between your ischemic heart disease diagnosis and Agent Orange exposure. 

Note, however, that you must have served in the following places during these timeframes:

  • Vietnam on land and some naval vessels from January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
  • The Korean Demilitarized Zone between September 1, 1967, and August 31, 1971
  • Laos between December 1, 1965, and September 30, 1969
  • Any Royal Thai or U.S. military base between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province, from April 16, 1969, to April 30, 1969.
  • Johnston Atoll between January 1, 1972, and September 30, 1977.

Veterans with ischemic heart disease who did not serve in these places and timeframes may still be eligible for service connection. However, they must provide nexus letters and other medical reports linking their ischemic heart disease diagnosis to toxic exposure during service.

How Does the VA Rate Ischemic Heart Disease?

The VA uses diagnostic codes and ratings to identify disabilities and determine how much compensation veterans can receive for their conditions.

The VA rates ischemic heart disease under the § 4.104 Schedule of ratings – cardiovascular system as follows:

  • 100 percent rating: You will receive this rating if you have 3.0 metabolic equivalents or less in heart failure symptoms, such as dizziness, fatigue, dyspnea, or syncope. You may also receive this rating if the ejection fraction of the left ventricle is under 30 percent.
  • 60 percent rating: You will receive this rating if you have experienced more than one acute congestive heart failure episode in the previous year. You may also receive this rating if you have a workload of 3.1 to 5.0 metabolic equivalents in results for angina, dyspnea, dizziness, fatigue, or syncope, or else you have an ejection fraction of the left ventricle of 30 percent to 50 percent.
  • 30 percent rating: You will receive this rating if you have a workload of 5.1 to 7.0 metabolic equivalents in heart failure symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, dyspnea, syncope, or angina, or else show evidence of cardiac dilation or hypertrophy confirmed by electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or X-ray.
  • 10 percent rating: You will receive this rating if you have a workload of 7.1 metabolic equivalents and heart failure symptoms such as fatigue, dyspnea, syncope, angina, or dizziness. You will also receive this rating if you need continuous medication to control your heart failure symptoms. 

Contact Veterans Guide to learn more about diagnostic ratings for ischemic heart disease.

Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Ischemic Heart Disease

If your ischemic heart disease prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits. This monthly payment compensates veterans who cannot work due to presumptive or service-connected disabilities.

You must prove the following to receive TDIU for ischemic heart disease:

  • You have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or more disabling. Alternatively, you have multiple service-connected disabilities, with one rated at least 40 percent disabling and a combined rating of at least 70 percent.
  • You cannot sustain a steady job that supports you financially due to your service-connected or presumptive disability. The VA does not consider odd jobs as steady employment.

Secondary Disabilities Caused by Ischemic Heart Disease

Service-connected or presumptive ischemic heart disease can also cause secondary disabilities. Some examples include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart failure
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat
  • Cardiomyopathies, which are a group of disorders affecting the function and structure of the heart muscle

You may be eligible for VA compensation for secondary disabilities caused by ischemic heart disease. Talk to a veteran advocate at Veterans Guide to learn more about your options.

PACT Act and Toxic Exposure

The PACT Act expanded VA benefits and health care for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances.

Ischemic heart disease, along with Parkinson’s disease and other conditions, was already a presumptive condition before passing the PACT Act. The PACT Act added over 20 new presumptive conditions for Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances for veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras. These include:

  • Brain cancer, glioblastoma, reproductive cancer, and melanoma for burn pit and other toxic exposure
  • High blood pressure and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance for Agent Orange exposure

How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Ischemic Heart Disease?

The VA will automatically presume Agent Orange exposure caused your ischemic heart disease if you served in Vietnam, Johnston Atoll, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and other locations during specific timeframes. If you did not serve in these locations, you must provide a nexus letter and other evidence linking your ischemic heart disease diagnosis with service-connected toxic exposure.

Include as much evidence as possible when filing your claim. If you fail to provide enough information, the VA may ask you to submit more documents or undergo a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam. The VA will use the exam results to determine whether you have a service-connected disability and pinpoint your disability rating.

If you need help filing your claim, contact Veterans Guide today. We can determine your Agent Orange and ischemic heart disease VA disability rating and assist with the filing and appeal processes to ensure you get the benefits you deserve. Our veteran advocates have ample experience helping veterans and their families obtain maximum compensation.

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