VA Disability Rating for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome leads to exhaustion, weakness, and mental issues, all of which interfere with daily living activities for veterans. Some veterans find themselves unable to work due to ongoing challenges with low energy, pain, and forgetfulness. At Veterans Guide, we help former service members understand the disorder’s symptoms and how they can pursue a chronic fatigue syndrome VA rating.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, causes severe complications for sufferers. Patients struggle with various symptoms, including extreme fatigue, dizziness, pain, and sleep difficulties. Veterans suffering from service-connected chronic fatigue syndrome can apply for a VA disability rating, qualifying them for monthly payments to ease the financial strain caused by the inability to work.
Veterans and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Life with chronic fatigue syndrome feels exhausting. Patients struggle to complete their daily responsibilities, often with worsening symptoms from physical or mental exertion. As a result, veterans with chronic fatigue syndrome have a decreased capacity to handle essential responsibilities, including work and providing for their families.
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome, as the name implies, creates feelings of utter exhaustion in sufferers. Sufferers feel worse with activity, but rest alone does not resolve symptoms. The condition also may cause various other symptoms, including the following:
- Memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle or joint pain
- Insomnia despite exhaustion
- Waking without feeling refreshed, even after a reasonable amount of sleep
Doctors diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome when the symptoms persist for at least six months.
How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Caused by Time in Service?
Military service members have an increased risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome for numerous reasons. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is widely recognized as one of the conditions associated with “Gulf War Syndrome.” The VA includes it on the list of presumptive conditions suffered by Gulf War veterans. Other risk factors include the following:
- Psychological stress faced during training and service
- Some viral infections
- Hormonal imbalances caused by high-stress military training
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- An early history of abuse or trauma in the formative years
When former military members develop chronic fatigue syndrome due to their service, they can pursue a chronic fatigue syndrome VA disability rating.
How Does the VA Rate Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The chronic fatigue syndrome VA disability rating depends on several factors, including how much the disorder’s symptoms impact daily activities. To receive a disability rating for chronic fatigue syndrome, the veteran must have reduced activity levels for at least six months and at least six associated symptoms, including muscle aches and weakness, low-grade fever, joint pain, sleep disturbances, and ongoing fatigue after exercise.
The ratings available break down as follows:
- 100 percent disability rating: The symptoms are constant and severe, restricting daily activities and interfering with normal self-care tasks.
- 60 percent disability rating: The symptoms continue nearly constantly, restrict daily activities to less than 50 percent of the veteran’s previous norms, and lead to at least six weeks of complete incapacitation each year.
- 40 percent disability rating: The symptoms continue nearly constantly and restrict daily activities to between 50 percent and 75 percent of the veteran’s normal activity levels. When symptoms come and go, they cause incapacitation for at least four weeks out of the year but less than six weeks total.
- 20 percent disability rating: The symptoms remain nearly constant and restrict activities by less than 25 percent of the veteran’s previous activity levels. If symptoms come and go, they create more than two weeks of incapacitation per year but less than four weeks total.
- 10 percent disability rating: The symptoms come and go and cause at least one week, but less than two total weeks, of incapacitation per year. If symptoms are consistently managed with medication, the veteran may also receive a 10 percent disability rating.
A chronic fatigue syndrome VA disability rating encompasses how often the condition impacts the patient and their overall energy levels. VA disability ratings carefully consider the condition’s long-term impact on the ability to work, take care of family responsibilities, and engage in self-care. Working closely with a medical care provider can help you track how much those symptoms impact you over a year or more.
TDIU and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a program that provides the benefits for a 100 percent VA disability rating for veterans whose service-connected conditions prevent them from working, even if the conditions do not qualify for a 100 percent rating.
To get TDIU benefits for chronic fatigue syndrome, you must be unable to hold a steady job because of your disability. Additionally, you must have at least one service-connected disability rated at least 60 percent disabling or multiple service-connected conditions, with one rated at least 40 percent and a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
To apply for TDIU benefits, you must submit your medical records, including any non-VA medical records, and a statement from your care provider attributing your inability to work to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a Secondary Disability
Chronic fatigue syndrome occurs alongside several other conditions. Not only can it occur because of Gulf War Syndrome symptoms, but it may also occur in conjunction with:
- Depression and anxiety
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you suffer from comorbid conditions and have chronic fatigue syndrome, you can apply for a secondary disability with the VA to increase your disability rating. Increasing your disability rating also boosts your monthly payments.
Secondary Conditions Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome increases the risk of developing several other conditions. If you suffer from the following related conditions, you can apply for a secondary disability with the VA to increase your disability rating:
- Anxiety disorder
- Renal disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
Presumptive Service Connection for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
A “presumptive service connection” is one for which the VA presumes a link between military service and the condition’s development, entitling the veteran to a VA disability rating. For example, chronic fatigue syndrome may relate to service in the Gulf War.
While the VA prefers not to use the term Gulf War Syndrome, studies have shown that veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations during the Gulf War, which began on August 2, 1990, have a higher risk for developing certain conditions. These presumptive conditions include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and gastrointestinal disorders.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
If you have a chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis following military service and a presumed service connection between your illness and your service, you can file a VA claim by completing the following steps:
- Apply online through the VA website or fill out the VA Disability Form.
- Collect evidence of your diagnosis, including private medical records and VA records. Witness statements can provide additional evidence. Your doctor and family members can write statements that offer more insight into your limitations and losses due to chronic fatigue syndrome.
- If needed, go through a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. A C&P exam offers the VA more evidence related to your claim and increases your odds of disability approval.
If you need additional help, Veterans Guide offers assistance. Contact us to learn more.
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