VA Disability Rating for Diabetes

The VA can rate diabetes at different percentage levels depending on the severity and management needs of the condition. These ratings can be 10%, 20%, 40%, 60%, or 100%, each reflecting increasingly severe symptoms and management requirements, such as the use of insulin, regulation of activities, and hospitalizations due to complications. Submit a formal claim and receive a VA rating for diabetes to determine your eligibility. 

Key Takeaways
  • The VA provides disability ratings for diabetes ranging from 10% to 100%, depending on the severity of the condition and the level of medical management required, including insulin use and dietary restrictions.
  • Veterans with diabetes linked to service—especially those exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange—may be eligible for compensation without needing to prove the direct connection between their service and the diabetes.
  • Diabetes can lead to secondary disabilities that may also qualify for compensation, such as hypertension and nerve damage, increasing the overall disability rating.

Through combat injury, exposure to herbicides, and mental illness, veterans are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than the general population. This diagnosis can significantly impact a veteran’s health and lifestyle, leading to further medical complications down the road.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides benefits for veterans who have developed physical and medical conditions directly related to their time in service. VA ratings for diabetes range from 10% to 100% and take various factors into consideration: 

  • Necessary treatment
  • In-person care, such as hospitalizations
  • Additional health complications

Your rating determines how much monthly compensation you’re due. Veterans Guide can help you learn what benefits you may be eligible for and guide you through filing your claim.

Veterans and Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the hormone insulin can no longer properly manage glucose, which is naturally released into the blood after you eat. This disease may occur when a person develops insulin resistance or becomes unable to produce enough insulin. People usually develop type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Diabetics may face a range of short-term health issues due to high blood sugar levels:

  • Extreme hunger and thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Weight loss

If not managed properly, long-term high blood sugar levels can lead to more dire consequences, such as heart problems, vision loss, and permanent nerve damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.3% of Americans suffer from diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes increases with age and is more prevalent in men than women. U.S. veterans are at an even higher risk, with 25% of all VA patients reportedly affected by diabetes due to conditions associated with their time in service.

How can time in service cause diabetes?

Veterans experiencing type 2 or gestational diabetes after their time in service may be eligible for VA benefits. You must provide evidence of the link between your service and the condition.

Diabetes is closely linked to weight-related health issues, such as obesity. This means that physical and mental conditions affecting a veteran’s ability to lead a healthy lifestyle can eventually cause type 2 diabetes to develop. Service-linked conditions that can cause diabetes include the following:

  • Physical disability: A combat injury that causes a long-term physical disability can lead to diabetes after severely limiting a veteran’s ability to exercise.
  • Chronic pain: Similarly, chronic pain from a combat injury can prevent a veteran from achieving consistent movement goals and contribute to type 2 diabetes.
  • Mental illness: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has specifically been linked to type 2 diabetes because of its debilitating nature and the potential effects of medications used to treat it. In female veterans, PTSD has been connected to the development of gestational diabetes. This disease occurs in women who do not have diabetes prior to pregnancy but develop insulin resistance while pregnant.
  • Exposure to herbicides: Veterans exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and may be eligible for compensation under the VA’s presumptive condition policy.

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What are the long-term medical problems associated with diabetes?

Diabetes has been linked to several other medical complications, including the following:

  • Heart attacks
  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision loss
  • Hospitalizations for blood sugar-related crises
  • In severe cases, lower-extremity amputation
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

By contributing to these serious health events and complications, diabetes can also play a role in a veteran’s death. The problem is far-reaching, with diabetes listed as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2019.

Known risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and related complications include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • High A1C levels
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol

Weight problems are the number one determining factor in the development of type 2 diabetes and its associated risks.

How does the VA rate diabetes?

The VA uses the schedule of ratings for endocrine disorders to assign diabetes disability ratings to veterans:

  • 100%:
    • Treatment: Requires one or more insulin injections per day, a restricted diet, and regulation of physical activity
    • Hospitalizations and care: Three related hospitalizations per year or weekly visits to a diabetic care provider
    • Symptoms: Either ongoing weight loss and loss of strength or complications that a veteran could be compensated for if filed separately
  • 60%:
    • Treatment: Requires one or more insulin injections per day, a restricted diet, and regulation of physical activity
    • Hospitalizations and care: One or two hospitalizations per year or twice monthly visits to a diabetic care provider
    • Symptoms: Complications that a veteran could not be compensated for if filed separately
  • 40%: Treatment requires one or more insulin injections per day, a restricted diet, and regulation of physical activity
  • 20%: Treatment requires one or more insulin injections or oral medications per day and a restricted diet
  • 10%: Treated by a restricted diet alone

These ratings decide the amount of monthly compensation you’re owed for the condition.

TDIU and Diabetes

If you can prove that your type 2 diabetes caused by service has made you unemployable, you can also apply for a Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating. If granted, this rating entitles you to the same benefits as a veteran with a 100% disability rating.

To prove your disability and its connection to your service, you’ll need to submit evidence with your claim. The VA suggests submitting things like doctor’s reports, medical test results, and papers confirming your time in service. They will also look into your educational and work history to determine how much your diabetes affects your livelihood.

If you already receive VA compensation for your diabetes at a rating lower than 100% and struggle to maintain employment due to related symptoms, your local Veterans Service Organization (VSO) can help you determine the next steps.

Diabetes as a Secondary Disability

Suppose your diabetes cannot be directly linked to your time in service but was caused by another condition that can. In that case, you may file a claim for a secondary disability to improve your overall rating.

For example, suppose your doctor links the development of type 2 diabetes to the side effects of a mental health medication for PTSD from combat trauma. In that case, your diabetes may count as a secondary disability.

Conditions Secondary to Diabetes

In addition, several other conditions are recognized by the VA as secondary to type 2 diabetes. This means you can file them as secondary disabilities to increase your rating. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hypertension
  • Nerve damage
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Diabetic foot and leg amputation
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Stroke

When you have multiple disabilities, the VA will not add your ratings together. The VA uses a Table of Combined Ratings to determine your overall rating percentage. Use our VA disability calculator for help in calculating your overall rating with multiple conditions.

Diabetes and Agent Orange

Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used in Vietnam and surrounding countries during the Vietnam War. It has been linked to several health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, and cancer.

Veterans who developed type 2 diabetes after exposure to Agent Orange during service are in a unique position. They do not have to prove the direct connection between their time in service and their diabetes to receive VA benefits. Those who served in specific locations throughout Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and more during the Vietnam War are covered by the VA’s presumptive disability benefits. This means the VA will “presume” the connection between their type 2 diabetes and wartime herbicide exposure without requiring direct medical evidence.

To file for disability compensation for a presumptive disease — such as type 2 diabetes after Agent Orange exposure — you must submit a formal claim. With your claim, include your diagnosis and separation or discharge papers that prove your presence in an Agent Orange-affected location.

An Agent Orange registry health exam is available to affected veterans to assess all potential health risks but is not required to receive benefits. Loved ones of veterans who died from diabetes complications after Agent Orange exposure may also be entitled to compensation.

How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Diabetes?

To receive compensation for type 2 diabetes developed from military service, follow these steps:

  1. Submit an intent to file form
  2. Collect medical and service information to support your diagnosis and its direct connection to service
  3. Submit a formal claim
  4. Fill out any related specialty paperwork with the VA depending on your circumstances

The process was created to make it easy for veterans to file for compensation on their own, either online or by mail. But if you need further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact our team here at Veterans Guide.

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