VA Disability Rating for Eye Conditions

Veterans Affairs (VA) eye disability ratings can help estimate how much support veterans can expect from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Military service-related eye conditions impact the lives of countless U.S. veterans. VA disability claims are not available to everyone. Eligible veterans must meet specific requirements to receive compensation.

Dedicating years of your life to serving your country is an honorable investment. As an American service member, you may sacrifice your body, mental well-being, or even your life for your country’s interests. One of the risks that you willingly embrace is the health of your eyes and vision.

Unfortunately, the consequences of military service can stay with you long after you leave the battlefield. Vision and eye conditions may arise years after your service has ended. However, you shouldn’t be left to fend for yourself in such a situation.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers support and monthly compensation to help offset eye conditions related to your time in the service. You must qualify for these monthly payments, but if you are eligible, you can apply for assistance today.

Trauma to the eye can cause things like loss of an eye or vision. Other conditions include glaucoma, cataracts, blindness, possibly related to impact, or even exposure to hazardous materials. It is common for eye conditions to be secondary to other conditions. For example, service-connected disabilities like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid issues can also create and cause eye problems. If so, veterans can apply for secondary disabilities, in which case the VA would combine their ratings to increase their monthly compensation.

Trauma to the eye can cause things like loss of an eye or vision. Other conditions include glaucoma, cataracts, blindness, possibly related to impact, or even exposure to hazardous materials. It is common for eye conditions to be secondary to other conditions. For example, service-connected disabilities like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid issues can also create and cause eye problems. If so, veterans can apply for secondary disabilities, in which case the VA would combine their ratings to increase their monthly compensation.

Eye Conditions Caused by Military Service

Military service can cause many types of eye conditions to develop. Common conditions under VA eye disability ratings include blindness, visual impairment, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Some military service members suffer from these eye conditions due to injury, illness, or exposure to hazardous substances. 

So, which eye problems qualify for disability?

You may be eligible to receive VA disability for eyesight disorders if you have one of the following:

  • Loss of an eye or both eyes
  • Lid or lacrimal gland disorders
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Inflammatory eye conditions
  • Cataracts or other lens conditions
  • Tumors or neoplasms
  • Neurological conditions
  • Retinal conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • Corneal conditions
  • Ptosis (drooping eyelids) of one or both eyes
  • Loss of an eyelid, eyebrow, or eyelash

If your eye was injured during military service or you sustained damage to your eye that resulted in a chronic condition, you might be eligible to receive VA disability benefits.

Likewise, if you had an eye ailment that first manifested during your military service, you may qualify for benefits, even if your time in the service did not directly cause it.

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Why Do Veterans Experience Eye Issues?

There are two main types of eye injuries that plague veterans: primary conditions, which are directly related to your military service, such as an object penetrating the eye during active duty, and secondary conditions, those that are indirectly linked to your time in the military

Direct injury, exposure, disease, or complication from medical treatments received during service cause many veterans’ eye conditions.

Secondary Conditions that Can Cause Eye Conditions for Veterans

While they may be aggravated by another condition or medication during military service, secondary conditions are not directly linked to your military service, or the manifestations did not occur during active duty.

Several medical conditions can result in secondary vision problems, including:

  • Lyme disease: This multi-system disease is caused by an autoimmune reaction. All stages of this ailment can result in ocular complications. Patients may develop eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, double vision, inflammatory ocular disorders, loss of vision, and corneal inflammation.
  • Sarcoidosis: This inflammatory disease affects the eyes in up to 50 percent of patients, particularly African-American females. Sometimes it can involve an inflammatory neuropathy of the optic nerve in one or both eyes that can lead to vision loss or blind spots. Some complications can result in double vision.
  • Myasthenia gravis: This autoimmune disease of the muscles can cause ptosis (drooping eyelids) and double vision.
  • Cicatricial pemphigoid: This disorder can inflame the mucous membranes with chronic conjunctivitis (pink eye). Other ailments such as acne rosacea, fungal infections, chemical burns, sarcoidosis, and epidermolysis bullosa can also stimulate this disorder.
  • Pregnancy: Most ocular and visual changes that occur during pregnancy are temporary and resolve after delivery, though some eye conditions may persist throughout the nursing stage. These changes may include dry eyes, contact lens intolerance, visual fluctuations, diabetes, retinopathy, and occlusive vascular disorders.
  • Orbital cancer: Many types of cancer can affect any part of the eye, optic nerve, or eyelids. Eye cancers are relatively rare.

Doctors may prescribe veterans certain medications to treat a condition directly related to their service. Sometimes these medications can result in eye issues.

Medications that Can Cause Eye Conditions for Veterans

There are quite a few medications that can cause eye problems. These medications and their potential complications include:

  • Alendronate: Sold under the brand name Fosamax, this medication can cause blurred vision, eye pain, light sensitivity, and eye redness.
  • Topiramate: Sold under the brand name Topamax, topiramate can cause acute glaucoma, eye pain, dilated pupils, and blurred vision.
  • Isotretinoin: Sold under the brand name Accutane, this medication can cause light sensitivity, swelling of the optic nerve, and inflammation of the eyelid and conjunctiva.
  • Amiodarone: Sold under the brand name Cordarone, this medication can cause halos around lights, a swirl pattern on the cornea, optic nerve damage, and permanent vision loss.
  • Tamsulosin: Sold under the brand name Flomax, this medication can increase the risk of intraoperative floppy iris syndrome during cataract surgery.
  • Sildenafil: Sold under the brand name Viagra, this medication can temporarily change color perception, cause damage to the optical nerve, and result in permanent vision loss.
  • Tamoxifen: This medication can cause cornea clouding, retinal deposits, and macula swelling.

If you take any of these or other medications and develop an eye condition, speak with your optometrist about the links between your medication and your eye condition. This may render you eligible to file a VA disability claim.

Are Eye Conditions Eligible for VA Disability?

The VA recognizes many eye conditions as eligible for VA disability. To be eligible, you must meet two requirements:

  1. You must have a current condition affecting your eyes or eyesight. 
  2. You must have served on active duty training, inactive duty training, or active duty.

Additionally, you must also be able to prove one of the following:

  • Inservice disability claim: You became injured or ill in the military, and you can link this occurrence to your current condition.
  • Preservice disability claim: You were injured or ill before joining the military, and your service worsened your condition.
  • Postservice disability claim: After your service ended, a disability related to your active-duty service appeared.

If you can prove these claims, you may be eligible for VA disability for eye conditions.

VA Eye Conditions Disability Rating

The VA rates all eligible eye diseases under their schedule for eye conditions. Conditions are rated on a scale from 0 to 100 percent based on severity. Most eye conditions and diseases are rated between 10 percent and 60 percent. Exceptions are blindness and the impairment of central visual acuity, which may receive a rating of up to 100 percent, depending on the related details.

Apply for VA Benefits

If you suffer from visual impairments or other issues related to your eyes, you may qualify for compensation based on your VA eye disability ratings. If your conditions are linked to your military service, you deserve compensation for the damages you suffered while serving your country. Apply for VA benefits by filing your claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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