VA Disability Rating for Glaucoma
A glaucoma VA rating, like all general VA ratings for eye diseases, depends on the severity of your vision loss and how often the condition requires a health care visit annually. The resulting rating from zero to 60 percent determines the monthly disability compensation you’ll receive from the VA. Veterans Guide can help you collect the compensation you deserve for glaucoma.
- Glaucoma VA ratings vary from zero to 60 percent, reflecting the impact of vision loss and required medical interventions.
- Ratings are determined by the degree of visual impairment or the frequency of incapacitating episodes necessitating treatment.
- Establishing a service connection for glaucoma involves demonstrating that military service conditions triggered or exacerbated the condition.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes long-term vision impairment and blindness. It’s often hereditary, though environmental factors, injuries, and illnesses can cause, trigger, or worsen it. There is no known cure for glaucoma, so treatments aim to slow the progression of vision loss and related symptoms. The condition can affect all aspects of daily life, with work, family, social, and psychological repercussions.
If you are a veteran suffering from service-connected glaucoma, you may be eligible for a glaucoma rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. That rating will determine whether you qualify for monthly benefits. Veterans Guide can help you understand your rights and guide you through the claims process.
Veterans and Glaucoma
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma results from excess fluid build-up in front of the eye. This build-up causes increased pressure that damages the optic nerve.
Normally, the fluid should flow constantly in and out of your eye to keep the pressure consistent. However, with glaucoma, the hole through which fluid flows stops working properly. As individual optic nerve fibers die out due to the pressure, patients start to notice blind spots in their vision. If left untreated, this can eventually cause total blindness.
What Are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
There are two major types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. The more common of the two, open-angle glaucoma, usually develops over a long period and has few symptoms in the early stages. In later stages, you will start to experience blind spots in your peripheral vision.
Angle-closure glaucoma comes on as a sudden attack, often after experiencing no previous vision loss. It is considered an eye emergency that can cause total blindness if not treated quickly. Symptoms include the following:
- Sharp eye pain
- Sudden blurriness of vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Perceiving rainbow-colored rings around lights
How Can Time in Service Cause Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is considered at least partially a hereditary disease. For this reason, you can best establish a service connection to your glaucoma through either injury or environmental conditions that triggered or worsened your glaucoma symptoms.
Glaucoma can be linked to your service when:
- You’ve had a serious eye or brain injury during or because of your time in service.
- An illness connected to your service started or accelerated your vision loss.
- You experienced environmental conditions during service that negatively impacted your eyesight, such as frequent or severe sandstorms or exposure to burn pits.
How Does the VA Rate Glaucoma?
The VA rates all disabilities on a percentage scale of zero to 100 percent. They give ratings in increments of 10, which indicate the seriousness of your condition’s symptoms and the degree to which it affects your daily life. Specifically for diseases of the eye, VA ratings are based on the level of sight you retain and how much the disease interferes with your ability to live and work as a civilian.
The disability rating schedule for eye diseases covers both angle-closure and open-angle glaucoma. This rating structure ranges from 10 to 60 percent and refers to “incapacitating episodes.” This means that the eye condition is serious enough to require a healthcare visit for treatment. It uses the following guidelines:
- 60 percent: Incapacitating episodes resulting in seven or more treatment visits in the past year
- 40 percent: Incapacitating episodes resulting in five or six treatment visits in the past year
- 20 percent: Incapacitating episodes resulting in three or four treatment visits in the past year
- 10 percent: Incapacitating episodes resulting in one or two treatment visits in the past year or continuous medication is required to treat the eye problem
General eye diseases like glaucoma can also be rated based on visual impairment. There are some key considerations when considering getting a visual impairment rating:
- Three functions of sight are evaluated: visual acuity, visual field, and muscle function.
- Vision loss in each individual eye cannot exceed a 30 percent rating, unless the eye itself has been lost.
- Loss of one eye without a prosthesis increases that eye’s rating—unless that would put the combined rating of vision loss in both eyes over a 100 percent rating.
- Blindness in both eyes with visual acuity of 5/200 may make a veteran eligible for special compensation.
The VA recommends that veterans file for the rating that will be the highest depending on which is the most severe—either incapacitating episodes or vision loss.
One issue that veterans face when filing a claim to receive a glaucoma VA rating is its nature as a hereditary disease. To prove a direct service connection, you must have compelling evidence that suggests the cause or worsening of your symptoms happened while you were in service. You can prove this:
- Through the development of an injury or another disease that triggered or worsened the glaucoma
- Through challenging environmental conditions that demonstrably affected your eyes and those of other veterans
Want to Increase Your VA Rating?
Total Disability Individual Unemployability Benefits and Glaucoma
Total disability individual unemployability, or TDIU, provides benefits to veterans who cannot work due to their condition. Regardless of your standard rating, you can receive up to 100 percent rating benefits if you cannot work.
TDIU involves two levels of proof: the original service connection to your condition and how it affects your ability to work. As there is no known cure for glaucoma, TDIU may be particularly relevant for veterans suffering from this eye disease as time passes and their vision continues to decline.
You must meet the following requirements to receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits:
- You have a service-connected disability rated at least 60 percent or multiple service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70 percent, one of which is rated at least 40 percent.
- You cannot maintain steady employment due to your service-connected disability.
If your vision impairment has started to affect your ability to work, you may reapply with the VA to receive a new rating alongside testimonies from your medical care team and former or current employer. If you are struggling to keep working or find work due to the impacts of service-related glaucoma, reach out to your local VA office to inquire about the process of filing for TDIU.
Glaucoma as a Secondary Disability
Proof of a service connection for a partially hereditary disease such as glaucoma can be difficult. Establishing glaucoma as a secondary disability triggered by a service-related trauma or condition is another effective route for filing for VA glaucoma benefits. The following conditions have a noted connection to developing or worsening glaucoma:
- Severe eye injury or trauma can cause traumatic glaucoma.
- Diabetes can cause irregular blood vessels to grow in the retina, which may block eye drainage and lead to glaucoma.
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure, may also damage the blood vessels in the eye.
To establish glaucoma as a secondary disability, you must first prove a service connection for the condition that triggered or aggravated your glaucoma.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Glaucoma
To file a disability compensation claim with the VA:
- Submit an intent to file form online or by mail
- File the disability compensation form online or by mail
- Provide evidence, including:
- Formal diagnosis and doctor’s notes
- Nexus letter from a doctor that connects the condition’s cause to your time in service
- Proof of your time in service
- At the VA’s request, you may have to sit in on a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam
- Wait up to 100 days or more for a final response
Filing for VA disability compensation for glaucoma or other conditions can be confusing and frustrating. If you have questions or concerns about the filing process, contact Veterans Guide for knowledgeable, compassionate advice throughout your journey.