VA Disability Rating for Hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a medical condition that can lead to other more serious medical conditions in the long run, like heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Veterans suffering from hypertension related to their time serving in the military can file a claim to receive a VA rating entitling them to monthly compensation. Veterans Guide can help you learn more about VA disability ratings.
Veterans may suffer from chronic high blood pressure after being subjected to intense stress, emotional distress, and other conditions that permanently affect their nervous system during their service. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability benefits to those suffering from hypertension caused by military service.
The VA uses your consistent blood pressure level over time to determine your high blood pressure VA rating, which determines the amount you can receive from the VA each month. Related conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, and more can also be scored and combined with your hypertension score to increase your overall rating.
Veterans and Hypertension
High blood pressure usually develops over a long period and can be caused by unhealthy behaviors or other diseases, such as diabetes or obesity. Once diagnosed, those with hypertension must regulate their blood pressure by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, taking medication, and managing stress levels, among other measures.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is diagnosed when your blood pressure remains consistently above normal levels. A normal blood pressure reading is below 120 over 80. Blood pressure is considered high at 130 over 80. It worsens at 140 over 90.
Symptoms of hypertension usually don’t become apparent until blood pressure is at a dangerously high level, such as 180 over 120 or higher. They include severe headaches, nausea, trouble breathing, dizziness, and intense chest pain. Since most people with hypertension don’t experience symptoms regularly, the only way to tell that their blood pressure is high is to measure it consistently.
Several serious medical risks are associated with hypertension, such as heart disease, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. The more severe the hypertension, the greater the risk for these and related conditions to appear.
How Can Time in Service Cause Hypertension?
A variety of circumstances related to serving in the military can cause high blood pressure:
- High stress: Prolonged levels of elevated stress can cause hypertension. In military service, soldiers are likely to encounter highly physically, emotionally, and mentally stressful situations regularly, which can significantly impact blood pressure.
- Combat injury: Studies link hypertension with injuries received in combat through related changes in the body’s inflammatory response, as well as the mental and physical health changes that a soldier is likely to experience after an injury.
- Secondary disability: Hypertension may accompany other conditions, such as heart problems, that are more directly linked to time in the military.
- Agent Orange: During the Vietnam War, many soldiers were exposed to an herbicide called Agent Orange that has been linked to several conditions and adverse long-term effects. The VA attributes several illnesses to Agent Orange exposure, including hypertension, for soldiers who served in particular locations during the Vietnam War.
How Does the VA Rate Hypertension?
VA disability ratings are percentages assigned in increments of 10 between zero and 100 that represent how much a service-related disability affects a veteran’s daily life, and how much compensation they receive. For hypertension VA ratings, the maximum rating a veteran can receive is 60%.
A hypertension VA rating uses the two numbers of blood pressure readings as criteria for each level. The top number, systolic pressure, measures how much pressure your blood exerts against arteries during each heartbeat. The bottom number, diastolic pressure, measures how much pressure your blood exerts against arteries between each heartbeat. A normal blood pressure level shows a systolic pressure under 120 and a diastolic pressure under 80.
For hypertension, the VA lists the levels at which veterans may be eligible under the hypertensive vascular disease diagnostic code—7101. The VA uses the following conditions to assign disability ratings to veterans based on their diastolic and systolic pressure levels:
- 60%: Diastolic pressure is predominantly 130 or higher
- 40%: Diastolic pressure is predominantly 120 or higher
- 20%: Diastolic pressure is predominantly 110 or higher, or systolic pressure is predominantly 200 or higher
- 10%: Diastolic pressure is predominantly 100 or higher, systolic pressure is predominantly 160 or higher, or a veteran with a history of diastolic pressure consistently above 100 who requires continuous medication to control it
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Hypertension
If hypertension affects your ability to keep a consistent job, you may be eligible for a Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, rating. This can entitle you to the same compensation as a veteran with a 100% disability rating.
To qualify for this rating, you must prove you have one disability caused by your military service with a 60% rating or higher, making steady work impossible. More than one disability with a combined rating of 70% or more—with at least one rated at 40% or more—can also count.
There are two forms to be completed to request consideration for a TDIU rating. These are an application for increased compensation based on unemployability to be completed by the veteran and a request for employment information in connection with a claim for disability benefits that the veteran’s most recent employer submits.
An example in which a veteran may be able to pursue a TDIU rating for hypertension is when the veteran has a 60% rating and their doctor recommends immediate retirement because of the heart attack risk.
Hypertension as a Secondary Disability
Hypertension can be tied to other heart, brain, and kidney conditions. If a related condition has caused your high blood pressure, then you can apply for a secondary disability with the VA to receive additional compensation. These conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Adding hypertension as a secondary disability can increase your overall rating.
When you have more than one rated disability, the VA does not simply add the ratings to get a combined rating. Instead, it uses a table of combined ratings to prevent a total from being over 100%. If you have more than two disabilities, the VA combines all your scores to create a final disability rating.
Presumptive Service Connection for Hypertension
If you were diagnosed with a chronic disease, including hypertension, within one year of active duty release and were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during service, you may be eligible for a presumptive service connection. This automatically proves the link between your condition and your service without the more extensive medical evidence otherwise required for benefits claims.
The process for filing a presumptive service claim is the same as any other VA claim, except you only have to provide two pieces of evidence — your formal diagnosis and a military record that shows you served in an exposed area. Areas accepted for presumptive service connections related to Agent Orange include Vietnam and the surrounding waterways, and parts of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam, and more between January 1962 and May 1975.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Hypertension?
To receive compensation, you must first submit an intent to file a claim with the VA. Then, you must collect medical information, such as relevant diagnoses and notes from visits that directly connect your condition to your service.
Next, submit the claim with any medical information and additional forms your unique situation may require.
The VA may require you to undergo a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam. It uses the exam when other evidence is not enough to show that your condition is service-related or to help determine your disability rating. You may also have to undergo future review exams to determine whether your condition has resolved or worsened.
Finally, you’ll have to wait for a response from the VA, which can take more than four months.
You can file a claim online, but if you have any questions, you can contact Veterans Guide.
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