VA Disability Rating for Meniere's Disease
Meniere’s disease, called Meniere’s syndrome when the cause of symptoms is known, is an ear condition that causes dizziness, ringing in the ears, and balance problems. If your Meniere’s disease is connected to military service, you can collect disability benefits from the VA. If your Meniere’s prevents you from maintaining regular employment, you may be eligible for total disability individual unemployability benefits, which provide the same rate as someone with a 100 percent disability rating.
- Meniere’s disease can lead to VA disability ratings of 30%, 60%, or 100%, reflecting the severity and frequency of symptoms.
- Symptoms influencing the rating include vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus, with the condition assessed holistically rather than by individual symptoms.
- The VA’s approach to rating Meniere’s disease emphasizes the combined impact of the disease’s symptoms on a veteran’s functional capacity.
Meniere’s Disease is recognized as a disabling condition by the Department of Veterans Affairs and eligible for a VA disability rating. You can receive disability benefits if your symptoms are connected to your time in service. If your Meniere’s is related to another service-connected disability, the VA may recognize Meniere’s as a secondary disability and compensate you accordingly. You can get the compensation you need for your disability by working with an advocate from Veterans Guide who can help you through the steps of the VA disability claims process.
Veterans and Meniere's Disease
Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that causes symptoms such as:
- Severe dizziness, or vertigo
- Ringing in the ear, or tinnitus
- Hearing loss
- Feeling the ear is full or congested
You do not have to experience these symptoms in both ears to have Meniere’s. Often they occur in one ear only.
Meniere’s disease is idiopathic, meaning the exact cause is unknown. It differs from Meniere’s syndrome, a disorder caused by a fluid build-up in a part of the inner ear called the labyrinth, which has a known cause. VA disability ratings for Meniere’s disease are actually for Meniere’s syndrome, or secondary endolymphatic hydrops, according to the wording of the legal schedule. The distinction is important because to get VA disability for Meniere’s, you must show your time in service caused your disability.
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops, or Meniere’s syndrome, happens because of a triggering event. Among the possible causes are:
- Head trauma
- Autoimmune disorder
- Exposure to noise
- Exposure to environmental factors, such as jet fuel
If you have an autoimmune disorder that causes Meniere’s syndrome, the VA may consider your Meniere’s to be secondary to that disorder.
Your time in service may be the cause of your Meniere’s syndrome. The VA states that service members may experience head trauma from explosions in combat or training exercises, among other potential causes of head trauma during service, such as falls, blows to the head, jolts, or penetrating head injuries.
Environmental factors and noise exposure would also make active-duty service members particularly susceptible to the condition.
How Does the VA Rate Meniere's?
Meniere’s syndrome, or endolymphatic hydrops, is rated by the VA on the schedule of disabilities of the ear. It is found under Code 6205.
If you have Meniere’s syndrome, the VA can rate your disability as 30, 60, or 100 percent, depending on your symptoms. Code 6205 has the following criteria:
- 30 percent: Hearing impairment with vertigo less than once a month. You may or may not experience tinnitus.
- 60 percent: Hearing impairment with vertigo and cerebellar gait one to four times a month. You may or may not experience tinnitus.
- 100 percent: Hearing impairment with vertigo and cerebellar gait more than once a week. You may or may not experience tinnitus.
Cerebellar gait is also called ataxic gait. During these attacks, you may stagger, appear clumsy, or have trouble walking heel-to-toe. An ataxic gait looks like intoxication.
The VA disability schedule also has ratings for these symptoms of Meniere’s disease:
- Hearing impairment – Code 6100
- Vertigo – Code 6204
- Tinnitus – Code 6260
Code 6205 instructs evaluators to either use its criteria for Meniere’s syndrome or the criteria for the individual symptoms. The evaluator should use whatever formula results in a higher disability rating for the veteran.
If you have more than one disability, the VA combines disability ratings. However, even though tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing impairment are disabilities under their own codes, you cannot claim any of these and Meniere’s syndrome as separate disabilities. The VA must use whatever code gives you the highest disability rating.
TDIU and Meniere’s Disease
Even if the VA only rates your Meniere’s syndrome at 30 or 60 percent, you may still qualify for the same benefits as someone with a 100 percent disability if your condition prevents you from working. You may qualify for benefits under the Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, program if you meet the following criteria:
- You have a Meniere’s syndrome disability rating of 60 percent but cannot work because of the disability. The VA does not count odd jobs.
- You have a Meniere’s syndrome disability rating of 30 percent or 60 percent and at least one other disability that brings your total disability rating to 70 percent or more. At least one of these disabilities must have a rating of 40 percent or more.
To apply for TDIU, you must submit a claim for disability compensation. You also have to provide the following:
- Evidence that your disability is a barrier to steady employment. Evidence may include doctor’s reports or medical test results.
- Work and education history that the VA will review along with your medical history
Since it is important to provide all necessary documentation, you may want assistance from a lawyer or veterans’ advocate.
What Does it Mean to Show a Service Connection for Meniere's Disease?
Unless your Meniere’s is secondary to another service-connected disability, you must show the condition is service-connected. To do this, you must provide evidence of three elements:
- You have a current medical diagnosis of Meniere’s
- You experienced an event while in service that led to Meniere’s
- You have a medical opinion that links the service event to the onset of Meniere’s
For example, a doctor may have diagnosed Meniere’s and provided documentation for the VA, your service records may show you experienced an explosion during combat, and a medical expert may provide a written opinion stating the explosion triggered Meniere’s.
Meniere's Disease as a Secondary Disability
The VA disability rating schedule acknowledges that service-connected disabilities may cause or aggravate other disabilities. These are called secondary disabilities. According to 38 CFR § 3.310, these secondary disabilities are also service-connected.
Meniere’s can be secondary to other service-connected disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury and certain autoimmune conditions.
If you have a disability rating for another condition that triggered your Meniere’s, you may want to investigate whether you qualify as having a secondary disability.
How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Meniere's Disease
To get VA disability compensation for Meniere’s disease, the VA requires that you submit a claim. All claims must include the following:
- DD214 or separation documents
- Service treatment records
- Medical evidence of your Meniere’s disease or syndrome
If you are claiming TDIU benefits, you must provide these additional items:
- Medical evidence that Meniere’s interferes with your ability to stay employed
- Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability – VA Form 21-8940
- Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits – VA Form 21-4192
Your last employer must fill out Form 21-4192.
Especially when you are managing life with a serious disability, it can be challenging to gather all the documents you need. Reach out to Veterans Guide for help at any time.
The VA may ask you to have a compensation and pension exam, also called a C&P exam. This is a medical evaluation of your disability. A C&P exam is not always required. It is only necessary in cases where the VA wants more information about your disability claim.
To learn how we can help with your VA claim, contact Veterans Guide today.