VA Disability Rating for Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence, or uncontrollable bladder leakage, is a possible side effect of several injuries and conditions that result from military service. If you are suffering from urinary incontinence due to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, or another condition, you may be able to receive medical assistance or monthly benefits from the VA. Contact Veterans Guide to learn more about getting a cervical urinary incontinence disability rating and how to file a VA disability claim.
Urinary incontinence is a common symptom of severe physical injury or mental trauma experienced by many veterans. Those who develop incontinence or whose incontinence worsens after serving in the military may apply for monthly compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Filing a claim is usually simple and can either be done online or in person with the help of your local VA office. Through this process, you will be assigned a post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or cervical urinary incontinence disability rating, depending on the cause and severity of your condition.
Since veterans with urinary incontinence often suffer from more than one disability, the VA can combine the ratings for each disability to decide on a final rating. The final rating will determine how much compensation you will receive.
Veterans and Urinary Incontinence
Evidence suggests that about 25 to 33 percent of all Americans deal with urinary incontinence. There are a few common causes of service-related incontinence.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a leakage of urine that you cannot control. It is diagnosable when it occurs repeatedly over some time, often affecting your life socially, emotionally, and psychologically.
Incontinence is one of several genitourinary condition types for which the VA compensates veterans. This grouping covers any health issues related to reproductive or urinary organs stemming from service-related disabilities. Other common genitourinary problems veterans experience include prostate cancer, chronic renal failure, and sexual dysfunction.
Women are especially susceptible to urinary incontinence, but the condition can affect both genders. The VA suggests that the problem is particularly severe for those who have served, stating that 20 percent of all female veterans experience urinary incontinence.
How Can Time in Service Cause Urinary Incontinence?
There are four major service-related causes of urinary incontinence, including:
- Physical conditions during active duty: Limited access to clean restrooms and hygiene products can cause short-term problems, such as urinary tract infections. These can lead to longer-term conditions, especially for women in service.
- Physical injury: Specific physical injuries, such as those affecting the lumbar or cervical spine, have been cited as possible causes of urinary incontinence.
- Mental illness: Mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder caused or worsened by a soldier’s time in service have been linked to long-term problems with urinary control.
- Traumatic brain injury: Whether for physical, mental, or a combination of reasons, those with traumatic brain injuries experience urinary dysfunction more often than those without.
What Are the Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?
Doctors classify urinary incontinence into four categories:
- Urgency: Some may suffer from an inability to hold urine during the time it takes to get to a restroom, which may be a sign of another condition, such as an overactive bladder or urinary tract infection. Having to urinate frequently is another symptom of urgency incontinence.
- Stress: When urine leaks during specific movements, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or any other activity that puts stress on your bladder, this is categorized as stress incontinence.
- Functional: Another physical condition, such as a disability or injury, can prevent someone from getting to a restroom in time, resulting in urine leakage. For example, if someone has difficulty unbuttoning pants due to arthritis, the situation would be considered functional incontinence.
- Overflow: A bladder overflow starts when a person feels the urge to urinate, but nothing or a very small amount of urine comes out. Since the bladder does not empty properly, leaking can occur later on as it gets too full. Common causes include a blockage in the urinary tract or weakness in the bladder muscles.
How Does the VA Rate Urinary Incontinence?
The VA assigns veterans experiencing disability a percentage rating. The VA then uses that rating and the veteran’s number of dependents to calculate the monthly compensation amount. VA disability ratings range between zero and 100 percent in increments of 10.
For urinary incontinence specifically, the VA rates veterans using the ratings of the genitourinary system, and is based on the level of “voiding dysfunction” they experience. Voiding dysfunction covers several common urinary problems, such as urine leakage, too-frequent urination, and urinary obstruction. The guidelines for assigning percentages are as follows:
- 60 percent: Assigned to a veteran who uses an appliance to assist with urination, such as a catheter, or wears absorbent materials that require changing more than four times a day
- 40 percent: Assigned to a veteran who wears absorbent materials that require changing between two and four times a day
- 20 percent: Assigned to a veteran who wears absorbent materials that require changing less than two times a day
There are separate but similar guidelines for rating the other aspects of voiding dysfunction, such as urinary frequency, which is rated based on the number of times a person needs to urinate during the day and night.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Urinary Incontinence
Another route for seeking compensation from the VA involves proving that your service-related disability or disabilities have kept you from finding and keeping a job. If granted, this allows you to receive benefits at the same level as veterans with a 100 percent disability rating. This is called Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, or TDIU.
The conditions for receiving TDIU benefits are:
- You must have at least one disability rated at 60 percent or higher or multiple disabilities with one rated at 40 percent or higher and a combined rating of 70 percent or higher.
- You must prove that you cannot keep a stable job because of your service-related disability.
For urinary incontinence, your medical and employment records must prove that repeated urine leakage throughout the day, urination frequency, related bladder infections, or similar factors impact your ability to work to the point that you cannot keep a regular job.
Urinary Incontinence as a Secondary Disability
Urinary incontinence is often tied to other conditions in veterans and is usually pursued as a secondary disability caused by a primary disability from service. If you suffer from other service-related conditions, you can apply for both disabilities with the VA to increase your overall disability rating.
Common causes of urinary incontinence eligible for compensation from the VA include post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and physical injuries. Other conditions stemming from or related to urinary problems, such as frequent urinary tract infections or prostate cancer, may also count toward your disability rating.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Urinary Incontinence?
Filing a VA disability claim is a four-step process that involves submitting an intent to file form, collecting medical evidence such as diagnoses that connect your condition to your time in service, filing via the online portal or by mail, and submitting any additional forms for related VA programs.
If you have any questions about VA disability ratings or the filing process, contact Veterans Guide for help.
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