VA Disability Rating for Vertigo

Veterans experiencing chronic dizziness, known as vertigo, may be eligible for compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA provides disability benefits for service-connected inner ear problems that cause vertigo, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, Meniere’s disease, acute unilateral vestibulopathy, and more. Veterans Guide can help you learn how to get a VA disability rating for vertigo and file a claim.

Vertigo, or chronic dizziness, is a symptom of several conditions that can significantly affect your daily life and opportunities. The threat of feeling off-balance, nauseated, or faint at any moment may hold you back from everyday professional or social activities, responsibilities, errands, exercise, and more.

If you are a veteran and sustained inner ear damage from your time in service that causes vertigo, you can file a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to receive monthly compensation. The specific amount you’ll receive depends on the vertigo rating assigned by the VA and the number of dependents you support.

Veterans and Vertigo

What Is Vertigo?

Vertigo includes sudden, repetitive dizzy spells, usually associated with inner ear or brain problems that affect your balance. Those experiencing vertigo often feel like a still room is spinning, which may cause nausea or vomiting.

Additional symptoms include the following:

  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus
  • Ears feeling constantly full of fluid or wax
  • Motion sickness
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Recurring headaches
  • Meniere’s disease, an inner ear condition that causes ringing and balance problems

What Are the Different Types of Vertigo?

The two types of vertigo are peripheral and central. Peripheral is more common and involves problems with your inner ear or vestibular nerve that throw off your balance. The VA offers benefits for those experiencing peripheral vertigo. This type of vertigo is categorized into two types of underlying problems that cause dizziness—peripheral vestibular disorders and Meniere’s disease.

Meniere’s disease is a disorder caused by fluid building up in the chambers of the inner ear.

Peripheral vestibular disorders are conditions affecting the inner ear vestibular structures. Types that the VA recognizes include:

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: Vertigo triggered by sudden head movement
  • Acute unilateral vestibulopathy or vestibular neuritis: An inner ear disorder caused by viral infections
  • Bilateral vestibulopathy: A chronic imbalance syndrome that occurs when both inner ears are damaged
  • Vestibular paroxysmia: Short spurts of vertigo that sometimes occur 30 or more times per day and usually last a minute or less
  • Third window syndrome: Any of a group of conditions that involve inner ear fluid leakage

Central vertigo is rarer and happens due to a traumatic brain event, such as a stroke, tumor, or infection. The VA does provide disability benefits for veterans who have experienced brain trauma that causes central vertigo. But the VA will not individually consider vertigo caused by one of those traumatic events for additional compensation.

How Can Military Service Cause Vertigo?

Various conditions during service can cause ear issues that lead to peripheral vertigo. Continued exposure to loud machinery over time or sudden exposure to extremely loud noises like explosions can cause ear damage. Damaging sounds, foreign objects inside the ear, or head trauma sustained during service can also lead to conditions such as a perforated eardrum or infections—placing you at greater risk for experiencing vertigo.

After service, if your inner ear’s ability to drain fluid has been negatively affected by noise exposure, you may develop a vertigo-causing condition. Injuries or illnesses caused by your time in service can also lead to lasting ear damage and, by extension, vertigo.

How does the VA rate vertigo?

The VA assigns disability ratings that score how much your service-connected disabilities interfere with your life. These ratings range from 0 percent to 100 percent and occur in increments of 10 percent.

The schedule that sets the VA vertigo rating guidelines includes two types of diagnoses. Diagnostic code 6204 covers all peripheral vestibular disorders, while diagnostic code 6205 covers Meniere’s disease.

Ratings for peripheral vestibular disorders follow these guidelines:

  • 30 percent: Symptoms include dizziness and occasional staggering
  • 10 percent: Symptoms include only occasional dizziness

Ratings for Meniere’s disease follow these guidelines:

  • 100 percent: Symptoms include hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and a wide, staggering gait more than once weekly, with or without ringing in the ears
  • 60 percent: Symptoms include hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and a wide, staggering gait one to four times a month, with or without ringing in the ears
  • 30 percent: Symptoms include hearing impairment with vertigo less than once a month, with or without ringing in the ears

Total Disability Individual Unemployability Benefits and Vertigo

The VA makes Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits available to veterans who can’t work due to their service-connected disability. This grants the veteran benefits of up to a 100 percent disability rating regardless of their initial rating.

You must meet the following requirements to qualify for TDIU: 

  • You have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or higher, or you have multiple service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70 percent or more, with one disability rated at 40 percent or more
  • You are unable to hold down a job that can support you because of your service-connected disability 

You must submit evidence to prove your inability to work, such as a report from your doctor or medical test results. The VA will also look at your education and work history. 

For vertigo specifically, a situation that may warrant TDIU benefits would be if your dizzy spells are frequent and severe enough to make a workplace dangerous and make it impossible to focus for long periods. A letter explaining the recommendation to cease working, medical tests and notes, an official diagnosis from your doctor, and a letter explaining that you can no longer complete job tasks due to your condition from your employer would support this claim.

Vertigo as a Secondary Disability

A secondary disability is a disability that is caused by or linked to a service-connected disability. If you have two or more disabilities, the VA can combine all your ratings to calculate your overall disability rating. That means a secondary disability can increase your rating and entitle you to more compensation. 

Because conditions related to inner ear damage are the main cause of vertigo, you can also claim other ear symptoms resulting from vertigo-causing conditions. 

These conditions include: 

  • Tinnitus, or constant ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, or hissing in the ears, which can be rated up to 10 percent. 
  • Hearing loss or impairment, which a state-licensed audiologist must evaluate to determine a percentage evaluation for hearing impairment in your poorer ear that decides compensation. A 100 percent rating leads to benefits based on the special monthly compensation ratings for deafness.

You can seek a combined rating for hearing impairment, tinnitus, and peripheral vestibular disorders. However, the rating for Meniere’s disease already combines the symptoms of all three. As a result, veterans who file specifically for Meniere’s disease may not file for related conditions like tinnitus or hearing loss.

How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Vertigo

The process for filing a disability claim with the VA includes four major steps:

  • Submit an intent to file form and create an online portal account with the VA if you plan to submit all materials online.
  • Collect medical evidence from your doctor, including a nexus letter linking your diagnosis to a specific event or conditions present during your service time.
  • Complete the official VA disability claim form and file it online or by mail, along with your supporting evidence.
  • File any supplemental claims or complete and submit any other necessary paperwork for your unique situation.

Once the VA receives your paperwork, it may request a Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam to prove your diagnosis and the service connection to your disability. If a C&P exam is requested, you must participate or risk immediate denial of your claim.  

Though you can do the process alone, support is always available if you’re struggling to file an initial claim, supplemental claim, or appeal. Your local VA branch can advise you throughout the process, or our team at Veterans Guide can answer any questions you may have.

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