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Veterans Law

Acid Reflux VA Disability Rating

Kaitlyn Degnan

October 1, 2020

Updated: May 20, 2024

woman in white shirt in white bedroom clutching chest due to acid reflux

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a digestive disorder characterized by the occurrence of stomach acid flowing back up the esophagus from the stomach, causing discomfort and inflammation.  Common signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which might be worse at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat

Additionally, if you have nighttime acid reflux, you might also experience the following:

  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis
  • New or worsening asthma
  • Disrupted sleep

If you experience symptoms of acid reflux more than twice a week, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Moderate to severe acid reflux may occur as frequently as once a week.  Over time, chronic inflammation in your esophagus can cause:

  • Narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal stricture). Damage to the lower esophagus from stomach acid causes scar tissue to form.  The scar tissue narrows the food pathway, leading to problems with swallowing.
  • An open sore in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer). Stomach acid can wear away tissue in the esophagus, causing an open sore to form.  An esophageal ulcer can bleed, cause pain, and make swallowing difficult.
  • Precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus). Damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue lining the lower esophagus.  These changes are associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

VA Service Connection for Acid Reflux

The majority of veterans receive service connection for acid reflux on a direct basis.  Direct service connection requires three elements: (1) a current diagnosis; (2) an in-service event, injury, or illness; and (3) a medical nexus linking your diagnosed condition to the in-service occurrence.

Unfortunately, there is no presumption for acid reflux.  For example, acid reflux is not eligible for presumptive service connection as due to Agent Orange exposure or exposure to environmental hazards in the Persian Gulf War.

VA’s Persian Gulf War presumption regulation does allow for presumptive service connection for functional gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional constipation, functional vomiting, and functional dyspepsia.  However, acid reflux is not considered to be a functional gastrointestinal disorder.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, “functional GI disorders are disorders of gut-brain interaction,” of which acid reflux is not considered to be.

How Does VA Rate Acid Reflux?

Veterans with acid reflux may receive a VA disability for GERD, as GERD is a more serious form of acid reflux.

GERD is rated under 38 CFR § 4.114, Schedule of Ratings – Digestive System, Diagnostic Code 7206. Veterans can be rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, or 80 percent for GERD, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

The criteria for each VA rating are as follows:

  • 80 percent – “Documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia with at least one of the symptoms present:
      • aspiration
      • undernutrition, and/or
      • substantial weight loss as defined by § 4.112(a) and treatment with either surgical correction or percutaneous esophagogastrointestinal tube (PEG tube)”

    50 percent – “Documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia which requires at least one of the following:

      • dilatation 3 or more times per year, or
      • dilatation using steroids at least one time per year, or
      • esophageal stent placement”’

    30 percent – “Documented history of recurrent esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia which requires dilatation no more than 2 times per year”
    10 percent – “Documented history of esophageal stricture(s) that requires daily medications to control dysphagia otherwise asymptomatic”
    0 percent – “Documented history without daily symptoms or requirement for daily medications”

Did VA Deny Your Disability Claim?

If VA denied your disability benefits claim, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help.  The appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs is often long and difficult to navigate.  The team of accredited VA-agents and attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD has helped many veterans with VA disability claims and appeals.  Contact our office today for a free case evaluation: 800-544-9144.

About the Author

Bio photo of Kaitlyn Degnan

Kaitlyn joined CCK in September of 2017 as an Associate Attorney. Her practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Kaitlyn