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Veterans Law

Acid Reflux VA Disability Rating

October 1, 2020
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?

VA rates acid reflux as analogous to other digestive disorders because it does not have its own rating criteria.  Analogous ratings are used when a certain condition is not specifically listed in VA’s Schedule of Rating Disabilities.  If a condition is not explicitly listed, VA will rate that condition under the diagnostic code for a condition that it is closest to, or that requires the same treatment.

Typically, acid reflux is rated analogously to a hiatal hernia under 38 CFR § 4.114, Diagnostic Code (DC) 7346.  Ratings under DC 7346 range from 10 to 60 percent disabling, and depend on the presence and severity of a variety of symptoms.  The requirements for each are as follows:

  • 60% – symptoms of pain, vomiting, material weight loss, and hematemesis or melena with moderate anemia; or other symptom combinations productive of severe impairment of health
  • 30% – persistently recurrent epigastric distress with dysphagia, pyrosis, and regurgitation, accompanied by substernal or arm or shoulder pain, productive of considerable impairment of health
  • 10% – with two or more of the symptoms for the 30 percent evaluation of less severity

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.