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Veterans Law

How Does VA Rate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Lisa Ioannilli

February 23, 2018

Updated: June 20, 2024

man grasping stomach due to irritable bowel syndrome IBS pain


What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is categorized by patterns of abnormal bowel movements or changes in bowel movements.  Although IBS causes intense discomfort to the large intestine, it does not damage the intestine.  The three types of irritable bowel syndrome are:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C) – During days with abnormal bowel movements, more than 25 percent of stools are hard or lumpy and less than 25 percent are loose or watery.
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) – During days with abnormal bowel movements, more than 25 percent of stools are loose or watery and less than 25 percent are hard or lumpy.
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M) – During days with abnormal bowel movements, more than 25 percent of stools are hard and lumpy and more than 25 percent are loose or watery.

The exact causes of IBS are not known, but certain factors can increase an individual’s chances of having the condition, such as having a family member with IBS, a history of stress or traumatic experiences, or a severe infection in the digestive tract.

IBS Symptoms

IBS symptoms can vary day to day, depending on changes in bowel movements, and can be triggered by stress and eating certain foods.  Some common symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramping
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Bloating

Diagnosing and Treating IBS

To determine if a person has IBS, doctors will usually first rule out other possible diseases by running tests, including stool sampling, blood tests, and x-rays.  They will also review the patient’s symptoms, medical and family history, and perform a physical exam.  Identifying the correct type of IBS can also help a person better know how to treat it.

Doctors may suggest lifestyle and diet changes to treat a person’s IBS.  Other recommendations for treatments can include medicines, probiotics, and mental health therapies.

Service Connection for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

To receive IBS VA disability benefits, veterans must first establish service connection.  There are typically three things VA requires before granting service connection:

  • Proof of an in-service event, injury, or illness;
  • A current diagnosis by a medical professional; and
  • A medical nexus, or link, between the in-service event and the current diagnosis.

If a veteran developed IBS as a result of another service-connected condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they may qualify for disability benefits based on secondary service connection.  To establish secondary service connection for IBS, veterans typically need to submit:

  • A diagnosis for the secondary IBS by a medical professional; and
  • Medical evidence (i.e., a nexus) linking the service-connected condition to the secondary IBS.

To submit a claim for either direct or secondary service connection, veterans can fill out VA Form 21-526EZ.  This form can be submitted online, via mail, or directly to VA in person.

Presumptive Service Connection for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

While VA does not consider IBS a VA presumptive condition, under its regulation for qualifying disabilities for Persian Gulf War veterans, IBS is considered a medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness, or MUCMI.

MUCMIs are covered under VA’s statute and regulation, 38 U.S.C. § 1117 and 38 C.F.R. § 3.317 respectively, authorizing presumptive service connection for Persian Gulf War veterans.  This means that VA may grant presumptive service connection for a Persian Gulf War veteran with irritable bowel syndrome, provided they meet certain requirements.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) VA Ratings

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rates irritable bowel syndrome under 38 CFR § 4.114, Diagnostic Code 7319 for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. VA disability ratings for IBS range from 10 to 20 to 30 percent, depending on the severity of symptoms.

The criteria for each VA IBS rating are as follows:

  • 10 percent: The veteran experiences abdominal pain at least once as a result of defecation during the previous three months. Additionally, they must experience two or more other symptoms of IBS. These symptoms are stool frequency changes, stool form changes, straining or urgency, mucorrhea, and subjective distension.
  • 20 percent: The veteran experiences abdominal pain at least three days per month as a result of defecation during the previous three months, along with two or more symptoms as noted above.
  • 30 percent: The veteran experiences abdominal pain at least once per week as a result of defecation during the previous three months, along with two or more symptoms as noted above.

Non-compensable ratings, or 0 percent ratings, can still be applied if the above rating criteria are not met.

Severity and frequency of IBS symptoms vary from person to person, so veterans should always report their symptoms to VA. Irritable bowel syndrome can be severe at times and then disappear completely at other times, so it is important to clearly outline symptoms and frequency of episodes when applying for service connection or an increased rating.

Additionally, Diagnostic Code 7319 may include other functional digestive disorders. These disorders can include dyspepsia, functional bloating and constipation, and diarrhea.

Was Your IBS VA Disability Claim Denied?

If you were denied IBS VA disability benefits, you have the option to appeal VA’s decision.  Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD has decades of experience helping veterans successfully secure retroactive and future benefits on appeal and may be able to assist you.  To schedule a free case evaluation, reach out to CCK today.

About the Author

Bio photo of Lisa Ioannilli

Lisa joined CCK in March 2012. Lisa is a Senior Attorney focusing on representing disabled veterans in claims pending before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Lisa