Gastrointestinal diseases involve the organs of the digestive tract and accessory organs that aid in digestion. The primary organs that are affected by gastrointestinal diseases are the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and rectum.
Veterans who experience any type of gastrointestinal diseases may be eligible to receive disability compensation if their illness is connected to their military service. This can involve a direct service-connection when an event or injury that occurred during military service caused a gastrointestinal disorder. It can also involve a secondary service-connection if the gastrointestinal disorder is a complication caused by another disability that is service-connected.
Generally, veterans must prove the existence of their disability, an event that occurred during military service that caused the current disability, and a connection between the disability and the Veteran’s military service. However, there are some cases where gastrointestinal diseases receive a presumptive service-connection.
Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and Gulf War Veterans
Gulf War Veterans with medically unexplained illnesses receive a presumption of service connection if they meet certain requirements. Included among these illnesses are functional gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome.
These symptoms must have persisted for at least six months, and must have appeared either during active duty or before December 31, 2021. Any medically unexplained illness could qualify a Gulf War Veteran for presumptive status, including other functional gastrointestinal problems or other disorders that do not involve the gastrointestinal tract.
Gastrointestinal Disease and Prisoners of War
Former POWs who were captive for 30 days or more receive a presumptive service-connection for certain digestive disorders, including peptic ulcer disease, chronic dysentery, irritable bowel syndrome, and cirrhosis of the liver. Veterans with these disorders do not need to prove direct service-connection.
Gastrointestinal Disease and Camp Lejeune Veterans
Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune and were exposed to contaminated drinking water receive a presumption of service connection for liver cancer, which involves an accessory digestive organ. These Veterans also receive a presumptive service connection for bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and other diseases.
Veterans who do not meet the requirements for presumptive service connection for their gastrointestinal disorder can still apply for VA disability benefits, but will need to provide proof of the connection between their military service and their disability.
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