A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off or reduced, depriving its tissue of necessary oxygen and nutrients. This can be caused by a blood clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain, or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing the flow of blood to the brain.
The effects of a stroke can vary depending upon the area of the brain affected and how long it was deprived of blood flow. Some individuals are able to recover completely from a stroke, whereas others are left with permanent disabilities such as partial paralysis, difficulty speaking, memory loss, vision problems and more.
How VA Rates a Stroke
The VA categorizes strokes under several different categories. An embolism of the blood vessels in the brain occurs when a blood clot that occurs somewhere else in the body travels to the brain. A thrombosis of the blood vessels in the brain occurs when blood clots form in the brain’s blood vessels. A hemorrhage of the blood vessels in the brain occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.
Veterans who experience a service-connected stroke are assigned a convalescent temporary and total disability rating for six months following their final treatment. Veterans are then reevaluated and assigned ratings based on their residual symptoms. For example, if a veteran suffers from partial paralysis due to a stroke, then the Veteran would receive a rating based on the level of paralysis. A veteran’s rating for residual symptoms will be based on medical records or a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination. If residual symptoms following a stroke exist and are supported by medical findings, veterans will receive a minimum disability rating of 10%.
Presumptive Service Connection for Stroke
Veterans may be able to receive presumptive service connection for a stroke in some situations. This presumption can be especially beneficial when applying for VA disability benefits as it can be difficult to prove the exact cause of a stroke. Some forms of stroke receive presumptive service connection if the veteran is at least 10% disabled due to the stroke within one year of discharge. In addition, former prisoners of war receive presumptive service connection for strokes. This applies to any form of stroke for a prisoner of war that was in captivity for any length of time.