Veterans who develop heart conditions may be eligible to receive disability compensation. Typically, to receive veterans (VA) disability for heart conditions, you must establish:
- An in-service event or illness
- A current heart condition or diagnosis
- A nexus, or link, between your diagnosis and the event
The VA disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD can help you establish these elements and fight your case. We have won VA disability benefits on behalf of many of our clients and can put our experience and resources to work for you.
Call our office today for a free consultation: 401-331-6300.
Diagnosing Your Heart Condition for VA Benefits
The VA only recognizes certain diagnostic methods as valid. We need to ensure that your diagnosis meets the VA’s standards before we apply for benefits. Some results the VA will consider include:
Documented congestive heart failure: The VA looks at documented occurrences of heart failure from your doctor and their frequency contributes to determining your disability rating.
Metabolic equivalents (METS) test: Doctors use this test to diagnose several types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease. It involves walking on a treadmill at a gradually increasing pace. The test determines how efficiently your heart pumps oxygen to your working tissues. If your heart function or arteries are compromised, it will show up on the METS test.
Multigated acquisition scan (MUGA): This test determines if you have ventricular dysfunction by measuring your heart’s capacity to pump blood.
Establishing Service Connection
To grant disability benefits, the VA requires not only a diagnosed heart condition but also proof of a nexus between your military service and the diagnosis.
In some cases, the VA presumes your condition to be service-related:
If you served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975; in the Korean Demilitarized
Zone (DMZ) between April 1, 1968 and May 7, 1975; or in Thailand as a military
dog handler or military police between 1962 and 1975, the VA must grant service connection to a condition associated with Agent Orange exposure. We will look into your condition and your records to determine whether the VA must grant service connection.
Herbicide exposure is not limited to military police or dog handlers in Thailand. If you served with other military occupational specialties, you may also be eligible for service connection. However, you must establish you were exposed to herbicides.
Certain heart conditions, such as arteriosclerosis, endocarditis, and myocarditis are chronic disease for VA purposes. Therefore, if these conditions manifest to a compensable degree within one year of discharge from service, you are entitled to service-connected compensation. You are eligible to receive these benefits if you served for a certain amount of time, received any discharge other than dishonorable, and were diagnosed with one of the aforementioned conditions within one year of service.
What if there is no presumptive service connection?
Presumptive service connection is not the only way to get a a heart condition service-connected. If you are not eligible for presumptive service connection, we will gather evidence that links your diagnosis to a specific illness, injury, or event that occurred during your service. Our attorneys have extensive resources to build a compelling case that your medical condition is service-related.
VA Disability Ratings
The amount of your disability compensation depends on how severe the VA finds your condition. To judge your condition’s severity, the VA uses the disability rating schedule. It rates you as anywhere from 0 to 100 percent disabled. The more evidence we can produce showing how your condition limits your daily functions, the higher rating you can receive.
For heart disease, the VA will grant a 10, 30, 60, or 100 percent disability rating. These are the compensation amounts for 2017 based on those ratings:
- 10 percent disability rating: $133.57 per month
- 30 percent disability rating: $408.97 per month
- 60 percent disability rating: $1,062.27 per month
- 100 percent disability rating: $2,915.55 per month
If your rating is 30 percent or higher, you can receive additional benefits for any dependents (e.g., spouse, children, dependent parents) in your household.
Ratings for Heart Conditions
The VA takes several factors into consideration when assigning a rating to your heart condition. For instance, it looks at whether you have had a heart attack or an episode of heart failure, and any instances of surgery.
It also uses various criteria to rate different types of heart conditions:
Coronary Artery Disease
The VA assigns a rating for CAD by looking at the results of your METS test. The earlier in the test you develop symptoms, such as dizziness or shortness of breath, the higher your probable rating. The VA also looks to see if you have had any episodes of heart failure, and if so, how frequently these episodes occur.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
You can receive VA disability benefits based on hypertension alone, but your rating will probably be low. However, if you develop an additional heart condition, such as CAD, as the result of your hypertension, you can receive a second, and generally higher, rating for it.
A heart attack receives an automatic 100 percent rating that continues for three months from the date of occurrence. At that time, the VA requires you to undergo a subsequent evaluation, such as a METS test, the results of which it uses to issue a new rating.
Coronary Bypass Surgery
The VA applies the same rule to coronary bypass surgery as to heart attacks — you get a 100 percent rating for three months after the surgery and then a re-rating based on additional testing.