VA to Revise Some Disability Schedules
The Veterans Administration announced that it will change the way it evaluates some disability schedules. Including service-related respiratory conditions, mental health conditions, and ear, nose, & throat disorders. The Administration intends to bring the VA’s rating schedule more in line with modern medicine.
Officials plan to eliminate the 0% PTSD disability level and institute a 10% disability minimum. Most importantly, the changes will remove the requirement that a veteran not be able to work to receive a 100% disability rating.
The sleep apnea disability ratings will change to reflect earning impairment. Veterans who cannot sleep at night have a very hard time working during the day.
The changes will not impact the current disability ratings. They are intended for future claims processes only. “Veterans who currently receive compensation for a service-connected condition in these body systems will not have their disability rating impacted when the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is updated,” Undersecretary Thomas Murphy said in a statement. “Updating the rating schedule allows veterans to receive decisions based on the most current medical knowledge relating to their condition,” he added.
The proposed changes, which are subject to a public comment period, also include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), which could be a standalone disability or a brain injury symptom.
Disability Benefits and Brain Injuries
A significant number of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) overseas. Frequently, these Veterans sustained few or no other physical injuries. These are often caused by sudden loud blasts, like an exploding IED, which creates shock waves that disrupt brain functions.
Service-related PTSD is also a physical brain injury. But researchers are not sure if a one-time traumatic experience or a cumulative effect of smaller experiences changes brain chemistry. Extreme stress enlarges the amygdala (brain’s emotional response section) and shrinks the cerebral cortex (logical response section). This imbalance explains hypervigilance, depression, anger, and other common PTSD symptoms.
In either case, establishing a service-related connection is usually not a problem. Common service-related stressors include being in combat and being the victim of, or witnessing, military sexual trauma (MST).
PTSD and TBI symptoms are much more difficult to establish. Many of these Veterans do not realize how their injuries affect them. The brain often conceals its own injuries. Furthermore, many Veterans are very self-reliant. They often downplay their medical issues and other such problems, even to their doctors.
Some structural issues may come into play as well. The PTSD and TBI disability ratings do not necessarily reflect the struggles these Veterans go through on an everyday basis.
Buddy statements often address these issues. Friends, family members, coworkers, and other individuals can testify about the effects of the injury. This testimony often convinces Claims Examiners to reexamine the listed ratings and assess a more accurate figure. That could mean additional benefits for you and your family. A VA disability attorney plays an important role in the reconsideration process, both at the initial determination level and during a subsequent appeal if necessary.
Sleep Disorders and Disability Benefits
Brain injuries and PTSD often create sleep issues. Also, flashbacks and nightmares are common examples. Other issues include:
- Insomnia: Nightmares and flashbacks that continue over time, as is the case with PTSD and brain injuries, make it difficult or impossible to fall asleep and stay asleep. As a result, these Veterans have a hard time functioning the next day.
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: EDS is a closely related condition that could be a brain injury symptom or a standalone disability. These individuals are so fatigued that they often take naps at inappropriate places and times.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: One of the most common service-related sleep disorders is also one of the most serious ones. Sleep apnea causes extreme fatigue and dull reflexes. Eventually, the health issues spread to the heart. Certainly, common issues include arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and even cardiac arrest.
Under the current rating system, sleep apnea is either a 0% disability (disordered breathing only), 30% disability (excessive and persistent daytime drowsiness), 50% disability (CPAP machine requirement), or a 100% disability (chronic respiratory failure with carbon dioxide retention (COR pulmonale)).
Reach out to Dedicated Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For that reason, get a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer. Contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262. Or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Consequently, it does not create an attorney-client relationship.