IBS can be service-connected on its own or as a secondary disability caused by another service-connected condition, such as PTSD. Veterans must establish a medical nexus to link their condition with their time in service.
IBS is a presumptive disability for POWs and Gulf War veterans. Establishing service connections is easy for these veterans. However, other veterans must provide much evidence to win their claims for IBS.
Establishing a Service Connection
You may be eligible for benefits if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues related to your service. However, it would be best if you established a service connection to get VA disability for IBS. There are several ways you can prove this.
The most straightforward method is to show that your IBS manifested during military service. This requires evidence in the form of medical records. However, some veterans find qualifying for a secondary service connection easier. This involves showing that your IBS results from another disease or injury you already have service-connected.
For example, if you have a 0 percent rating for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), you could qualify for a 10 percent rating for IBS. This includes severe episodes of bowel disturbance, such as diarrhea or constipation, accompanied by abdominal distress. The highest rating is 30 percent. This rating is reserved for veterans with persistently severe IBS symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.
Documenting Your Symptoms
If you have a chronic condition such as irritable bowel syndrome, the frequency of your symptoms and their impact on your ability to work and socialize are critical for determining your disability rating. Keeping detailed symptom documentation and seeking appropriate medical care can help you provide the VA with sufficient evidence to establish your disability ratings.
For veterans whose IBS is diagnosed after service, it is necessary to show that the condition resulted directly from military service. This is known as establishing a ” nexus.” This requires the help of a medical nexus letter from certified health professionals.
Getting a Rating
Many veterans struggle with digestive issues, including bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Symptoms can occur during and after military service and are often caused by changes in bacteria balance in the gut. If your symptoms significantly impact your daily activities, you may be entitled to disability compensation.
The VA offers a 0 percent rating for mild symptoms, including occasional episodes of abdominal distress and disturbances in bowel function. A 10 percent rating is given for moderate symptoms that are more frequent and cause more severe distress. A 30 percent rating is the highest evaluation. It applies to veterans who experience severe symptoms such as alternating diarrhea and constipation with constant abdominal distress.
You will also need to establish that your IBS was caused by or worsened by your service. This is called establishing a nexus and can be done with detailed medical documentation such as statements from attended medical and healthcare providers, physical evidence of your increased symptoms, and expert opinions.
Appealing a Denial
While the connection between irritable bowel syndrome and military service can seem obvious to some, others may find the VA’s rules for establishing this link difficult. It’s important to hire an experienced attorney who can assist with filing an appeal for IBS and work on your case.
If you have served in the military and have a condition such as PTSD, IBS can become worse or develop as a secondary condition of that disorder. In this situation, you could establish a service connection for a secondary condition by showing that the underlying PTSD caused or worsened your IBS.
For a 30% rating, you must have severe symptoms such as “frequent occurrences of bowel dysfunction with abdominal distress” and have both diarrhea and alternating episodes of constipation. If you have this kind of IBS, it can also be rated with another disability to get you a higher overall schedular rating.