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Veteran’s Guide to Exposure to Radiation and Magnetic Fields (Part Two)

Part Two: Ionizing Radiation

Since the discovery of atomic energy, it has become common knowledge that ionizing radiation is harmful to humans. While this sort of radiation does not cause giant mutant ants or other monstrosities depicted in low-budget science fiction films in the 1960’s and 1950’s, ionizing radiation is mutagenic and exposure to it can be disastrous to the body.

The VA and Ionizing Radiation

The VA lists several different methods a serviceman may have been exposed to ionizing radiation. This includes service members in Japan during the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011, “Atomic Veterans” who participated in the testing and implementations of nuclear weapons, Coastguardsmen who were stationed at LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) stations from 1942 to 2010, and veterans who have been exposed to radiation-based medical treatments.

Occupationally, the VA recognizes that servicemen who served on nuclear vessels, or worked on these ships in shipyards were also exposed to radiation. Others who worked as X-ray or dental technicians, or worked to clean up nuclear waste, were also likely exposed.

The VA recognizes many presumptive disease with regards to exposure to ionizing radiation. These include: Cancers of the bile ducts, bone, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, lung (including bronchiolo-alveolar cancer), pancreas, pharynx, ovary, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid, urinary tract (kidney/renal, pelvis, urinary bladder, and urethra, leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia), lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease), and multiple myeloma.

Other illnesses that the VA admits MAY be related to ionizing radiation, but does not automatically presume these diseases are service-related: all other cancers, non-malignant thyroid nodular disease, parathyroid adenoma, posterior subcapsular cataracts, and tumors of the brain and central nervous system.

Other health risks associated with ionizing radiation

While the VA has not formally recognized the connections, there are many other health effects seen in those exposed to radiation, including reproductive problems and infertility, uterine myoma, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, cataracts, kidney disease, and even hypertension. Often, these problems do not surface for years after the original exposure, and as such, the VA may fight against service-connection. Some scientists estimate that just as many radiation-exposed people die from non-cancer related illnesses caused by ionizing radiation than those who die from cancers.

No matter the route of exposure, it is clear that veterans exposed to ionizing radiation suffer from a slew of dangerous health effects.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 21, 2014

Suicide, Depression, and the VA: The Sad Truth & Navigating the Disability Process

With the recent death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, once again the issues of mental health, depression, and suicide are making a resurgence in our national discourse. In the last few hours, I have watched countless programs discussing these issues in every way imaginable, from a listing of the signs and symptoms of depression, to descriptions of someone who may be on the brink of suicide, to the perils of drug and alcohol abuse, and the list could go on and on. However, none of the discussions have centered on the veteran population specifically.

The sad truth is that as many as 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The sad truth is that the problems with mental health care through the VA healthcare system are rampant, and there is much work to be done in this regard.

As a veterans advocate, I am keenly aware that depression and suicide is very real and has great impact not only on veterans, but also on their families and loved ones. So I wanted to write this blog to provide veterans with some helpful insights for navigating through the VA disability process.

  1. Depression is very real and should be recognized and treated accordingly. Keep a diary of your symptoms and talk to your doctors about the symptoms. Suffering in silence is not the answer.
  2. Ask your friends and family members to keep a list of your symptoms (along with the frequency), and discuss with your doctors. Sometimes friends and family can provide valuable and unique insight into your situation. When you’re the one suffering, it’s hard to see the forest past the trees.
  3. If you have filed a VA disability claim for mental health, you should know that the VA will rate your disability according to the severity and frequency of your symptoms. For example, if you suffer from suicidal ideation or near-continuous panic or depression affecting your ability to function, you may be entitled to a 70% disability rating. However, the only way that the VA will know about the severity and frequency is if this is documented in your medical records. It will also help to have lay statements from your friends and family members to submit in support of your claim.
  4. Depression is frequently caused by chronic pain. If you are service connected for a physical condition that has resulted in depression, you should consider filing for secondary service-connected benefits.
  5. It is common for veterans with PTSD to suffer from depression, which then results in substance abuse. If you develop secondary conditions as a result of the substance abuse, those may also be secondarily service-connected.
  6. If you are in crisis or know a veteran or family member who is, it is never too late to reach out and get help. The Veterans Crisis Line is a great resource for veterans and their families, and is available via phone and the web.

The sad truth is that it actually takes tragic events of this magnitude in order for these issues to come to light. However, it is my hope that the newfound attention will somehow bring much needed help to veterans and their families. The charge for real change should start today.

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by Attorney Leslie Gaines
August 20, 2014

BAD MEDICINE—VA C&P exams

So you feel your C&P exam did not go well. What to do now? You left your C&P exam and you have a bad feeling about it. What can you do? You, as a veteran, have a few outlets to examine.

First of all, let’s not panic. To start, before you leave the VA facility, make sure you have the name of your doctor. If you do not want to ask the doctor as you are leaving, inquire at reception or with one of the nurses. “I just want to make sure I have his name correctly; was that Dr. Bob Smith? Was Smith with an “I” or a “Y”?” Even if you just get the last name of the doctor, you’ll be able to compare this name to the one on your C&P exam. You would be shocked to learn a lot of times that the person that saw you is not the doctor that signs off on the C&P report.

As soon as you are able, write down your impressions of the exam and what you think went wrong. It is so much easier to get these feeling down now than trying to recreate them at a later time. Here are some questions to try to help formulate your impressions:

  1. What do you feel went wrong?
  2. Was it the way the examiner treated you?
  3. Did the examiner ask competent questions relating to your disability?
  4. Was the examiner interested in your answers?
  5. Did you feel your examiner has his/her own agenda?

Use these questions as a guideline to fill out your own rebuttal to submit to the VA.

Next, you are entitled to know about the examiner who performed your exam. This is why you asked for the name of your doctor. Did you have an examiner who is a specialist in your field? For example, a general practitioner should not be giving a PTSD exam.

So how do you find out if your examiner is a specialist in your field? Well, now you need to ask for a copy of your C&P exam. You may not be able to get one right away, but the C&P exam should be available within a few weeks. You can always check for the posted copy on your on-line ebenefits account, or call the office in which you had your exam and ask them how to go about getting a copy.

If you have the name of your examiner, you can google him to see if there is anything on line about him. Or you can request a FOIA for his/her Curriculum Vitae. This will help you ascertain your examiner’s competency.

You can always request another C&P exam. The VA is not required to provide another one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and often, very often, you can get another one.

If you have seen your own doctor for the same issue for which you are getting a C&P, ask your own doctor to fill out a DBQ for your disability. The VA is required to examine your own doctor’s opinion on your disability, and give it as much weight as they would give their own examiner.

All the above listed examples allow you to formulate your own rebuttal to a C&P exam that made you uncomfortable. You are not powerless against the VA and do not have to swallow a negative C&P like bad medicine.

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by Lora Wentzel, Veterans Advocate
August 19, 2014

Veteran’s Guide to Exposure to Radiation and Magnetic Fields (Part One)

Veterans are often exposed to radiation from many different sources. A Nuclear Technician on a submarine might be the first thing that comes to mind, but what about an Electronics Technician? Radarman? An Infantryman? A dental technician? There are many ways a veteran could have been exposed to radiation, and several different types of radiation with different effects.

Most of us know or at least suspect that radioactivity has harmful effects on the body. However, we get confused by all the surrounding jargon. There are two main types of radiation: non-ionizing radiation and ionizing radiation. In general, radiation is when invisible waves “radiate” from a source. Some radiation is solely comprised of these waves, and is referred to as “non-ionizing radiation.” Examples of non-ionizing radiation can be found everywhere-from extremely low frequency (ELF) antennas to microwaves to radar. Some radiation contains subatomic particles, and is referred to as “ionizing radiation.” Ionizing radiation has so much energy that it liberates subatomic particles from atoms, and moves them at a high speed through your body, often with disastrous results.

Non-ionizing Radiation

While ionizing radiation can be very dangerous, there are studies that have shown non-ionizing radiation can cause health issues as well. While there is no conclusive proof, several studies have shown that there is a chance exposure to non-ionizing radiation, especially extremely low frequency fields, can be harmful to humans.

Neurological Disorders

Parkinson’s Disease has been shown to correlate with occupations that involve chronic exposure to magnetic fields, and a higher rate of Amytrophic lateral sclerosis is associated with all electrical occupations.

Cancer

One study showed that children exposed to large amounts of ELF magnetic fields suffered from leukemia at twice the rate of those who did not. Another found workers exposed to higher amounts of occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields had higher rates of acute nonlymphoid leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia, and those with the highest exposure had an elevated risk of brain cancers.

Reproductive problems

Studies with animals have shown that exposure to non-ionizing radiation can lead to decreased fertility in both males and females, and one study has shown that exposure to magnetic fields can induce miscarriages.

Chronic exposure to non-ionizing radiation is not typically recognized as a source of disability by the VA. However, there is no conclusive evidence showing that there are no health risks involved, especially at the levels servicemen are likely exposed to. The amount of non-ionizing radiation created by the RADAR or ELF Antennas on an aircraft carrier is likely much greater than typical exposure in the home or civilian occupations. It is clear that more research needs to be done.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 18, 2014

The VA is Issuing the Wrong Sort of Flags to Veterans

On June 11th, veterans seeking medical care, (many attending PTSD therapy groups) at VA Mission Valley Health Care Clinic in San Diego watched in horror as 20 men with automatic weapons, dogs, and full black combat gear without nametags rushed the entrance of the facility. Some veterans, their PTSD understandably triggered by this, opted to rush home without attending their group. Others were angry, but the federal officers, who were with Homeland Security, refused to identify themselves or explain their actions. After one veteran took a photograph of the officers, he was threatened with a $10,000 fine if he did not delete the picture.

The exercise, by the Federal Protective Service, a law enforcement group under the DHS that oversees the “safety” of federal buildings, called the exercise a “presence deterrence exercise.” No other explanation was given, and a quick googling of “presence deterrence” revealed no previous uses of the phrase, so the purposes are unclear, as is exactly whose presence is being deterred.

Are VA healthcare facilities likely targets of terrorist threats? Or are they practicing for something else? Many veterans believe that the FPS is practicing to respond to veterans who are “disruptive,” or argumentative, or even protesting the VA’s healthcare procedures.

The VA has been making lists of “disruptive” patients, and “flagging” them, effectively restricting the veteran’s healthcare. 38 CFR 17.107 describes the restrictions imposed on veteran’s who have been “flagged,” which includes restricting the hours and site when and where they will receive healthcare, forcing the veteran to be escorted by police, and terminating the veteran’s care. While the VA Manual stated that these flags should not be used “in the absence of a clear risk to safety,” many veterans claim that they were flagged simply for being vocal about poor healthcare and problems with their claims.

These flags are separated into two categories. Category I flags are for veterans who VA employees believe display “Violent or Disruptive” behavior. These flags are shared with all VA facilities. Category II flags are given to veterans who are “at risk,” typically for health reasons, including spinal cord injuries, tendency to wander, and drug-seeking behavior. These flags are only shared within a VA facility.

The VA’s Office of the Inspector General has found some significant problems with the practice, most importantly that there are significant differences between what constitutes “disruptive behavior” at different VHA facilities. Many veterans claim that they have been “flagged” simply for complaining about wait times and poor healthcare. There is no way of verifying this, as the decisions regarding who is placed on this secretive list are made by a secretive “Disruptive Behavior Committees,” without allowing the veteran to speak on his or her own behalf.

As with any population, especially one with a similar prevalence of mental illness, there are certainly patients who could be a danger to themselves and others. I don’t believe the VA created these rules specifically to silence dissent. They intended to save lives and prevent violence. However, we have seen over the years how policies developed with the best intentions by the VA can be misused, and it is typically the veteran who suffers.

If you have been “flagged” by the VA, and you believe you were not flagged for potentially violent behavior, there are policies in place to attempt to be removed from the list. The VA Handbook, specifically 1907.01, (paragraph 25e) details the procedure for a veteran to follow in order to amend their medical chart.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 13, 2014

Are you entitled to VA survivor’s benefits?

When a veteran passes, the VA does not automatically transfer the benefits to the survivors. Instead, the VA will send the known survivor(s) a notice, informing them that the benefits will cease within a certain period of time. Then the survivors should file for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

DIC is a monthly payment made to a surviving spouse, child, or parent because of a service connected death occurring. While establishing service connection for the veteran’s death is a subject of its own, the purpose of this post is to give the finer details of eligibility for DIC. In order to grant Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits for surviving spouses, the VA has to follow detailed steps in determining who is eligible for those benefits. The basic criteria for being eligible for DIC benefits are the following:

  1. The surviving spouse must have had a valid marriage to the deceased veteran
  2. The current income of the surviving spouse must not exceed the DIC income

According to the VA, a valid marriage constitutes of three elements:

  1. Valid legal marriage and/or dissolution of other marriages
  2. Satisfies marriage dates requirements (married to the deceased veteran for at least 1 year prior to veteran’s passing). Multiple periods of marriage cannot be added up to equal the one year. However, if the original marriage took place before the delimiting date for Vietnam Era service (May 8, 1985), the marriage dates requirement would be met.
  3. Satisfies continuous cohabitation requirement. The exception to this would be if there was a child born of their relationship.

The continuous cohabitation stipulation accounts for special situations in which the veteran and surviving spouse were married, but lived apart. For DIC purposes, the VA requires that any situation in which the veteran and the spouse lived apart must be the result of mutual consent or safety on the part of the spouse. For example, if the separation was caused by misconduct on the part of the veteran, the continuous cohabitation criteria is met. But if the spouse’s misconduct was the cause of the separation, or if the spouse intended to desert or divorce the veteran while separated, the continuous cohabitation is not met, and the spouse would not be able to receive DIC benefits when the veteran passes. If there is any question as to the actual nature of the separation, the VA will ask for statements from Veteran’s family and friends who were aware of the situation.

Another factor in eligibility for DIC benefits is the remarriage issue. If the spouse remarries after the veteran passes, the surviving spouse is no longer eligible for VA benefits. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. If a surviving spouse remarries after age 55, he/she may retain eligibility for certain VA benefits under Public Law (PL) 107-330.
  2. If a surviving spouse remarries after age 57, he/she may retain eligibility for certain VA benefits (DIC, VA home loans, VA educational benefits) under PL 108-183

However, if the surviving spouse’s remarriage is terminated, then DIC benefits (but not pension) may be reinstated. The DIC payments would start on the first day of the month following the termination of the remarriage.

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by Mary Klements, Veterans Advocate
August 12, 2014

Cancer, Chemical Exposure, and Middle East Veterans (Part One: Oil Well Fires)

A recent study of the residents of Fallujah, Iraq from 2005 to 2009 showed an enormous increase in the incidence of cancers. Researchers compared the rates of various cancers in the population, and compared them to how often an average population would be expected to develop the cancer.

Childhood cancers occurred 12.6 times more often than expected.

Leukemia for all ages occurred 22.2 times more often than expected, and in the 0-35 year-old age group, they occurred 38.5 times more often than would be expected. Brain tumors occurred 7.4 times more often than expected, and breast cancers and lymphomas occurred nearly 10 times more than expected.

However, there are many veterans of the Gulf war, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan war who are developing cancers, and their claims are being denied by the VA. Let’s take a look at some possible reasons for the higher rates of cancer in both Iraqi civilians and Troops stationed in the region. This article will primarily deal with the chemicals associated with oil well fires and how they can cause or promote cancer in the human body.

During the first Gulf War and the Iraq War, many oil wells were set ablaze. The result was huge clouds of thick, black toxic smoke, so large that they were easily seen from space. These fires could burn millions of barrels of crude oil a day, and were extremely difficult to extinguish. Could exposure to this smoke cause cancer in soldiers?

Oil smoke contains many toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, heavy metals, and particulate matter. Many of these chemicals are known or probable carcinogens.

Hydrogen Sulfide is listed as a broad-spectrum poison, affecting many systems in the body, but its primary target is the nervous system. Studies have shown that veterans exposed to oil well fires in the first Gulf War had nearly double the risk of brain cancers. Hydrogen Sulfide has been used to successfully induce glioblastomas (a type of brain tumor) in mice, and has been shown to help colon cancer cells proliferate.

Volatile Organic Compounds are a large group of chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens. A study of residents of some Indiana counties found that there was a striking correlation between VOC’s and cancers of the brain and nervous system, thyroid, and endocrine systems.

Benzene is well-known to be a carcinogen, and many studies have linked benzene exposure to leukemias, lymphomas, aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, as well as cancers in the liver, kidney, lung, heart and the brain.

Occupational studies have found that petroleum workers have a five-times greater risk of cancers, and residents of Taiwan who live in areas with heavy petrochemical air pollution (which would likely be much less than direct exposure to oil well fires) also had a significantly elevated risk for cancers.

Crude Oil, when burned, produces so many chemicals that are toxic, that it would be impossible to list them all in great detail. However, the consensus is that smoke from oil fires is toxic, and can clearly cause cancers. It seems “more likely than not” that a veteran who was exposed to oil well smoke and developed cancer should be service-connected for that cancer.

It is amazing to some that a veteran exposed to oil well smoke could be denied a claim for service-connection by the VA, but it happens often. While there are some disabilities that are presumed to be service-connected for Gulf War Veterans, they have yet to include many of these cancers.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 11, 2014

Prostate Cancer & Agent Orange

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of male cancer-related deaths. Veterans who served in Vietnam are now reaching their mid-60’s, which is the age at which prostate cancer is usually diagnosed. This means that we are seeing in influx of prostate cancer cases. Roughly eight million men in the US served in Vietnam. And according to recent studies, almost 1.4 million men are predicted to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. A 2013 study conducted at the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Science University found that Veterans exposed to Agent Orange are not only at higher risk for prostate cancer, but they are more likely to have aggressive forms of the disease.

Agent Orange, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, has been found to cause many serious health problems. The VA has recognized fourteen different diseases and cancers as being related to Agent Orange exposure. These conditions are considered “presumptive diseases,” meaning that the VA will grant service-connection for these conditions as long as the veteran was in Vietnam. Prostate cancer is one of the diseases on this presumptive list. Research as shown that Agent Orange was contaminated with the toxin 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) as a by-product of chemical manufacturing, and that this toxin is a suspected cause of cancer.

The VA has established a rating system for prostate cancer, based upon the severity of the symptoms. This is rating system falls under genitourinary conditions (38 CFR. §4.115a) Prostate cancer is rated according to voiding dysfunction or urinary tract infection (whichever is more severe). Erectile dysfunction, as a result of prostate cancer, has its own separate rating of 20%.

In the instances that surgery is required for prostate cancer, the VA will also award a temporary 100% rating post-surgery. The VA will schedule a follow-up exam at a VA medical center about six months after the surgery (sometimes this exam falls almost a year after the surgery) in order to determine whether or not the 100% rating is still warranted. If there is no metastasis, the VA will then rate the residuals according to voiding dysfunction or renal dysfunction (whichever is predominant), which usually comes to 10% (38 C.F.R. § 4.115b, DC 7528 (2013). Court cases have determined that the VA can reduce the 100% rating only after the cessation of surgical, X-ray, antineoplastic chemotherapy or other therapeutic procedure. The term “therapeutic” according to DC 7528 is interpreted as the procedures to cure cancer and the disease.

When the VA decides to cease the 100% temporary rating, or reduce a current rating, they will send the veteran a notice of proposed reduction of benefits. The letter will most likely give the veteran a deadline to respond. If the veteran is still experiencing disabling symptoms of prostate cancer, and believes that he is still entitled to the current rating, he should have his doctor fill out the Form 21-0960J-3, Disability Benefits Questionnaire for Prostate Cancer. This form, completed by the doctor, would serve as evidence that the veteran is entitled to the current rating.

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by Mary Klements, Veterans Advocate
August 5, 2014

What should I know about VA claiming that I’m incompetent?

The potentially least appealing, yet inherent, of all topics regarding VA benefits is adverse actions. Understandably, no one finds comfort discussing or reading about such a negative and undesirable subject; however Veterans applying for benefits must be aware of, and know how to respond to, this type of situation. The VA is capable of proposing and implementing adverse actions that include more than just the denial of benefits, such as reducing disability ratings and arguably the most sensitive issue – declaring incompetency.

The VA will propose to find incompetent any Veteran who “because of injury or disease, lacks the mental capacity to contract or to manage his or her own affairs, including disbursement of funds without limitation.” The result of a substantiated proposal is the appointment of a fiduciary, whether court appointed or professional, or possibly even a family member that provides supervision and oversight of the Veteran’s benefits. The VA’s intent here is genuine – protect Veterans who are indeed unable to effectively handle their finances. However, as with many government endeavors – the application of law is sometimes flawed considering many Veterans who face this proposal are actually entirely capable of governing their personal affairs and do not need the VA to protect them.

Fortunately, Federal law pertaining to this subject mandates that specific requirements – or due process – be followed prior to a finding of incompetency being made. First, the Veteran must receive notice of the proposal and be provided with 30 days to respond. Next, the notice must outline the basis for the proposal and disclose the right to request a hearing, during which the Veteran may produce any supporting witnesses or evidence he or she so desires. Further, the VA is required to establish “clear and convincing” evidence that “must leave no doubt” in order for the finding to be implemented. The VA’s evidence may come from a variety of sources including C&P exams, information contained within the C-file or facts found during a “field examination” conducted by the VA.

There are several other noteworthy safeguards, meant to protect Veterans, found within the law. Most importantly, the law requires any doubt be resolved in favor of the Veteran – similar to service connection entitlement. Veterans may also appeal findings of incompetency through the same judicial review process as with the denial of benefits. Lastly, the finding of incompetency is not always permanent and subsequent changes in status do not require disability ratings to changeto name a few.

Regrettably, two Veteran groups susceptible to this adverse action are the elderly and those with significant psychological disabilities. Although, these attributes do not automatically justify a rating of incompetency. If you, or someone you know, receives this type of notice – and you disagree with the proposal – remember that you are entitled to due process and should contest the action immediately. In my next post, I will provide an overview of options when contesting adverse action proposals.

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by Eric Cook, Veterans Claims Advocate
August 4, 2014

The link between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease

In my last post, I discussed the correlation between diabetes and kidney disease. The results of recent epidemiological and basic science investigations have suggested possible correlation and some common pathophysiological mechanisms involving diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. These studies have opened the way to establishing service-connection for Alzheimer’s disease for veterans receiving service-connected compensation for diabetes.

As laid out by the former Secretary Shinseki in the VA Strategic Plan for the seven-years from 2014 to 2020, the VA is facing a changing population of Veterans and has to be ready to serve them. As the number of aging Veterans that were deployed to Vietnam, Korea, and the first Gulf War increases, so does an increase in the incidence of dementia and other cognitive-related diseases. But, how is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease related to diabetes?

This was the first thing that came to mind as I was reading the study findings in the articles linked above. As noted previously, established VA regulation dictates that a veteran who has been granted service-connection for a condition, such as diabetes mellitus, may then be compensated for secondary conditions arising from the service-connected condition. Diabetes is a systemic disease that affects the blood sugar level. In turn, the disease affects the blood vessels and nerves of the body and over time can result in central nervous system complications including stroke and possibly cognitive impairment.

Most commonly in the VA population, hypertension and diabetes are very common causes of stroke, especially in aging Veterans. This complication of a stroke can present itself in the form of vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, the first being Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease currently accounts for 60-80% of cases of dementia.

Because diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are two very difference conditions, the connection between the two by VA is not automatic or likely to occur without an in-depth medical history evaluation and possibly an independent medical evaluation. In the medical community, however, the connection is widely accepted. In diabetes, persistent blood glucose elevation contributes to atherosclerosis that impairs blood flow to the brain. Individuals with high levels of glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels – a test that indicates blood glucose levels over the previous three months – greater than 7% are nearly three times as likely to have a stroke compared with people who have an HBA1c level less than 5%.

Other prevailing theories include studies that have shown that formations of certain protein deposits attributed to damage caused in brains of deceased Alzheimer patients were also seen in the brain autopsies of patients who died with diabetes.   To reinforce the connection, the fact that brain cells of Alzheimer patients’ exhibit marked insulin resistance has made researchers suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is a form of diabetes mellitus that selectively affects the brain. Furthermore, a characteristic feature of diabetes is insulin resistance. Another surprising fact is that insulin resistance is also evident in the brain tissues of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

With respect to the signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, they may include but are not limited to: word-finding difficulties, difficulty in performing familiar tasks or having more difficulty in a new task, emotional outbursts such as angry flare-ups when things don’t go right, or agitation. Very often, such accounts of such behaviors are commonly provided by a close relative or friend.

With a possible intimate connection between the two disorders, a veteran may be able to prove a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease with the help of supportive medical evidence. Compensation for Alzheimer’s disease is rendered by VA using the rating formula that most closely meets the veteran’s symptoms.

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by Brenda Duplantis, Disability Advocate
August 1, 2014

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