In today’s society, hypertension is a common diagnosis for most veterans. High blood pressure or hypertension can be easily developed due to stress acquired in active duty.
However, the VA may sometimes make it difficult to receive benefits for hypertension. Blood pressure is a measure of the force exerted on artery walls as blood pumps through the circulatory system.
Higher systolic or diastolic blood pressure means that the heart needs to work much harder to circulate blood. Blood pressure is measured as a ratio of two numbers such as 120/80, which is considered normal pressure.
The top number is called the systolic pressure and is the measure of blood pressure with each heartbeat as blood pushed out of the heart. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and is a measure of the pressure at rest or between heartbeats.
Systolic hypertension is the most common hypertension in older populations.
Hypertension can lead to heart abnormalities, heart failure, heart disease, strokes, aneurysms or even heart attacks in some cases, especially of the condition, goes untreated for a long period of time.
Common Symptoms of Hypertension
It is important to know the symptoms of hypertension. Some symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Severe headaches
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in the urine
- Pounding in chest, neck or ears
Hypertension can affect your brain, your blood vessels, kidneys, and more.
How Do I Prove Hypertension is Connected to Service?
For the department of veterans affairs’ disability purposes, it must be proven that your hypertension is directly related to your military service or aggravated and or caused by a veteran’s current service-connected disability when filing your disability claim.
There are several steps that can be taken to meet the requirements to receive VA disability benefits for hypertension. Having strong medical evidence to help support your claim is a great place to start.
Your doctor must document a diagnosis of hypertension in your records. Also, your doctor should produce records showing your blood pressure measurements from three different days and measured at least twice a day.
Ideally, it is better to also have at-home readings of daily blood pressure measurements over a period of time. Another great piece of evidence is obtaining a Disability Benefits Questionnaire from your doctor.
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Hypertension is on the list of conditions that are presumed to be related to a veteran’s military service for a variety of reasons. However, hypertension is not a medical condition that can be service-connected due to exposure to agent orange.
Hypertension and Agent Orange Exposure
Currently, advocates are fighting hard to get service connection between Agent Orange exposure and hypertension; in early 2021, there was a good push from lawmakers to include hypertension to the presumptive list of diseases related to tactical herbicides like Agent Orange. However, as of 2/22 we don’t have a definitive answer. Although, three new diseases were added:
- Bladder Cancer from Agent Orange
- Parkinsonism from Agent Orange
The VA disability rating doesn’t include service connection for exposure to agent orange.
However, it is proven that a veteran’s disability should reflect this connection because hypertension and ischemic heart disease go hand in hand. Many Vietnam veterans are currently facing ischemic heart disease due to their exposure to agent orange during the Vietnam war.
Lawmakers are currently hearing countless testimonials from vets suffering from hypertension. Some vets have engaged disability attorneys to assist them in lobbying legislatures to recognize this impairment.
It may be soon that the VA hands down its first rating decision for a service connection between hypertension and agent orange.
Many disability lawyers won’t stop until veterans claims are granted and vets have an entitlement to healthcare and veterans benefits because of the service-connection between hypertension and exposure to agent orange
The VA will presume service connection for hypertension in VA disability claims only if you have received a diagnosis within one year of your release date from active duty.
Many veterans currently receive a secondary service connection for hypertension because of other service-connected disabilities such as:
In order to receive service connection by presumption for hypertension, the condition needs to manifest to at least a 10 percent disability rating within one year of your release from active duty.
How VA Rates Hypertension
The way the VA assigns a percentage rating for hypertension depends on the severity of your hypertension. In this case, your rating will depend on your blood pressure reading. Rating criterion below.
The rating criterion is as follows:
- 60 percent rating: when your diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is 130 or higher
- 40 percent rating: when your diastolic pressure is 120 to 129
- 20 percent rating: when your diastolic pressure is 110 to 119, or your systolic pressure (the top number) is 200 or higher
- 10 percent rating: when your diastolic pressure is 100 to 109, or your systolic pressure is 160 to 199
In regards to a 10 percent rating, if your average diastolic pressure was 100 or more before it is fully controlled by medication and continuous medication is required to keep your blood pressure under control, then the minimum rating is only 10 percent.
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