Dealing with Hypertension and the VA
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. A higher than normal 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.
Hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms or even heart attacks in some cases, especially of the condition, goes untreated for a long period of time.
What Are the 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
How Do I Prove Hypertension is Connected to Service?
For VA 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. 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.
Hypertension is on the list of conditions that are presumed to be related to a veteran’s military service. The VA will presume service connection for hypertension only if you have received a diagnosis within one year of your release date from active duty. Also, 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 Does the VA Rate Hypertension?
The way the VA determines a percentage rating for hypertension depends on the severity of your hypertension. In this case, your rating will depend on your blood pressure reading. The rating criterion is as follows:
- 60 percent: when your diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is 130 or higher
- 40 percent: when your diastolic pressure is 120 to 129
- 20 percent: when your diastolic pressure is 110 to 119, or your systolic pressure (the top number) is 200 or higher
- 10 percent: 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.