Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, veterans who were exposed to herbicides during service in Vietnam may be entitled to certain presumptive diseases. One of the diseases on the presumptive list is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
According to the American Diabetes Association, data from 2011 shows that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious disease that can cause many complications including heart disease, diabetic peripheral neuropathy leading to foot and leg amputations, stroke, diabetic retinopathy, and kidney disease.
The two most leading causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Kidney disease frequently goes unnoticed because it is often asymptomatic until it is somewhat advanced. Some of the symptoms of kidney disease include: fatigue, lack of concentration, poor appetite, trouble sleeping, swelling or puffiness (edema), particularly around the eyes or in the face, wrists, abdomen, thighs, or ankles. Others may experience a decrease in the amount of urine or problems urinating.
The kidneys act as the body’s purifier, filtering out toxins in the blood. In kidney failure, the body retains fluid and harmful wastes build up because the kidneys no longer work properly. How well your kidneys are filtering wastes from the blood can be determined by a simple test called eGFR – estimated glomerular filtration rate. Your doctor can calculate it from your blood creatinine, your age, body size and gender.
However, for VA compensation purposes the VA evaluates your disability depending on the albumin levels in the urine, and BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels in your blood. These are the three primary tests ordered to evaluate kidney function. Because kidney disease and hypertension are comorbid diseases, the rating schedule for kidney disease includes evaluation of the severity of your blood pressure. In other words, you may be entitled to compensation for renal dysfunction based on the function of the kidneys as shown in your lab work and/or the severity of your blood pressure due to kidney disease. The severity of your blood pressure is evaluated under the rating schedule for hypertensive vascular disease.
The VA rates renal dysfunction in the following increments: 0%, 30%, 60%, 80% or 100%. For example, a veteran whose medical records show constant albuminuria (too much protein in the urine) with some edema (swelling); OR, definite decrease in kidney function; OR, hypertension with diastolic (the bottom number, i.e. 140/120) pressure predominantly 120 or more, may be granted a 60% disability rating for renal dysfunction. As you may have guessed, a person requiring regular dialysis is rated at 100%.
When a veteran is receiving compensation for service-connected diabetes, any other related disease caused by diabetes may also be deemed service-connected on a secondary basis. Therefore, if you have a history of diabetes mellitus, and this condition is service-connected, and you later develop any of the above named diseases you may be able to receive compensation for the associated disease.