Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) is a rare muscular disease that can affect veterans, causing muscle weakness and wasting.
The cause of IBM is still unknown, but it is believed to be related to an autoimmune response in the body.
While there is no cure for IBM, treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
In 2022, the government passed the PACT Act, which expands VA healthcare benefits to more veterans, including those who may have previously been ineligible.
It also includes benefits for those who may have been exposed to toxic substances while serving, which is important to consider when talking about IBM.
If a veteran is diagnosed with IBM and it is determined to be service-connected, they may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
The VA rates Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) under the Musculoskeletal System, with a maximum rating of 100 percent.
Veterans with IBM may be eligible for ratings up to 100 percent if they experience severe muscle weakness or atrophy, difficulty swallowing, respiratory impairment or inability to perform activities of daily living.
Read on for more information about IBM and VA ratings.
What is Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM)?
Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) is a rare and progressive muscle disease that affects veterans and others.
IBM causes muscle weakness and inflammation, making it hard for people to do everyday things like walking, lifting, and swallowing.
It’s a type of myositis, which means inflammation of muscles.
IBM is more common in older males, especially those who have served in the military, including veterans.
Causes of IBM
The cause of Inclusion Body Myositis is still unknown but researchers believe it may be related to an autoimmune response in the body.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues, mistaking them for foreign invaders.
With IBM, it targets the muscles, causing inflammation, weakness and wasting over time.
Studies have also suggested a potential link between IBM and exposure to environmental toxins or infections.
Some researchers believe that exposure to certain chemicals or viruses may trigger an autoimmune response in people who are genetically predisposed to myositis.
However, more research is needed to determine the exact cause and environmental triggers.
How do Veterans get IBM?
While it’s not entirely clear why veterans might be diagnosed with IBM through their military service, some studies have suggested that there is a potential link between IBM and exposure to environmental toxins or infections, which may be service-connected.
For example, veterans who served in the Gulf War may not have been exposed to a variety of environmental hazards, including pesticides, oil fires and depleted uranium. Some researchers believe exposure to these hazards may trigger IBM in some veterans.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis of Inclusion Body Myositis
The symptoms of IBM can develop over time and may vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness, particularly in the arms, legs and fingers
- Difficulty gripping or holding onto objects
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Muscle stiffness or cramping
- Falls or loss of balance
- Difficulty standing up from a seated position or climbing stairs
- Wasting of the muscles of the arms and legs
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to see a healthcare provider. They likely will conduct a physical exam, which may include:
- Assessing your muscle strength and reflexes
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests (such as an MRI)
- Muscle biopsy (the only definitive test)
A muscle biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
The presence of characteristic “inclusion bodies” in the muscle tissue is a key indicator of IBM.
Treatment of IBM
While there is no cure for Inclusion Body Myositis, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
The most effective treatment plan will depend on an individual’s specific symptoms and needs.
Here are some common treatments for IBM:
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve mobility. A physical therapist can work with you to develop an exercise plan that is tailored to your needs and abilities.
- Medication: There are several medications that may be used to treat IBM. For example, corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation in the muscles, while immunosuppressants can help slow the progression of the disease.
- Assistive devices: Assistive devices such as braces or mobility aids can help you maintain your independence and perform daily activities. Your healthcare provider may recommend specific devices based on your individual needs.
- Speech therapy: If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing or speaking, a speech therapist can help you develop strategies to improve these functions.
- Clinical trials: There are several clinical trials underway to test new treatments for IBM. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you may be eligible for a clinical trial.
Rating Myositis for VA Disability
There are a few different types of myositis that can be rated and will be discussed below. They all present with special symptoms.
- Polymyositis affects numerous muscles all over the body and when it is a severe case, can lead to dangerous symptoms like trouble swallowing, as well as lung and heart diseases.
- Dermatomyositis is similar to polymyositis but can include skin conditions like rashes, along with muscle weakness and other symptoms.
- Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) is also very similar to polymyositis. There are some differences but as far as VA disability ratings, they are rated the same.
Most of the time, this will be the primary code assigned when dealing with cases of Myositis.
If the condition happens to cause limited motion of both the elbow and the knee, then two ratings will be given (one for each joint).
Basically, each significant impairment can be rated separately.
For example, if you had dermatomyositis, and your symptoms included rashes, weakness in the shoulders that prevents you from utilizing your arms at full capacity, and arrhythmia (a heart condition).
Only the shoulder issue would be rated under 5021. Since both joints are affected, you’d receive two ratings under this code.
Then, you’d be rated for your rashes and the arrhythmia.
In total, you’d receive 4 separate ratings.
Basically with rating myositis, additional ratings can be given for each separate symptom caused by any type of myositis, as long as the symptoms aren’t rated more than one (Pyramiding).
In conclusion, Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) is a rare and progressive muscle disorder that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
While there is no cure, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve mobility.
It is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan.
If you are interested in obtaining benefits for IBM and have been denied previously for your claim, please contact Hill & Ponton, PA for more information on how we can help you with your case.
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