Pyramiding Conditions for VA Disability
Pyramiding for VA disability compensation purposes means receiving separate ratings for the same disability or the same manifestation. Any veteran who is trying to claim multiple disabilities needs to know about the VA’s rule against pyramiding. A single symptom cannot be rated more than once, even if the cause comes from two different disabilities. When a veteran has two different conditions that cause the same symptom, the highest-rated condition will only be considered. This prevents a veteran from being overcompensated by the VA.
Applying for VA disability compensation can be very overwhelming and confusing. There are certain criteria that are required to be met to be eligible, evidence that needs to be submitted, and exams that need to be attended. This process can become even more confusing for veterans who are trying to get multiple disabilities service-connected and now have to worry about pyramiding.
How does the VA restrict Pyramiding?
The difficult part about this is that a veteran will need to prove that they suffer from a multitude of symptoms without overlapping symptomology and diagnostic codes.
A good example to help explain this would be in the case of Esteban v. Brown when the court had to decide if the veteran suffered from only one disability which would give him a single rating, or multiple disabilities which would give him separate ratings for the separate disabilities. In this case, the veteran suffered from three conditions: disfiguring scars, painful scars, and facial and muscle damage. The court ultimately decided to not separate these conditions and rated them as one condition as a whole. Each of these conditions resulted from the same disability; however, the symptoms are completely different.
In order for pyramiding to apply, the veteran’s symptoms must be exactly the same. It can become complicated when there are many symptoms involved and when they are also shared between conditions. Since the same symptoms cannot be rated twice, the shared symptoms must be separated. If two different conditions share one specific symptom, only one of the conditions will be considered for rating purposes.
Pyramiding and Mental Health Claims
When it comes to mental health disorders, conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety will not be rated separately. The VA will instead consider all of these symptoms together and will issue one rating for your mental health condition.
The same rule applies to many other conditions. For example, if you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and GERD, these conditions will likely be combined to establish one rating for these conditions.
The VA’s rule against pyramiding can be complicated to understand. Often times the VA gets the issue on pyramiding wrong due to their tendency to over apply this rule to prevent from overcompensating a veteran. The law states that a veteran is entitled to a separate disability evaluation when an injury manifests in two different disabilities. As long as the veteran’s symptoms do not overlap each other, the rule against pyramiding is not violated.