VA recently granted service-connected compensation to Vietnam veterans for heart disease. This is due to the recent addition of ischemic heart disease to the list of Agent-Orange related disabilities. In an earlier post, I discussed how veterans can establish VA service connected compensation for Ischemic Heart Disease from Agent Orange. In this post, I will focus on VA service-connected compensation ratings for heart disabilities. You need to know what VA needs to have in order to assign the proper disability rating for your disease.
First, if you take any continuous medication for your ischemic heart disease, VA should provide a minimum rating of 10%. Make sure, then, that the VA is aware of any heart medications you have been prescribed by your non-VA doctors.
The higher levels of disability ratings for the heart are based on your symptoms at various levels of exertion. Every level of exercise is assigned a range of METs (or metabolic equivalents). The higher the level of exertion, the higher the METs number. In assigning a heart rating, VA specifically looks at what range of METs causes you to have certain symptoms.
What Are Symptoms of Ischemic Heart Disease?
VA specifically looks for:
- shortness of breath,
- chest pain,
You need not have all of these symptoms to qualify for a particular rating. It is, however, important to know what the possible symptoms. That way you can inform your doctors, and the VA, if you are having these symptoms.
Where you experience these symptoms after activities like jogging, biking or climbing stairs (a level of 7-10 METs) a minimum 10% rating is appropriate. VA should rate you at a 30% rating where you experience the symptoms at a level of 5-7 METs. This level of activity would include heavy yard work such as digging or mowing with a push-mower. It would also include recreational activities such as golfing without a cart. The 30% rating would also be appropriate where the veteran has certain test results on an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or X–ray. So, again, make sure VA is aware of these tests. Especially, if a non-VA doctor performed the test.
VA assigns a 60% rating where you experience symptoms at a less stringent level of exercise. These symptoms include fast walking or light yard work. VA includes in light yard work weeding or mowing the lawn with a power mower (a level of 3-5 METs). A 60% rating would also be appropriate if you have heart failure. If, in the last year, you had more than one episode of acute congestive heart failure in the past year.
When does VA give a 100% rating for heart disease?
VA assigns a 100% rating where the veteran experiences the symptoms of heart disease at a minimal level of:
- such as slow walking for one or two blocks,
- dressing or
- eating (1-3 METs).
Additionally, VA assigns a 100% rating to a veteran who has chronic congestive heart failure.
What Other Factors Does VA Consider for Ischemic Heart Disease?
Another factor the VA will consider, outside the symptoms the veteran is experiencing, is any heart surgeries. VA will look at whether you had any procedures which might qualify you for a higher rating, at least temporarily. VA will assign 100% for procedures such as:
- heart valve replacement,
- coronary bypass surgery,
- cardiac transplant surgery, or
- implantation of a pacemaker
Can I get IU for my service connected heart?
Finally, as with rating most disabilities, VA must consider whether the veteran’s heart disease prevents the veteran from maintaining employment. Knowing the symptoms of heart disease allows you to keep your doctors informed if you are having these symptoms. In addition, if your doctor is aware of your symptoms have him document them in your medical records. This makes it easier for the VA to assign the proper rating for your disability.
For more information about Ischemic Heart Disease, download our free e-book.