VA Benefits for Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) typically do not qualify for disability benefits in the VA rulebook. However, GERD is a very common condition and there are ways you can qualify for acid reflux disease VA disability.
The VA classifies gastrointestinal disorders as functional and structural. A functional disorder defines an abnormal function in the gastrointestinal tract, while a structural condition means there is a structural alteration that is causing the issue. VA covers functional issues but not structural issues, and unfortunately, GERD is a structural issue.
However, if your GERD diagnosis was made while you were on active duty, you can obtain benefits, as you can if a medical expert says that your GERD has continued since your service. You might even be granted acid reflux disease VA disability on a secondary basis if your GERD was developed as a result of another condition that was also service-related. For example, people develop GERD as a result of several respiratory conditions like COPD. The medications that control COPD can, over time, irritate the esophagus and that can lead to GERD. In cases like these, you would be able to file a secondary condition claim for GERD secondary to your primary condition of COPD. You’ll just need a medical expert to show that your GERD is caused by your COPD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a form of heartburn that affects approximately sixty million Americans on an occasional basis. Another 25 million experience more problematic GERD on a daily basis. When you have GERD, stomach acids flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus, creating the painful sensation commonly known as heartburn. Over time, the continual damage to the tissue lining of the esophagus creates a risk of more severe conditions like esophageal cancer.
Common GERD symptoms are:
• Nausea or vomiting
• Chest pain
• Upper abdominal pain
• Swallowing difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Respiratory problems
Muscles in the esophagus move food toward the stomach as you eat and swallow food. There is a sphincter called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that is a muscular band that allows food to pass through to the stomach. The sphincter is only open when the food passes into the stomach. When you have GERD, the sphincter opens when it is not supposed to, and lets acids flow back up into the esophagus. The stomach’s lining can tolerate those acids but the esophagus cannot. This creates the burning sensation in the throat or chest, which is why GERD is commonly referred to as heartburn.
GERD is caused by lifestyle choices and can also result from taking certain medications.
People who eat large meals then go to bed immediately are at higher risk for GERD. When you’re pregnant, GERD is much more likely to occur as the growing baby in the uterus puts pressure on the stomach. Likewise, obesity does the same. People with respiratory disorders like COPD and asthma are much more likely to have GERD. If you’re a smoker, you’re more likely to have GERD. Studies show that the LES sphincter function is impaired by smoking.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Some studies have shown that wine drinkers actually have the esophageal lining protected by wine. Other studies show that excess alcohol can irritate the lining though and it might also relax the LES muscles and that allows more acid backwash.
Some medications are definitely known to relax the LES sphincter because they act as muscle relaxants:
• Calcium channel blockers for heart disease
• Drugs used to treat urinary tract disorders
• Asthma and obstructive lung disease medications
• Medications for Parkinson’s and other muscle disorders
• NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve)
• Potassium supplements
• Iron pills
• Bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis)
If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, just remember that if you have a service-related disability, when you’ve served in the military, almost any illness incurred in the line of duty is considered to be service-related. Your illness does not have to be obtained while on combat duty either. It can be during any form of service. While the VA considers some conditions to automatically qualify for benefits, such as neurological diseases, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension, others like acid reflux disease VA disability claims will need more proof.
Give us a call. We will help you file your claim for acid reflux disease VA disability. If you’ve already filed a claim, and the VA denied your benefits, we can help there too. The majority of claims are denied the first time due to lack of medical evidence. Finally, you may have received a low disability rating from the VA. We can help in all of these situations, so don’t hesitate to call us today.