Filing a VA Disability claim for Diabetes

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?  Are you wondering whether your diabetes is connected to your military service and whether you can get diabetes VA disability benefits for it?

This article explains some basics of the VA disability process, how the VA looks at diabetes in terms of service connection and severity, how it rates it for purposes of monthly benefit payments, and what you can do to obtain benefits or increase your VA disability rating for your diabetes. A VSO can help you file a claim and an experienced VA disability claim attorney can help you with a specific analysis of your case if the VA denies your claim.

The VA Disability Rating process

A VA disability rating is a number assigned by the VA to accepted VA disability claims. An overall VA disability rating determines the dollar amount of monthly payments to a veteran.

The first step to obtaining VA disability benefits is the filing of an application form with the VA. Local VSOs (veteran service officers), sometimes working through DAV or VFW, sometimes assist veterans for free in preparing the initial disability claim paperwork. It is against the law for anyone to charge a fee to a veteran for filing a VA disability claim.

The VA reviews the application, including service records and medical records. Often the VA will also request a C&P exam (Compensation & Pension Examination) so a medical professional designated by the VA can examine your condition.

If the VA agrees that you have a current disability that is connected to your military service,  the VA will grant your claim and assign a VA disability rating number. If you have more than one condition, they will apply a rating to each one, and then combine them according to a formula to reach an overall disability rating. A disability rating will be a number between 0% and 100% (increments of 10). This overall rating number determines the dollar amount of monthly benefits.

VA disability rating disputes are appeals of the rating decision. If you disagree with the VA’s rating decision, or any part of it, you may succeed in getting an increase in your VA disability rating. 

Is my diabetes caused by military service?

If you are a Vietnam veteran serving within specific timeframes and places, the VA presumes that you were exposed to Agent Orange and presumes that if you develop diabetes mellitus Type 2, it is service-connected. 

The geographic areas and list of presumptively connected illnesses from Agent Orange exposure have been expanded over the years, including the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act of 2019 and the PACT Act of 2022. You no longer had to have boots on the ground in Vietnam itself to be covered under the Agent Orange presumption. In other words, even if you had a VA disability claim for diabetes denied in the past, it might be worth looking at the updated presumptions.

Being able to claim a presumption of service connection can simplify and shorten the process of getting your VA disability claim approved. 

Even without a presumptive exposure to Agent Orange, veterans are still able to argue and prove exposure to Agent Orange, or provide evidence that their diabetes was connected to their military service.

What should you expect monetarily for diabetes? 

The dollar amount of monthly VA disability benefit payments is based on your overall VA disability rating. and, at ratings of 30% or higher, the amounts also factor in whether you have a spouse and/or dependent children or parents. 

To rate diabetes, the VA compares your condition and treatment against a rating schedule for 10%, 20%, 40%, 60%, or 100%.  A 10% rating is when your diabetes is manageable by a restricted diet only. When you start adding in the need for injected insulin, oral medications, and regulation of activities, the rating may go up to 20% or 40%. A 60% rating is appropriate when you have all of those things, but also are having episodes of ketoacidosis or hypoglycemic reactions requiring hospitalization. At 100% you have all of those things, plus avoidance of strenuous activities, and progressive weight loss and strength and possibly other complications. 

Importantly as part of a claim for diabetes, the VA is required to look at the complications associated with diabetes and rate those conditions as well. This is one of the unique situations where you do not need to claim the secondary issues on their own in order to get them granted. Some common complications of diabetes include diabetic retinopathy, upper, and lower diabetic neuropathy.

Can you receive TDIU for diabetes? 

TDIU (temporary disability individual unemployability) decisions can be made by the VA as long as the necessary criteria have been met, which are not governed by the type of disability. When the VA makes a TDIU decision it is acknowledging that the veteran is entitled to get disability payments equivalent to 100% even though their disability doesn’t warrant it otherwise.

If you are struggling with maintaining employment as a result of your diabetes or other service-connected conditions, it is worth it to talk to your local VSO (if you haven’t filed any claim yet) or an experienced VA disability attorney if you are wanting to appeal an unfavorable rating decision or to get an increase. 

How can you appeal your VA Disability rating? 

If you are dissatisfied with a VA disability rating decision you received, you can appeal it within one year.  There are three different “avenues” of appeal to choose from.  

A Higher Level appeal is a request for a more experienced VA rater to review the same file again. This may be appropriate for obvious errors and oversights made the first time around,  where the necessary information is already in the file. 

A Supplemental Claim review allows you to add additional information to your claim file. This may be appropriate where the VA’s decision is based on the lack of certain information that you can correct by supplementing the record.  

Finally, a Board Review allows you to have a live (in person or by video conference) hearing with a judge to go over your case. This may be appropriate when its hard to convey your experience or condition on paper. There can be power in being able to explain your situation to a person in real-time. 

VA claim appeals are complicated so you shouldn’t do it alone. Contact an experienced VA disability appeals attorney who can evaluate your case.  Most VA disability appeal attorneys work on a contingency basis – they don’t get paid unless and until you get paid – so there is no downside in at least exploring your options.

Have you been trying to get VA disability benefits for your diabetes or other conditions? Do you want to appeal an adverse VA decision on your disability claim? See if the Veterans Law Group can help you. Contact them for a free evaluation of your case.


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