Veterans Disability Info Blog

Gastrointestinal Issues in Veterans: Seeking Compensation

Veterans who have a current condition due to an event, injury, or illness they experienced during qualifying active service are entitled to VA disability benefits. Receiving a VA disability rating to qualify for medical coverage and tax-free payments requires you to file a comprehensive application with the VA and be approved. Approval can sometimes be difficult, and not all your conditions may be approved for coverage. 

If your initial VA disability claim has been denied, our VA benefits attorneys can assist you. A disabled veteran lawyer can provide significant support throughout the appeals process, ensuring you receive an accurate rating and complete compensation and coverage for your service-related gastrointestinal issues. 

Gastrointestinal Issues (GI) Suffered by Veterans

The gastrointestinal system is composed of the organs and body parts that comprise the digestive system. These range from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach, large colon, small intestine, rectum, and other related body parts. When a veteran suffers from a condition that impacts any of these body parts or organs, they may qualify for VA disability benefits. To qualify, the condition must also be linked by a medical expert’s opinion to the veteran’s active service. 

Some of the most common GI issues that veterans file are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

IBS is a group of symptoms that happen together and include:

  • Repeated pain in the abdomen
  • Changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea and/or constipation 

The symptoms that are experienced by persons suffering from IBS do not generally result in visible signs of disease or damage within the digestive tract. This underlines the importance of submitting documentation of your symptoms in the form of a journal, as well as statements from friends and loved ones concerning how your IBS impacts your life. While there may not be visible damage that can be identified in your digestive tract, the impact on your health and ability to work can nevertheless be substantial. 

GERD is a condition that develops when an individual has a retrograde flow of stomach contents back into the esophagus. GERD can present itself as non-erosive reflux disease or as erosive esophagitis. GERD is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder characterized by regurgitating gastric contents into the esophagus. It can lead to a “significant economic burden in direct and indirect costs and adversely affects the quality of life,” as noted by the National Institute of Health. 

Other gastrointestinal problems linked to military service include:

  • Hernias
  • Cancer
  • Gallbladder conditions
  • heartburn/indigestion
  • diarrhea/dysentery
  • Constipation
  • Gastrointestinal dysmotility 
  • Ulcerative colitis 
  • Conditions of mouth and tongue
  • Celiac disease
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Gastritis
  • Adhesions of the peritoneum
  • Diverticulitis
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Conditions of the pancreas
  • Injury to the spleen

A medical expert’s review is necessary to determine whether or not your GI issues are related to your service and eligible for VA disability coverage. 

Causes of Gastrointestinal Issues in Veterans

IBS and GERD VA disability claims are often filed due to service-related exposure to a variety of harmful items, including toxic burn pits, combat-related stress, and contaminated drinking water. Additional causes linked to veterans’ GI issues include: 

  • Inflammation as a result of viral and bacterial infections of the GI tract, including E.coli or salmonella, which can result in long-term gut disorders
  • Insufficient access to fresh produce and fiber during deployment, resulting in constipation 
  • Psychological trauma, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety, have been found to be the cause of digestive symptoms 
  • The ingestion of contaminated food or water, whether domestically or when serving abroad, can lead to digestive issues
  • Smoke from burning oil fields, in addition to toxic burn pits, with those used in the Middle East having been linked to particular types of cancer
  • Exposure to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, in addition to exposure to radiation, increasing the risk of a broad variety of medical conditions
  • Injuries from vaccines, with those from anthrax in particular having been linked to GI issues for the veterans who received them
  • Weakened immunity caused by combat stress can result in a negative impact on a veteran’s GI health

You might have noticed commercials recently concerning health issues that have developed due to exposure to contaminated drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Veterans who served at that Camp, in addition to their families living there, were exposed to drinking water with chemicals that have been linked to cancers of the digestive system in addition to other GI issues. 

Proving Your Service-Related GI Issue to the VA

To collect the VA disability compensation that you are entitled to, it is essential that complete evidence is provided to the VA, including the following documentation: 

  • VA and civilian medical records, lab reports, and X-rays, in addition to other diagnostic results or supporting documentation 
  • Service treatment records
  • The veteran’s DD214 separation documents
  • Prior or new claims for the same condition filed with the VA
  • Records that demonstrate your locations of service to determine if they may have contributed to your disability 

When you have a prior VA disability rating for a different condition or have been denied for the same one, a disabled veteran lawyer can help. 

Gastrointestinal VA Disability Ratings

The amount of tax-free payments that you are eligible to receive depends on the VA disability rating that you receive, which ranges on a scale of 0 to 100. It is necessary that you have at least a 10 percent disability rating to receive disability payments, while those under 10 percent provide medical coverage but no payments. 

The percentage rating that the VA assigns you in excess of 0 percent depends upon the impact of your symptoms on your ability to work. When your disability prevents you from engaging in gainful employment, you could be entitled to a 100 percent disability rating. Based on the 2024 VA disability ratings, the following tax-free monthly payments are available to veterans:

  • $171.23 per month for 10% disability
  • $338.49 per month for 20% disability
  • $524.31 per month for 30% disability
  • $755.28 per month for 40% disability
  • $1,075.16 per month for 50% disability
  • $1,361.88 per month for 60% disability
  • $1,716.28 per month for 70% disability
  • $1,995.01 per month for 80% disability
  • $2,241.91 per month for 90% disability
  • $3,737.85 per month for 100% disability

The difference between the different disability ratings is significant, and it is essential that you receive an accurate rating. When veterans have dependent family members and a spouse, the amounts can increase substantially to provide important support for the household. 

It is important to note that when you have more than one service-related disability, oftentimes, your individual disabilities will each be assigned a specific rating. As explored herein, GI issues do not compound. Rather, the condition with the highest disability rating is recognized and added to any other conditions that may be present. 

GI Issues Can be Secondary Conditions 

It is important to recognize that GI issues that could entitle you to an increased VA disability rating and related compensation may be caused by primary conditions that the VA has already recognized and rated. For example, if you have a VA rating for your anxiety, and a medical expert determines that your GI issues are linked to your service-related anxiety, then you could qualify for an increased VA disability rating by adding your GI issues. 

A disabled veteran lawyer from our firm is standing by to help you determine whether or not you might qualify to add GI issues to your pre-existing VA disability rating. 

Multiple Gastrointestinal Ratings Receive a Single Rating

One element to consider when applying for VA disability coverage for GI issues is the fact that veterans suffering from multiple coexisting digestive disabilities receive a singular rating. When this is the case, generally, the VA disability rating that is assigned to the veteran will be for the predominant condition of the two. This means that the greater VA disability rating of the two conditions assigned is what the GI issue will be rated at, with the non-predominant disability not receiving a rating or adding to the overall rating. Other disabilities generally compound, and their sum impacts your overall disability rating, with an experienced disabled veterans attorney providing valuable knowledge throughout the process. 

For example, if a veteran were to have a coexisting duodenal ulcer rated at 20 percent and ulcerative colitis rated at 30 percent, separate evaluations are not permitted by the VA. Instead, the veteran would be assigned a single 30 percent rating for the higher of the two, as ulcerative colitis was the predominant disability. When you have multiple GI issues, the process of receiving coverage can be more complicated, and if you are filing an appeal claim, a disabled veteran lawyer can be especially helpful. 

Filing a Strong Initial Claim Supports Approval & Compensation 

While our VA-accredited disabled veterans attorneys cannot assist with the initial filing of your claim, the following is some general information that may be helpful. For your initial VA disability claim, you should receive a comprehensive medical assessment from your private medical provider. This can help the VA determine the extent of your disability and provide you with an accurate VA disability rating. It is helpful to go to a medical provider familiar with VA disability applications, and connecting with fellow local veterans and inquiring about their preferred provider, or even asking your local VA center can be helpful to this end. 

When the information you submit does not effectively document your current condition and prove its link to your service, the VA may require that you undergo a C&P Exam (Compensation and Pension) at a VA healthcare facility. You can also provide personal journal entries, documentation about your symptoms, and statements from friends, family, and fellow service members who are familiar with your current condition or the causes of it. 

Connect with a Disabled Veteran Lawyer for Help with Your Appeal 

If your initial claim for gastrointestinal issues was denied, or if you need to add current conditions linked to these issues to your existing VA disability rating, a disabled veterans lawyer can help. Our attorneys have helped a number of veterans and their families who have developed GI issues due to exposure or as a result of a primary condition collect the compensation to which they are entitled. Providing the VA with comprehensive medical records is essential, and if your private medical care records are sufficient, you may not have to undergo a VA C&P Exam. 

We have a network of medical professionals familiar with VA disability claims to refer you to and will put together the strongest appeal possible. This ensures that you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled so that you and your family are not forced to cover costs and lost income linked to your disability. 
To learn how we can help, call us at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule your free initial consultation.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.