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Diabetes VA Rating

Diabetes is a significant problem for many in the veteran community.

Diabetes is a medical condition that, according to some estimates, up to one-quarter of veterans suffer from. This may be a low estimate because evidence suggests that many veterans who have diabetes are not claiming it as a disability.

Quality Legal Help for Your VA Diabetes Disability Claim

The good news is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) recognizes diabetes as a compensable disability. The Stone Rose Law firm helps Arizona veterans with VA disability compensation claims. We can help you to file an initial claim for benefits or a follow up claim to increase your benefits if your condition is worsening.

Has your VA claim for diabetes been denied by the VA? Or has the VA assigned you a disability rating but it is too low? We can help you to file a supplemental claim with the VA or a formal appeal if necessary.

Call us at (480) 498-8998 to set up a consultation with one of our experienced VA disability lawyers. We are available to take your call every day, 24 hours a day.

How the VA Rates Diabetes

If the VA approves your disability compensation claim, then it will assign you one of five disability ratings for diabetes. Your rating will be based on the VA evaluation of the symptoms of your diabetes condition and their severity.

Infographic listing the different rating categories the VA uses when rating diabetes.

Here is a breakdown of the VA ratings for diabetes, from lowest to highest:

  • 10-percent disability rating: Your diabetes condition is mild enough that you can treat it through a restricted diet.
  • 20-percent disability rating: In addition to a restricted diet, your condition requires daily insulin injections and possibly oral medications to control.
  • 40-percent disability rating: In addition to a restricted diet and daily insulin injections, your condition also requires you to undergo regulation of your activities.
  • 60-percent disability rating: In addition to everything included for a 40 percent rating, your condition also requires you to undergo one or two hospitalizations in a year or requires you to maintain a schedule of biweekly visits to a diabetic care provider. Also, this rating includes side effects or diabetes complications that would not otherwise qualify you for disability benefits compensation if the VA evaluated them separately.
  • 100-percent disability rating: At this rating, you need a restricted diet, multiple daily insulin injections, and low physical activity levels. You also need at least three hospitalizations in a year or must have weekly visits with a diabetic care provider. Weight loss, physical weakness, and hypoglycemic reactions are primary symptoms found at this rating. This level of disability can also create side effects or complications that the VA would give disability ratings to if they evaluated them separately.

Other Possible VA Benefits for Diabetes

 If you meet the eligibility requirements, filing a diabetes disability claim can also lead to increased or additional VA compensation benefits.

Diabetes and Individual Unemployability

Although a diabetes disability can qualify you for a 100% rating, you can still receive 100% disability benefits even with a diabetes VA rating of 60% or less.

The VA calls this alternative path to a 100% disability rating “total disability based on individual unemployability,” or TDIU.

As its name suggests, to qualify for TDIU benefits, you must be unable to secure or hold onto “substantially gainful employment,” or work that pays you more than the federal poverty level.

You may also qualify for TDIU if you have a single VA disability rating of 60 percent (for any disability, including diabetes) or you have a combined VA rating of at least 70 percent with one disability separately rated at 40 percent or more.

Note that the VA uses its own formula when it calculates a combined disability rating instead of simply adding up all the separate ratings into a sum. This has led some to refer to the VA way of calculating a combined rating as “VA math.”

If you are a disabled veteran with multiple disabilities and want to see your estimated benefits in a combined rating or separately, please see our VA Disability Calculator.

Retroactive Diabetes Benefits for Vietnam War Veterans

In addition to Agent Orange exposure presumed service-connected claims, Vietnam war veterans who applied for but were denied diabetes-related VA benefits before May 8, 2001, may not only be eligible to reapply now but might also qualify for retroactive benefit awards.

Service-Connected Death Benefits for Vietnam War Veterans

If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran who served in-country in Vietnam, and you believe that the cause of your spouse’s death was Type 2 diabetes, then you could be eligible for either Dependents and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or Parents’ DIC.

Additional Benefits Claims for Diabetes

Diabetes has no cure. Although you can manage its symptoms, there’s a chance that your diabetes can worsen over time. This means that your original VA rating for diabetes may need to be adjusted if your condition worsens.

The VA allows for follow-on or additional claims benefits applications from veterans who can show that they need more assistance. You can contact your local VA Regional Office to learn more about how to do this or work with an experienced VA disability benefits attorney like one of our experts at Stone Rose Law.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects your body’s ability to manage blood sugar (glucose) levels. This happens when your pancreas has trouble producing insulin, which regulates blood sugar. As a result, people with diabetes often have too much glucose in their blood. 

A common result of this blood sugar mismanagement is abnormally high blood sugar levels. Left unchecked, these high levels of sugar can lead to serious and even life-threatening physical problems.

What Are the Kinds of Diabetes Subject to a VA Disability Rating?

Diabetes occurs in different ways or “types.” The most common kinds of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune reaction that affects your pancreas, the body organ making insulin. Those with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is a relatively rare form of diabetes that happens in about five percent of diabetes cases. It can have a genetic cause that ordinarily, but not always, shows up during childhood. In some cases, something else can trigger the onset of this condition, like a virus.

There is little you can do to head off the onset of Type 1 diabetes if you are susceptible to it. In fact, many people with this kind of diabetes can have it for years but be largely asymptomatic.

Although you cannot prevent Type 1 diabetes, managing your diet or your lifestyle and taking daily insulin injections can help with some of the more severe symptoms.

Type 2 Diabetes

The medical term for Type 2 diabetes is hyperglycemia. The primary symptoms of this form of adult-onset diabetes are your pancreas not making enough insulin or the development of insulin resistance.

About nine of every 10 cases of diabetes in adults are Type 2 cases. Like with Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 can exist in you for a long time, even years, without you being aware of it.

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, diet and lifestyle factors like consuming too much sugar play a significant role in whether you develop Type 2 diabetes. The more sugar you consume and the more sedentary you are, the more you put yourself at risk. The longer these factors go on, and especially if they lead to an obesity condition, the more the risk increases.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors for Veterans

In addition to the above contributors to Type 2 diabetes (sugar-rich diet, lack of activity, obesity), other risk factors exist that can increase your chances of developing this condition. Here are some notable ways that your chances of having Type 2 diabetes can worsen:

  • Increasing age: Starting around age 45, the older you get, the greater your chance of having diabetes. Veterans aged 65 and older are the most common sufferers of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Ancestry: If you are African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander in your heritage, then you are at heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, people who are Caucasian are somewhat more prone to Type 1 diabetes.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking will increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes by about one-third.
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
  • Lower education and income Levels: People with less than 12 years of formal education and whose incomes are below the poverty level also have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes and Agent Orange Exposure

The VA recognizes a link between exposure to the defoliant known as Agent Orange and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Unlike other VA disability claims, it is not necessary to prove a service connection to the onset of the diabetes condition. Instead, the VA presumes that a service connection exists.To be eligible for diabetes-related disability benefits from Agent Orange exposure, you must be a veteran who was not dishonorably discharged and have physically served or visited the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975. This service includes Vietnam veterans who were serving offshore as well as making port calls.

An infographic listing the different types of diabetes and the veteran's benefits that correspond to each type.

What are Diabetes Symptoms?

Regardless of the type, the symptoms of diabetes are the same. Here are some of the short-term health problems to watch out for:

  • Thirst that can feel extreme or excessive
  • Excessive hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Cuts, bruises, and sores that seem to heal slowly
  • Skin or fungal infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and feet

If diabetes continues, then your symptoms can worsen into longer-term effects including coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease, nerve damage, blindness, and deterioration of your lower limbs to the point where amputation can become necessary.

An infographic listing diabetes symptoms.

How to Claim Diabetes as a VA Disability

You can claim diabetes as a VA disability in the same manner you make any claim for disability benefits.

  1. You must currently have a diabetes diagnosis by a medical professional.
  2. Except for Agent Orange exposure cases, you must show a service connection to your diabetes disability.

Kinds of Evidence You Will Need

The most important documents to provide alongside your VA benefits claim application are medical records of diagnosis and treatment of your diabetes condition If your diabetes developed during your time in active military service, then any treatment included in your military service records is valuable evidence, too.

In addition to this documentation, if people who know you like family members, friends, and coworkers can contribute a written statement of their observations of your diabetes condition and its effects on you, these “buddy letters” are also something the VA will consider.

You may also need to undergo some diagnostic medical tests to establish your insulin levels and to determine whether your diabetes is Type 1 or Type 2.

VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exams

If the VA cannot make a decision on approving your diabetes claim or determining it’s severity through the evidence you provided, the VA is likely to schedule you to attend a C&P exam.

During your C&P exam a VA examiner will review your medical evidence and ask you questions to learn more about how the condition is affecting you. The VA examiner may also have you undergo a physical examination and some further tests.

The C&P exam is a serious matter. You should not miss your appointment, but if you do,  work with the VA to reschedule. Missing a C&P exam without a valid reason can lead to denial of your claim.

Types of Service Connections for a Diabetes Condition

There are three ways you can establish a service connection or nexus between your diabetes and your time in service: a direct connection, a secondary service-connected condition, or a presumed service connection.

We have already covered Agent Orange exposure as a way to receive VA benefits through a presumed service connection, so we now consider direct and secondary service-connected conditions.

Direct Service Connection

A direct service connected condition is one that you can trace the onset of your diabetes to a causal event during your service.

An example of a direct service connection includes an injury that forces you to become inactive for a long period of time.

Secondary Service Connections

A secondary service connection diabetes disability is one where you already have a disability that the VA has recognized and results in developing diabetes.

One example of how diabetes can be based on a secondary service connection is Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which has a known medical link to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

In a related sense, if you have a VA-approved disability claim for diabetes, then it can become the basis for other secondary service-connected disability claims.

Examples of secondary health conditions that can arise from a diabetes disability include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Nerve damage and diabetic peripheral neuropathy
  • Diabetic neuropathy that can reduce blood flow and lead to foot and leg amputations
  • Heart disease and strokes
  • Kidney failure
  • Depression
  • Impaired vision and blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Skin infections
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Do You Need Help with Your VA Disability Claim for Diabetes?

At Stone Rose Law, we are dedicated VA disability advocates for veterans’ disability claims. We are board-certified VA claims lawyers who serve on behalf of veterans nationwide. Our VA accredited attorneys give you affordable, high-quality veterans appeals legal assistance.

Our veterans lawyers provide highly professional legal representation to military veterans, helping them through the VA process to receive all the veterans’ disability benefits they are entitled to. 

We can help prepare your diabetes-related disability claim, monitor your claim status, and consult with you before disability examinations—all at no cost to you

If the VA denies your original claim, then our VA benefits law firm will assign a VA disability appeals lawyer to help you pursue a VA appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals while providing free representation on a contingency fee basis. 

For more information about how one of our VA disability lawyers can help you with your VA disability compensation claim or appeal, request a free assistance consultation at (480) 498-8998.Or, if you prefer, you can reach us online to ask a question about veterans law.