You served your country honorably and bravely. But your military career left you with a new or worsening heart condition. If you are wondering whether you qualify for Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits, this guide should answer some of your questions.
For more specific answers or help applying for VA disability benefits, contact Gerling Law’s VA disability lawyers today by sending an online message or calling (888) 437-5464 for a free consultation.
How to Qualify for VA Disability Based on Heart Conditions
To receive financial assistance and healthcare benefits, you must show that you have a current heart condition and that you served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
Additionally, your disability claim must be one of the following:
- Inservice disability claim—you got sick while serving and can link your heart condition to your service;
- Preservice disability claim—you had a heart condition before you joined the military and serving made it worse; or
- Postservice disability claim—your heart condition did not appear until after you left service.
You must have been honorably discharged to be eligible for VA benefits, though the VA does have a process to upgrade your discharge to “honorable for VA purposes.”
Under certain circumstances, the VA will presume your heart condition is related to your service.
- When your symptoms appeared within one year after you were discharged from service, and your heart condition is one of the specific ones listed in the regulations;
- If your heart condition is one known to be caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials (such as Agent Orange) used in specified military operations; or
- Where your heart condition was caused by your time spent as a prisoner of war (POW).
POWs qualify for disability if their condition became at least 10% disabling at any time following active-duty service.
Examples of Covered Heart Conditions
What heart conditions qualify for VA disability benefits? Various conditions are covered based on their relationship to service and may support a VA disability; heart conditions are covered in many cases.
Presumptive Service Connection
The following heart-related illnesses are presumed related to service if they manifested within one year of discharge:
- Cardiovascular-renal disease, including hypertension,
- Endocarditis, and
Diabetes mellitus is another presumed condition. Diabetics have a significantly increased risk of developing heart disease.
Toxic Chemical and Substance Exposure
Those exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War may be at risk for heart conditions, including:
- AL amyloidosis—an illness where an abnormal protein called amyloid enters body organs, including the heart, and
- Ischemic heart disease—a type of heart disease where the heart does not get enough blood.
Agent Orange exposure also may lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Time as a POW
For those brave survivors of enemy capture, hypertensive vascular disease, including hypertensive heart disease, may be the result. The VA presumes these and related conditions resulted from service.
Other Heart Conditions That May Be Covered Based on Testing
As the Heart Conditions Benefits Eligibility Questionnaire makes clear, many other heart issues may rise to the level of disabling.
- Acute, subacute, or old myocardial infarction;
- Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease;
- Arteriosclerotic heart disease (coronary artery disease);
- Congestive heart failure;
- Bradycardia (bradyarrhythmia) and other arrhythmias;
- Syphilitic heart disease,
- Cardiomyopathy; and
- Hypertensive heart disease.
To assess the impact of these conditions on your ability to function and work, the VA requires specific exams.
First, one or more of the following tests is required:
- Echocardiogram, or
- Chest X-ray.
These will determine whether you have cardiac hypertrophy or dilatation.
Next, the VA requires Metabolic Equivalents (METs) testing. This involves having you exercise and assessing at what activity level you develop heart failure symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, angina, dizziness, or fainting. If you can’t exercise for medical reasons, the physician will conduct an interview instead.
How the VA Rates Heart Conditions
A VA disability rating for heart conditions is a percentage representing how much your disability decreases your ability to function and impacts your overall health. For cardiovascular issues, the VA relies primarily on METs testing and assesses how much physical activity you can do before you develop heart failure symptoms. This basically means that if you develop symptoms with little exercise, your disability rating will be higher. The VA also may combine multiple ratings. For accuracy, it is important to tell your doctor about any medication you may be taking.
Temporary 100% Ratings for Heart Conditions
For some heart-related issues and procedures, the VA will assign a temporary rating of total disability (100% rating).
These issues/procedures and the length of time they are assigned a temporary 100% rating are:
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)—3 months;
- Pacemaker installation—1 month;
- Heart valve replacement—indefinitely, but a disability evaluation is done after 6 months;
- Coronary bypass surgery—3 months; and
- Heart transplant—1 year.
Depending on the veteran’s recovery, these ratings may or may not be reduced after the time frame expires.
TDIU for Heart Conditions
Some veterans with heart conditions may qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). This means you cannot maintain a steady job and support yourself because of your service-related disability. Veterans must have at least one rating of 60% or two or more ratings that yield a combined rating of 70%.
A TDIU resulting from a heart condition means the veteran receives benefits and compensation at the same level as a veteran with a 100% disability rating.
VA Disability Compensation Amounts for Heart Conditions
The VA pays monthly compensation based on disability ratings.
For 2022, the rates are as follows:
- 10% disability rating—$152.64
- 30% disability rating—$467.39
- 60% disability rating—$1,214.03
- 100% disability rating—$3,332.06
Those with a disability rating of 30% or more may receive additional compensation for dependent spouses, children, or parents.
Contact a VA Disability Attorney Today
As you can see, getting a VA disability is a complicated matter with many moving parts. If you need help obtaining VA disability for heart conditions, reach out to Gerling Law. We know how confusing and frustrating it can be to apply for disability benefits or to appeal your rating. In fact, we even wrote a book on it—Gerling Law’s Guide to VA Disability Benefits—which you can download for free from our website.