If you are a veteran with a service-connected heart disability, also known as a cardiac disability, you probably have questions about the proper VA heart disability rating given your particular situation.
There are quite a few heart disabilities recognized by VA. Many of these use similar ratings criteria, and quite a few of them use the method we will be covering in this article. But remember, there are a number of different ways VA can determine your proper disability rating for your service-connected heart condition. One in particular that we want to cover here is diagnostic testing, which is important because of its use at multiple ratings levels and multiple diagnoses and because it can be a little difficult to understand for someone without specialized medical knowledge. I’ll attempt to shed some light on that for you here.
An Objective Test to Establish Your VA Heart Disability Rating
Cardiologist use a diagnostic test called an echocardiogram to assess your heart. VA also uses this test to rate a heart disability.
Although your cardiologist can use an echocardiogram for other purposes, one important measurement from an echocardiogram is left ventricular dysfunction. Your cardiologist may have used the term left ventricular dysfunction with you or in your medical records. If not, related terms include:
- Ejection fraction
- Left ventricular ejection fraction, and
All three of these are the same thing.
What is left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF)?
Your left ventricular ejection fraction is a general guideline for your heart function and heart health. Left ventricular ejection fraction is essentially the measurement of the percentage of your blood that leaves you heart each time it pumps. As you know, your heart is a muscle that squeezes, or contracts, to pump blood out. When the heart relaxes, it fills with blood before contracting again to pump out the blood.
The left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) is the percentage of blood pumped out of the heart each time it pumps. So, if your LVEF is listed as 65 or 65%, that means your heart pumps out 65% of the blood with each heartbeat.
So what is a normal reading for ejection fraction? Most healthy people are going to be in the 55% to 70% range for the percent of blood that’s pushed out each time that heart muscle contracts. The lower the number the more heart damage there is, meaning the heart muscle is weaker and cannot push out as much of the blood from your heart.
How Left Ventricular Dysfunction Impacts Your VA Heart Disability Rating
If you have a service-connected heart disability and your LVEF is 50% or less, you should be able to be rated under this method.
VA uses the veteran’s measured ejection in two different ratings levels for heart disabilities. Again, the lower the ejection fraction, the higher VA heart disability rating that you would receive. If your ejection fraction is under 30% then you should qualify for a 100% cardiac disability rating from VA. If your ejection fraction is between 30% and 50% then you will qualify for a 60% VA heart disability rating.
Left ventricular dysfunction is only used at the 100% and 60% ratings levels. The next lower rating for most VA cardiac disabilities is a 30% VA disability rating. However, at that point VA does not use the measurement of the veteran’s left ventricular dysfunction as a ratings criteria. Instead, VA looks at some other factors that I cover in another article on symptoms with exertion and a future article on changes in the heart muscle. Look for that one soon.
Don’t Stress Out Over Your VA Heart Disability Rating
VA heart disability ratings can be highly technical. They require familiarity with five different methods of rating the disability depending on its severity. Each of those five methods requires some degree of medical knowledge. Some veterans are able to learn that and apply it to their own claim.
Other veterans prefer to have an attorney help with that process. If you have any questions about your claim for disability compensation, whether related to a cardiac disability or not, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation on your claim.