Many veterans have questions about heart disease and whether it is connected to their military service. Coronary Artery Disease, also known as Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease, is the most common type of heart disease in America, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Because this type of heart disease is on the list of presumptive Agent Orange diseases, military veterans who served inside Vietnam are presumed to have a nexus between their military service and their heart disease.
But, the Department of Veterans Affairs deciding your disability is service-connected is only the beginning. The next step is determining the correct disability rating. This rating determines how much your monthly disability payments will be. In reviewing the claims of veterans with heart-related service-connected disabilities, our VA disability attorneys have noticed blatant errors in how the VA Regional Offices decide heart-related claims. Those errors typically result in too low of a rating.
To understand the errors, you first need to know the proper criteria the VA is supposed to use in evaluating the correct disability rating. There a few different ways to qualify for the various ratings, but one way common to each level is the symptom-based method.
To use this method, it is important to know the relevant symptoms. This helps you see where you likely fall on the scale of disability. A veteran is entitled to a rating between 10 and 100 percent if he or she experiences dyspnea, fatigue, angina, dizziness, or syncope when engaging in certain levels of activity.
While fatigue and dizziness are easily understandable terms, many veterans are not familiar with these other, more specialized medical terms. Dyspnea is difficult or labored breathing, or shortness of breath. Angina is chest pain. Syncope is partial or complete loss of consciousness or, more simply put, fainting or passing out.
SHOULD ALL PEOPLE WITH THESE HEART DISEASE SYMPTOMS BE RATED AT THE SAME LEVEL?
No. Disabilities related to heart disease can be rated at 0, 10, 30, 60, and 100 percent. If you have any of the symptoms discussed above (dyspnea, fatigue, angina, dizziness, or syncope), your level of disability is tied to what sort of activities bring on your symptoms.
The schedular ratings for heart disease define various activity levels that cause cardiac symptoms. The more active you are before you have symptoms, the lower the rating; the less activity that can cause symptoms, the higher the rating. The level of rating is measured by “METs,” or metabolic equivalents. In plain English, that is a measurement of how hard the heart must work to do certain activities; the higher the MET, the more vigorous the activity. Here is a chart to help understand how the levels of activity correspond to the ratings levels:
VA HEART DISEASE DISABILITY RATING TABLE
|Physical activity||MET (metabolic equivalent)||Dyspnea, fatigue, angina, dizziness, or syncope while doing these activities?|
|Light intensity activities||< 3|
|sleeping||0.9||If yes, then 100% rating|
|watching television||1.0||If yes, then 100% rating|
|writing, desk work, typing||1.8||If yes, then 100% rating|
|walking, 1.7 mph (2.7 km/h), level ground, strolling, very slow||2.3||If yes, then 100% rating|
|walking, 2.5 mph (4 km/h)||2.9||If yes, then 100% rating|
|Moderate intensity activities||3 to 6|
|bicycling, stationary, 50 watts, very light effort||3.0||If yes, then 100% rating|
|walking 3.0 mph (4.8 km/h)||3.3||If yes, then 60% rating|
|calisthenics, home exercise, light or moderate effort, general||3.5||If yes, then 60% rating|
|walking 3.4 mph (5.5 km/h)||3.6||If yes, then 60% rating|
|bicycling, <10 mph (16 km/h), leisure, to work or for pleasure||4.0||If yes, then 60% rating|
|bicycling, stationary, 100 watts, light effort||5.5||If yes, then 30% rating|
|sexual activity||5.8||If yes, then 30% rating|
|Vigorous intensity activities||> 6|
|jogging, general||7.0||If yes, then 30% rating|
|calisthenics (e.g. pushups, situps, pullups, jumping jacks), heavy, vigorous effort||8.0||If yes, then 10% rating|
|running jogging, in place||8.0||If yes, then 10% rating|
|rope jumping||10.0||If yes, then 10% rating|
Remember, symptom-based criteria are just one of the ways a veteran may be entitled to a VA disability rating for a heart condition. There are other methods that can be used to establish a rating.