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New 2024 GERD VA Disability Ratings Updates

New 2024 GERD VA Disability Ratings Updates

As of May 19, 2024, significant updates have been made to the GERD VA disability ratings. Previously, GERD was rated analogously under the criteria for hiatal hernia, but it now has its own specific rating criteria. Leah Bucholz provides an in-depth look at these changes and what they mean for veterans seeking disability compensation for GERD.

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Overview of GERD

What is GERD?

GERD is a common condition among veterans, often linked to their service. It involves the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, and regurgitation of food. Some may also experience dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), a sensation of a lump in the throat, or even chronic cough and laryngitis.

Causes and Risk Factors

GERD can be primary or secondary. Primary GERD occurs due to factors like diet, lifestyle, or anatomical abnormalities. Secondary GERD might develop from conditions like obesity, pregnancy, or as a side effect of medications. For veterans, GERD can be service-connected if it was diagnosed during service, aggravated by service, or secondary to another service-connected condition.

Treatment

Treatment for GERD typically includes lifestyle modifications, over-the-counter medications like antacids, and prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors. In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.

Updated VA Disability Ratings for GERD

Introduction to New Criteria

The VA’s new rating criteria for GERD came into effect on May 19, 2024, introducing specific ratings based on the severity and impact of the condition. These updates provide a clearer framework for assessing and compensating veterans for their symptoms and complications related to GERD.

Detailed Rating Breakdown

The new rating system for GERD is primarily focused on the presence and severity of esophageal strictures, which are complications of the condition. Here’s a breakdown of the ratings:

80% Rating

An 80% disability rating is assigned if the veteran has a documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal stricture causing dysphagia with at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Aspiration
  • Undernutrition
  • Substantial weight loss

50% Rating

A 50% disability rating is assigned if the veteran has a documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal stricture causing dysphagia with at least one of the following:

  • Dilation three or more times a year
  • Dilation using steroids at least once a year
  • Esophageal stent placement

30% Rating

A 30% disability rating is assigned if the veteran has a documented history of recurrent esophageal strictures causing dysphagia that requires dilation no more than two times a year.

10% Rating

A 10% disability rating is assigned if the veteran has a documented history of esophageal stricture that requires daily medication to control dysphagia but is otherwise asymptomatic.

0% Rating

A 0% disability rating is assigned if there is a documented history of esophageal stricture without daily symptoms or the requirement for daily medication.

Detailed Breakdown of the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ)

Introduction to the DBQ

The Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for esophageal conditions, including GERD, has also been updated. This form is critical in the evaluation process as it helps document the severity of the veteran’s condition and the impact on their daily life.

Key Sections of the DBQ

Records Reviewed and Diagnosis

The DBQ starts with a section where the examiner reviews the veteran’s medical records and lists the diagnosed conditions. If GERD is one of the conditions, it will be marked along with the relevant diagnostic codes and the date of diagnosis.

Medical History

The examiner will then detail the veteran’s medical history, including medications taken, treatments undergone, and symptoms experienced. This section helps establish a comprehensive view of the condition and its management.

Signs and Symptoms

The DBQ includes a section where the examiner will note whether the veteran experiences any of the following symptoms related to esophageal conditions, including GERD:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Painful swallowing (odynophagia)
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat

These symptoms are critical in determining the severity of the condition and the appropriate disability rating.

Documentation of Esophageal Strictures

A significant update in the DBQ is the detailed documentation required for esophageal strictures. This includes whether the strictures are recurrent or refractory and whether they require treatments like dilation or stent placement. The examiner must also verify the strictures using diagnostic tests such as a barium swallow, CT scan, or EGD.

Functional Impact

The DBQ also assesses the functional impact of GERD on the veteran’s ability to work. This includes any limitations on physical activity, dietary restrictions, and other daily activities. This section helps establish the real-world impact of the condition, which is crucial for determining the appropriate compensation level.

Conclusion

The new 2024 updates to the VA disability ratings for GERD provide a more precise and comprehensive framework for evaluating and compensating veterans for this condition. With specific criteria now in place, veterans can expect a more accurate assessment of their symptoms and related complications. It’s essential for veterans to work closely with their healthcare providers and legal professionals to ensure all necessary documentation is provided to support their claims. If you have GERD and believe it is related to your service, consider seeking assistance from a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) or other qualified professionals to navigate these updated criteria effectively.

Also read: The Impact of Smoking on Veterans Disability Benefits

At Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting, a veteran-owned company, we specialize in Independent Medical Opinions (IMOs) known as Nexus letters.

Our purpose is to empower YOU, the veteran, to take charge of your medical evidence and provide you with valuable educational tools and research to guide you on your journey.

Understanding the unique challenges veterans face, our commitment lies in delivering exceptional service and support.

Leveraging an extensive network of licensed independent medical professionals, all well-versed in the medical professional aspects of the VA claims process, we review the necessary medical evidence to incorporate in our reports related to your VA Disability Claim.

Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting is not a law firm, accredited claims agent, or affiliated with the Veterans Administration or Veterans Services Organizations. However, we are happy to discuss your case with your accredited VA legal professional.

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2024 VA Disability Rates

Danielle McClaskey

Client Relations Specialist U.S. Navy Veteran

In her active-duty service in the United States Navy, Danielle undertook a variety of responsibilities, ranging from essential administrative duties to providing crucial medical care. Her multifaceted contributions played a pivotal role in enhancing her fellow service members’ operational effectiveness and well-being.

As a disabled veteran, she developed a profound understanding of the unique challenges faced by her fellow service members. Now, in her civilian role, Danielle is a valued member of the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team, where she continues to leverage her extensive background and educational achievements to provide exceptional support to veterans.

Leticia

LETICIA

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Leticia has been in the medical field for nearly 14 years. She has always had a passion for medicine and caring for her community. Leticia has spent the last 4 years caring for veterans and first responders with alcohol and substance abuse in a medical rehabilitation setting whilst continuing her education working towards a degree in software development.

Someday she hopes to develop medical software that further enhances the patient’s experience in medical care. Leticia has a deep respect and love for those who have served as she comes from a family of law enforcement and military veterans.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Julie Pereira

JULIE PEREIRA:

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

During her Active-Duty time in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, Julie provided medical administration
and patient care services in the field, the hospital, and base medical office settings.  This military medical and
administrative background has given Julie the hands-on experience and extensive knowledge necessary to
provide unparalleled service to her fellow Veterans through the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Julie’s educational achievements include a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Human Services and a pre-nursing associate in arts and science.

Julie has been inspired by her firsthand knowledge of navigating the VA Benefits process. She has dedicated
most of her adult life to serving Veterans through her knowledge derived from her military and civilian medical
education and training.

Jennifer Januta

JENNIFER JANUTA

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER

During her Active-Duty service in the Army, Jennifer supported various research efforts centered on combat casualty care and Soldier performance. Her military background gave her unique insights into veterans’ distinct challenges, ultimately inspiring her to join the Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting team.

Jennifer’s educational achievements include a master’s in molecular biology from George Washington University and a master’s in data science from Texas Tech University. Jennifer wholeheartedly dedicates herself to utilizing her knowledge and expertise gained from 15 years of healthcare experience to impact the well-being of those who have served positively.

Alan Bucholz

ALAN BUCHOLZ, PA-C:

U.S ARMY VETERAN, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Alan enlisted in the US Army as a combat medic, where he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Influenced by his time as a combat medic, he attended the Interservice Physician Assistant program while on
active duty, was commissioned as an officer, and subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.  

Alan’s military and medical background inspired him to form Prestige Veteran Medical Consulting with his
wife, Leah Bucholz, a Physician Assistant and Army Combat Veteran.  He has devoted himself to using his
knowledge gained in the military as a medical professional to serve the Veteran community.

Leah - Meet the Team

LEAH BUCHOLZ, PA-C

U.S ARMY VETERAN, MEDICAL EXPERT & FORMER C & P EXAMINER

Meet Leah, the founder, and leader of our organization. ​​A combat veteran herself, she understands the unique challenges veterans face, making her mission about much more than running a successful business. It’s about the opportunity to provide a legacy of exceptional service for our heroes.​

​“It is essential to remember that there is no greater honor than caring for service members on the battlefield. Continuing to care for Veterans after separation is an opportunity that I have been afforded to extend that care in this new battlefield related to service-incurred disabilities.”

Her inspiration comes from years of military experience working alongside her fellow servicemembers, particularly key leaders who have influenced her journey, applying their wisdom to her path. She values her team deeply, most of whom are also disabled combat veterans, each member a trusted individual sharing her vision.

 “Driven by passion and purpose, I aim to create a sustainable change that empowers veterans and future generations.”

Leah’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. From overcoming and living with her service-related disabilities to navigating work-life balance, she’s learned to face each hurdle head-on with resilience.  Like many of her veteran brothers and sisters, her early background consisted of limited resources and opportunities. Her military service has helped shape her into a steadfast leader, offering relatable inspiration to others.

Join us in celebrating Leah, a compassionate leader, and resilient veteran, driving our mission to serve those who served our nation.