Hypertension is the most common chronic condition among veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hypertension, which is commonly known as high blood pressure, affects more than 37% of the veteran population. Hypertension is a known risk factor for stroke, heart attack, dementia, and other medical issues. While it’s a common problem, hypertension is controllable through changes in lifestyle, diet, and possibly blood pressure medication.
Your hypertension must be rated at 10 percent or higher to receive monthly compensation— though a 0 percent rating still qualifies you for health care and other ancillary benefits. … If your diastolic pressure (bottom number) is 130 or higher: 60 percent rating. If your diastolic pressure is 120 to 129: 40 percent rating.
Veterans may have service-connected hypertension due to enduring the high stress of combat or exposure to the Vietnam era defoliant, Agent Orange. Secondary hypertension, or high blood pressure due to an underlying condition, may be caused by several medical conditions and medications, including some that a Veteran may already be receiving VA benefits for or that may be prescribed for a disability.
If you have disabling high blood pressure that may be connected to your military service, you may need South Carolina veterans’ disability attorneys to help you secure the VA disability benefits you deserve. An attorney who is accredited by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs as a disability representative can help you establish a disability rating for hypertension or increase your rating and your monthly benefit.
Don’t deal with the frustrations of the VA claims process by yourself. Contact Joye Law Firm to get help handling your VA hypertension disability claim so you can focus your attention on your health. Phone 877-941-1019 or contact us online today for a free case review.
An Overview of Hypertension
High blood pressure refers to an elevated level of the force of blood flow against your artery walls. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow within your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is high enough over the long term, it can cause a variety of health problems, including an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms. Many people do not know they have it. But high blood pressure can be easily detected and then controlled with medication.
Blood pressure is a “vital sign,” so your blood pressure will be checked on any visit to a doctor.
A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It has two numbers:
- Systolic pressure. The first or top number in a blood pressure reading is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic pressure. The second or bottom number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats.
Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or less.
Guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association in 2017 say a reading of 130/80 mmHg or above is high blood pressure.
Primary, or essential, hypertension usually develops over many years and has no specific identifiable cause. However, several studies show that continued stress or repeated stressful incidents can lead to hypertension through repeated elevations in blood pressure as well as by stimulation of the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting hormones that increase blood pressure. When one risk factor, such as deployment to a combat zone, is coupled with other stress-producing factors, such as an enemy attack, the effect on blood pressure is multiplied.
Secondary hypertension, which is high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than experienced with primary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension can be caused by several conditions and medications, such as:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Thyroid problems
- Congenital defects in blood vessels
- Certain medications, including some prescription drugs, over-the-counter pain relievers cold remedies, decongestants, and birth control pills
- Illegal stimulants, such as cocaine, and amphetamines.
Potential side effects of untreated hypertension include:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Vascular dementia
Hypertension as a VA Disability in South Carolina
Hypertensive vascular disease (hypertension and isolated systolic hypertension) is considered a potential VA disability under the Federal Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Code 7101 (Diseases of the Heart).
The VA considers hypertension to be a diastolic blood pressure that is predominantly 90 mmHg or greater, and isolated systolic hypertension to be a systolic blood pressure that is predominantly 160 mmHg or greater with a diastolic blood pressure of less than 90 mmHg. This is a stricter standard than adopted by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (160/<90 mmHg vs. 130/80 mmHg).
The VA also requires that hypertension be confirmed by readings taken two or more times on at least three different days (see 2C on this Hypertension Disability Questionnaire for doctors to complete).
When a Veteran applies for VA disability benefits, the VA assigns a VA Disability Rating to their medical condition. The rating, set by law and expressed as a percentage in 10-percent increments from 0% to 100%, determines the amount of VA benefits that a Veteran receives for service-connected conditions.
For hypertension and isolated systolic hypertension, the VA assigns disability ratings of:
- 60% for a diastolic pressure predominantly 130 or more
- 40% for a diastolic pressure predominantly 120 or more
- 20% for a diastolic pressure predominantly 110 or more, or systolic pressure predominantly 200 or more
- 10% for a diastolic pressure predominantly 100 or more, or systolic pressure predominantly 160 or more, or minimum evaluation for an individual with a history of diastolic pressure predominantly 100 or more who requires continuous medication for control of hypertension.
The VA’s basic disability compensation rates are based on the Veteran’s disability rating and the number of dependents. For 2021, the VA pays $144.14 per month for a 10% disability rating and $284.93 for a 20% rating, regardless of dependents. With no dependents, monthly compensation for a 40% rating is $635.77, and for a 60% rating, it is $1,146.39.
Establishing a Service Connection for Your Hypertension
To qualify for VA disability benefits for hypertension, you must be able to document that:
- You have a diagnosis of hypertension based on blood pressure measurements taken by a qualified medical professional two or more times on at least three different days and that meet the VA criteria for hypertension, and
- Your hypertension is a result of your military service or was made worse by your military service, or
- Your hypertension was caused by or aggravated beyond its natural progression by a primary service-connected injury. This establishes a secondary service connection.
If you were diagnosed with hypertension within one year of release from active duty, the VA grants a presumptive service connection and will award you benefits according to the extent of your medical condition.
Hypertension has also been scientifically linked to exposure to Agent Orange, the highly toxic Vietnam-era defoliant. There is an ongoing effort to make exposure to Agent Orange a presumptive service connection for hypertension. Military Times said the change could open disability payments to more than 160,000 Veterans.
While a ruling in your favor is not yet automatic, if you are a Vietnam Veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, we can help you add your diagnosis of hypertension to your VA records, and potentially seek a higher VA disability rating because of the diagnosis of hypertension.
If you were not exposed to Agent Orange but have been diagnosed with hypertension, your attorney will work to obtain your military medical records and search them for evidence of high blood pressure during service and a trend of higher blood pressure readings in subsequent examinations. These records, together with a current diagnosis and a doctor’s statement, could prove to be enough evidence that the onset of your hypertension dates to your time in service or that it was made worse by your service.
Further, if you have a medical condition caused by hypertension – such as heart disease, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome – the condition may be considered secondary service-connected to service-connected hypertension. It could raise your disability rating and increase your monthly benefits.
Contact Our South Carolina Lawyers About a VA Disability Hypertension Claim
An experienced VA disability benefits attorney can help you obtain the full VA benefits available as a result of your military service. Our law firm honors the service that veterans gave to our nation. We are committed to helping veterans pursue the full disability benefits available by law. Don’t deal with the time-consuming bureaucratic process of seeking VA disability benefits based on your diagnosis of high blood pressure on your own. An attorney can also help you appeal a previous VA rating decision regarding hypertension or associated secondary disabilities, if necessary.
Call Joye Law Firm now at 877-941-1019 or use our online form to schedule a free review of your VA disability claim. We have been serving people with serious injuries and disabilities since 1968, and have offices in Charleston, Summerville, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Columbia, SC.