VA Compensation Appeals for Diabetic Retinopathy – Everything You Need to Know
If you have developed diabetic retinopathy and you are service-connected for diabetes, you may be entitled to receive veterans’ benefits.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sometimes denies a veteran’s claim for benefits. Other times, VA underrates a veteran’s medical condition. Perhaps you have experienced one of these situations. Frustrated as you might be, you should not give up and stop trying. You can still appeal your claim — and you might get the benefits you deserve.
When a VA disability advocate goes over your Diabetic Retinopathy veterans benefits appeal, he or she can scan for possible errors or omissions when your claim was submitted and decided by the VA — things that would prevent VA from granting you your benefits. A VA disability advocate can write and file your appeal for you, too.
Call (888) 373-4722 for more information.
Symptoms and Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) that damages blood vessels of light-sensitive tissue at the retina (in the back of the eye). The complication is more likely to develop in individuals who have had diabetes for a long time and have not controlled their blood sugar.
Initially, you probably experienced little to no symptoms of the condition — perhaps some minor visual impairments, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the condition can eventually lead to blindness.
The treatment of diabetic retinopathy is targeted toward slowing or stopping the progression of the complication for mild cases and surgery for advanced cases.
Either way, having the veterans benefits you have earned will help with the treatment you need. Consider appealing your denied VA claim or underrated condition.
Presumptive Service Connection for Diabetes
Agent Orange, an herbicide used during the Vietnam War, has been associated with several diseases and medical conditions. For these diseases, VA grants a presumptive service connection. (38 U.S. Code § 1116).
VA includes type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus) on the list of presumptive conditions.
Diabetic retinopathy is considered a secondary condition caused by diabetes, which has been associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
VA Benefits for Type 2 Diabetes (Mellitus)
According to the VA’s Public Health website, Veterans with type 2 diabetes mellitus who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was used, may be eligible for Agent Orange exposure disability compensation and health care.
Additionally, if you served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed, you may be eligible for a free Agent Orange Registry health exam.
If you are a surviving spouse or a dependent child or dependent parent of a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during his or her military service and died as the result of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, you may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.
The Importance of Medical Opinions in Establishing Secondary Service Connection
Veterans need to understand the importance of obtaining sound medical opinions in their claims or appeals for secondary service connection. These opinions must indicate a 50% probability that your Diabetic Retinopathy was caused or aggravated by your Type 2 Diabetes (your service-connected condition). Ask your doctor to support the connection with recognized medical text.
If your claim was denied based on an opinion from a VA doctor, consider using a private doctor for your appeal. VA’s doctrine of the benefit of the doubt must give equal weight to a VA physician’s negative opinion, and your private doctor’s positive opinion provided it shows to be of equal merit.
If you do not feel that VA’s decision regarding your secondary service connection fully considered the credibility of the medical evidence you provided, you should seriously consider appealing the decision.
Other Examples of Diabetes-Related Secondary Service-Connected Conditions
Medical evidence supports that the following conditions may also result from Type 2 Diabetes:
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Autonomic neuropathy
Confirm That Your VA Benefits Appeal Contains These Three Required Elements
It is possible that VA denied your diabetic retinopathy veterans benefits appeal or underrated your condition because the appeal did not contain all the required information.
Three Elements VA Requires for a Secondary Service Connection Appeal
Double-check that your appeal contains the following three elements:
- A current diagnosis of retinopathy
- An underlying service-connected condition which you believe led to or aggravated your retinopathy
- A medical “nexus” that connects your underlying service-connected condition with your retinopathy diagnosis.
Appealing Your Denied Claim or Underrated Condition for Diabetic Retinopathy
A veterans’ disability advocate can take the complicated appeals process off your plate and let you rest assured that your appeal is being prepared and submitted in a way that will get you the benefits you need and deserve. Consider hiring a veterans’ disability advocacy group. Call (888) 373-4722 for more information.