Over the years, we’ve seen claims for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) get denied as it can be a challenging illness to prove as service-connected. On the other hand, if it is approved, more often than not, the rating doesn’t get the maximum allowable limit. In this blog, we will explain the effects of IBS, its causes and triggers, and how to get your claim for IBS approved as service-connected.
What is IBS?
The Mayo Clinic defines irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. IBS is a chronic illness that is managed by one over a long period.
What are the causes of IBS?
While the exact cause of IBS may still be unknown, the following are the factors that may be part of this illness.
Muscle contractions in the intestine
Contractions that are stronger and last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
Abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool.
Inflammation in the intestines
Some people with IBS have an increased number of immune-system cells in their intestines. This immune-system response is associated with pain and diarrhea.
IBS can develop after a severe bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus. IBS might also be associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).
Changes in bacteria in the gut (microflora)
Microflora is the “good” bacteria that reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Research indicates that microflora in people with IBS might differ from microflora in healthy people. (Mayo Clinic)
IBS may be triggered by
The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood. Many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and carbonated drinks.
Most people with IBS experience worse or more frequent signs and symptoms during periods of increased stress. However, while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn’t cause them.
Women are twice as likely to have IBS, which might indicate that hormonal changes play a role. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods. (Mayo Clinic website)
The second trigger – Stress, is the most common trigger experienced by all veterans. It is a widely known fact that most of our veterans that have war experiences have been deployed to war-torn countries, and those who were deeply affected by bloody encounters, often have PTSD.
In many cases, these veterans suffer from IBS – secondary to PTSD. That is why our veterans need to get examined by a physician who has experience in relating IBS to PTSD. Even if the provider is not familiar with the connection between these two conditions, the veteran should at least inform their doctor of the IBS and PTSD so that way it can get it documented as a probable factor.
Because the actual causes of IBS are still somewhat unknown, it is deemed as one of those “chronic multi-symptom illness.”
According to the VA Regulation 8 CFR § 3.317: Gulf War Veterans are generally entitled to service connection for “medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness.” While this regulation, though it says it’s for Gulf War veterans, may well be applied to those who served in other conflict-stricken countries where America was involved in, like the Vietnam war.
This provision of the VA regulation only proves that IBS, even if it cannot be explained, is recognized by the VA and can be approved as a service-connected disability. However, many VA examiners miss this essential provision of this regulation, thus, resulting in a not service-connected for IBS. Also, it is not automatic that you receive the highest rating for IBS. Like all conditions, IBS is rated depending on the severity of the illness, determined by the VA, ranging from 0% to 30%. This is where the need to consult and allow the VA Claims Insider Elite Program’s Veteran Claims Experts (VCE), come into play.
We have expert VCEs that can ably assist veteran suffering from IBS, file for a disability claim due to this. Our VCEs are well equipped with the knowledge and expertise to see the veteran winning service-connection for the condition and getting it rated at the proper severity. We investigate all angles and possibilities that will prove that a veteran is suffering from service-connected IBS. With thorough research and planning, we have managed to have a high success rate when it comes to having claims for IBS approved by the VA.