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March 21, 2024

How to Maximize Your VA Disability for IBS!

Last updated on March 22, 2024

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

Effective May 19, 2024, under the new name for DC 7319, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), veterans will be eligible to receive VA disability for IBS ranging from 10% to 30% with a break at 20%.

Your final IBS VA rating depends on the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms and how those symptoms negatively impact your work, life, and social functioning.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a big problem for veterans.

So much so that IBS is among the Top 50 Most Common VA Disability Claims.

Okay, let’s discuss the new VA rating criteria for IBS.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic disorder in veterans affecting the large intestine (colon).

It is characterized by a group of symptoms that occur together, including abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, and changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or both.

The exact cause of IBS is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including abnormal intestinal contractions, hypersensitivity to stimuli in the gastrointestinal tract, inflammation, changes in gut microbiota, and alterations in the communication between the brain and the gut (known as the gut-brain axis).

Triggers for IBS symptoms can vary widely among individuals and may include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and infections.

Symptoms of IBS can range from mild to severe and may fluctuate over time.

They commonly include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort: Often relieved by having a bowel movement.
  • Bloating: A feeling of fullness or distension in the abdomen.
  • Changes in bowel habits: These may include diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. Some individuals may experience alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
  • Excessive gas (flatulence)
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Feeling of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
  • Fatigue and disturbed sleep, often due to symptoms disrupting normal sleep patterns.

The diagnosis of IBS is typically made based on the presence of characteristic symptoms and the absence of alarm features (such as unintentional weight loss, blood in the stool, or family history of certain gastrointestinal conditions) that would indicate a need for further evaluation to rule out other potential causes.

Management of IBS often involves a combination of dietary modifications, stress management techniques, lifestyle changes, and medications to alleviate specific symptoms such as antispasmodics for abdominal pain or laxatives for constipation.

What is the VA Rating for IBS?

The old VA ratings for IBS ranged from 0% to 30% with a break at 10%, and were rated by analogy under DC 7319, Irritable Colon Syndrome. 

However, the VA recently made major updates to VA ratings for the digestive system.

The 0% non-compensable rating for IBS was removed in this update; the new minimum compensable rating for IBS is now 10%.

Starting May 19, 2024, under the new name for DC 7319, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), veterans will be eligible for a VA rating ranging from 10% to 30% with a break at 20%.

DC 7319, Irritable Bowel Syndrome VA Rating Criteria

  • 30% VA Rating for IBS: Abdominal pain related to defecation at least one day per week during the previous three months; and two or more of the following: (1) change in stool frequency, (2) change in stool form, (3) altered stool passage (straining and/or urgency), (4) mucorrhea, (5) abdominal bloating, or (6) subjective distension.
  • 20% VA Rating for IBS: Abdominal pain related to defecation for at least three days per month during the previous three months; and two or more of the following: (1) change in stool frequency, (2) change in stool form, (3) altered stool passage (straining and/or urgency), (4) mucorrhea, (5) abdominal bloating, or (6) subjective distension.
  • 10% VA Rating for IBS: Abdominal pain related to defecation at least once during the previous three months; and two or more of the following: (1) change in stool frequency, (2) change in stool form, (3) altered stool passage (straining and/or urgency), (4) mucorrhea, (5) abdominal bloating, or (6) subjective distension.

Note: This diagnostic code may include functional digestive disorders (see § 3.317 of this chapter), such as dyspepsia, functional bloating and constipation, and diarrhea. Evaluate other symptoms of a functional digestive disorder not encompassed by this diagnostic code under the appropriate diagnostic code, to include gastrointestinal dysmotility syndrome (DC 7356), following the general principles of § 4.14 and this section.

What About My Current VA Rating for IBS?

If you already have a VA rating for IBS there will be no change to your current VA rating; you are “grandfathered” in under the old rating criteria.

A reduction in evaluation will only occur if there is improvement in a disability sufficient to warrant a reduction under the former criteria.

All VA claims related to these digestive systems that were submitted and in “pending” status as of May 19, 2024, will be considered under both the old and new rating criteria, and whichever criteria is more favorable to the veteran will be applied.

How Do I Maximize My VA Disability for IBS?

Here are some tips to help you get a higher IBS VA rating:

  • Gather Records and Documents: Collect all relevant medical records, including diagnosis reports, treatment history, and any correspondence related to your IBS. This documentation will provide essential evidence to support your claim during the examination. Review your records and documents in detail before your C&P exam!
  • Create a Symptoms Diary: Keep a detailed log of your IBS symptoms, noting the frequency, severity, and duration of episodes. Document any factors that exacerbate or alleviate your symptoms, such as stress, spicy foods, or certain activities. This diary will help you articulate the impact of IBS on your work, life, and social functioning during the C&P exam. Remember, the more severe your symptoms, the higher the VA rating you’ll receive.
  • List Functional Impacts: Make a list of specific ways in which IBS affects your ability to perform daily tasks and activities. This may include pain, sleep disturbances, increased sick leave, etc. Providing concrete examples of how IBS negatively impacts your daily functioning will strengthen your case during the exam.
  • Tell the Examiner About Your Worst Days: In our experience, veterans tend to downplay their symptoms at the C&P exam. Please don’t do this! We know it’s tough, but this is your chance to explain how you are on your very worst days. Be sure to give the examiner some specific examples of how your IBS is negatively affecting you. For example, “My IBS is so severe that I struggle to maintain a normal routine due to constant abdominal pain, bloating, and unpredictable bowel habits. These symptoms impact me daily, making it difficult to concentrate at work or enjoy social activities. I often need to take prescription medications and over-the-counter remedies to manage my symptoms. Just last night, I was awakened multiple times by intense abdominal cramps and urgent bowel movements, leaving me exhausted and unable to get a restful night’s sleep.”
  • Review the DBQ for IBS: It’s a good idea to review the IBS DBQ before your exam. Be prepared to describe the onset and progression of your IBS symptoms over time, as well as any treatments you have pursued and their effectiveness.

Is IBS a Secondary Condition for VA Disability Benefits?

Yes, IBS is a very common secondary claim for secondary service connection.

Here’s a list of the 10 most common IBS secondary conditions:

  • IBS Secondary to Anxiety
  • IBS Secondary to Depression
  • IBS Secondary to PTSD
  • IBS Secondary to Stress and Mental Health Issues
  • IBS Secondary to Food Intolerances or Sensitivities
  • IBS Secondary to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • IBS Secondary to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
  • IBS Secondary to Gastrointestinal Infections
  • IBS Secondary to Hormonal Imbalances (e.g., menstrual cycle-related)
  • IBS Secondary to Medications (e.g., antibiotics, certain painkillers)

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About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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