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February 29, 2024

How to Maximize Your VA Disability for GERD!

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, veterans are eligible to receive VA disability for GERD at either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, or 80% depending on the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms and how those symptoms negatively impact your work, life, and social functioning.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a big problem for veterans.

In fact, GERD is among the Top 50 Most Common VA Claims.

Pro Tip: Under the new Diagnostic Code (DC) 7206 for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), veterans are eligible for ratings of either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, or 80%. In my opinion, this change is bad because the new rating criteria for GERD depends on “esophageal stricture” (difficulty swallowing) and doesn’t contain any of the most common symptoms of GERD, which is bonkers. I think this change will result in veterans getting lower ratings for GERD than under the previous ratings analogous to Hiatal Hernia.

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What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus).

This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus.

Many veterans experience GERD, often due to the stresses and dietary habits associated with their military service.

It’s also worth noting that GERD can be linked to other service-related health issues, such as PTSD or certain respiratory conditions, which may exacerbate symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of GERD include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which may worsen at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food particles or sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat

If you have nighttime GERD and acid reflux, you might also experience:

  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis
  • New or worsening asthma
  • Disrupted sleep and insomnia

What are the GERD VA Disability Ratings?

Historically, the VA rated GERD analogous to Hiatal Hernia, DC 7346, with ratings of 10%, 30%, or 60%.

But with the new digestive systems VA rating changes, GERD now has it’s own DC under 7206, with VA ratings of either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, or 80%.

Note: GERD and Acid Reflux are both rated under DC 7206, which is a new DC and rating criteria beginning May 19, 2024.

Here’s a detailed chart for how the VA rates GERD:

VA Ratings for GERD [Effective May 19, 2024]

DC 7206, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)VA Rating
Documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia with at least one of the symptoms present: (1) aspiration, (2) undernutrition, and/or (3) substantial weight loss as defined by § 4.112(a) and treatment with either surgical correction of esophageal stricture(s)  or percutaneous esophago-gastrointestinal tube (PEG tube).  80%
Documented history of recurrent or refractory esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia which requires at least one of the following (1) dilatation 3 or more times per year, (2) dilatation using steroids at least one time per year, or (3) esophageal stent placement.50%
Documented history of recurrent esophageal stricture(s) causing dysphagia which requires dilatation no more than 2 times per year.30%
Documented history of esophageal stricture(s) that requires daily medications to control dysphagia otherwise asymptomatic.10%
Documented history without daily symptoms or requirement for daily medications.  0%
Note (#1): Findings must be documented by barium swallow, computerized tomography, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy 
Note (#2): Non-gastrointestinal complications of procedures should be rated under the appropriate system 
Note (#3): This diagnostic code applies, but is not limited to, esophagitis, mechanical or chemical; Mallory Weiss syndrome (bleeding at junction of esophagus and stomach due to tears) due to caustic ingestion of alkali or acid; drug-induced or infectious esophagitis due to Candida, virus, or other organism; idiopathic eosinophilic, or lymphocytic esophagitis; esophagitis due to radiation therapy; esophagitis due to peptic stricture; and any esophageal condition that requires treatment with sclerotherapy 
Note (#4): Recurrent esophageal stricture is defined as the inability to maintain target esophageal diameter beyond 4 weeks after the target diameter has been achieved 
Note (#5): Refractory esophageal stricture is defined as the inability to achieve target esophageal diameter despite receiving no fewer than 5 dilation sessions performed at 2-week intervals 

How Do I Maximize My VA Disability for GERD?

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

  • Gather Records and Documents: Collect all relevant medical records, including diagnosis reports, treatment history, and any correspondence related to your GERD. 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 GERD 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 GERD 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 GERD affects your ability to perform daily tasks and activities. This may include pain, sleep disturbances, increased sick leave, etc. Providing concrete examples of how GERD 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. Bad move. 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 GERD is negatively affecting you. For example, “My GERD is so severe that I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep because I have horrible acid reflux, chest pain, and arm and shoulder pain. These symptoms affect me daily and I must take regular prescription medications and over-the-counter antiacids. The other night I lost at least 4 hours of sleep because I had to sit upright in a chair to prevent me from throwing up.”
  • Review the DBQ for GERD: It’s a good idea to review the GERD DBQ before your exam. Be prepared to describe the onset and progression of your GERD symptoms over time, as well as any treatments you have pursued and their effectiveness.

Can GERD Be a Secondary Condition?

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

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

  • GERD Secondary to Asthma
  • GERD Secondary to Medications
  • GERD Secondary to Anxiety
  • GERD Secondary to Depression
  • GERD Secondary to PTSD
  • GERD Secondary to Weight Gain Obesity as Interim Link
  • Asthma Secondary GERD
  • Migraines Secondary to GERD
  • Sleep Apnea Secondary to GERD
  • Esophagitis and Barrett’s Esophagus Secondary to GERD

What About My Current VA Rating for GERD?

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

A reduction in evaluation of GERD will only occur if there is improvement in a disability sufficient to warrant a reduction under the former criteria (not the new criteria).

All VA claims for GERD 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.

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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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