If you’re struggling with anemia, it can sap your energy and make it difficult to complete even basic tasks. If you’re a veteran with anemia, you may wonder if you qualify for a VA disability rating for anemia. This guide explains how the VA rates anemia as well as what symptoms you need to qualify for a VA rating for anemia.
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What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition with insufficient healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. The most common symptoms of anemia are fatigue and weakness, but you may also experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or dizziness. If you struggle with anemia, it can sap your energy and make it difficult to complete even basic tasks.
There are several types of anemia, including Sickle Cell Anemia, Aplastic Anemia, Iron Deficiency Anemia, Pernicious Anemia, and Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia, Acquired Hemolytic Anemia, and Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia. Each type of anemia has its cause and treatment options.
Types of Amenia
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a disorder where the red blood cells that carry the oxygen become shaped like a sickle (or a boomerang). Because of this, they are not able to carry as much oxygen to the body, and they sometimes get stuck in small blood vessels, blocking the blood flow to the tissues. In many cases, this disease is present from birth and has no known cure.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia include fatigue, shortness of breath, and pain.
Aplastic anemia can be a life-threatening condition, that occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Without enough red blood cells, your organs and tissues can’t get the oxygen they need to function properly.
Aplastic anemia can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are often nonspecific. However, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following: fatigue that is severe or unexplained; shortness of breath; pallor; easy bruising or bleeding; or frequent infections.
Aplastic anemia can be caused by various factors, including certain medications, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Treatment for aplastic anemia typically includes blood transfusions and immune suppression therapy. In some cases, a bone marrow transplant may be necessary. Most people with aplastic anemia can lead active, productive lives with treatment.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a type of anemia caused by low levels of iron in the blood. Some causes include a lack of iron in your diet or blood loss.
To evaluate iron deficiency anemia can be tricky because the symptoms can be nonspecific. However, there are some key signs that doctors look for. The most common symptom of this condition is fatigue, which can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. In addition, iron deficiency anemia can also cause pale skin, cold hands, and feet, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headache.
If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can lead to serious health problems such as heart failure and stroke.
Pernicious Anemia and Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia
Pernicious anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency anemia are two types of anemia that vitamin deficiencies can cause.
Pernicious anemia is a type of anemia that occurs when the stomach lining is unable to absorb vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is necessary to produce red blood cells so a deficiency can lead to anemia. Pernicious anemia is more common in older adults and can be treated with vitamin B12 injections or supplements.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia can also occur when there is a lack of vitamin B12 in the diet. This type of anemia is most common in vegetarians or vegans who do not eat foods that contain vitamin B12, such as meat, poultry, eggs, or dairy products. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia can also occur in people with pernicious anemia or other conditions that make it difficult to absorb vitamin B12 from food. Treatment for this type of anemia typically includes taking oral vitamin B12 supplements or receiving injections of vitamin B12.
Acquired Hemolytic Anemia
Acquired hemolytic anemia is a type of anemia that can develop in response to a disease or exposure to certain medications. The most common symptoms of acquired hemolytic anemia are fatigue, shortness of breath, and pale skin.
This type of anemia can be particularly dangerous for veterans, leading to a weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infections.
Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia
This type of anemia is caused by low levels of folic acid in the blood. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps your body make red blood cells. If you don’t have enough red blood cells, you have anemia.
Symptoms of Anemia
Anemia can be caused by various factors, including blood loss, dietary deficiencies, and certain medical conditions.
While some people have no symptoms, others may experience chest pain, cold hands and feet, dizziness or lightheadedness, headaches, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and yellow or pale skin.
VA Rating for Anemia
VA disability benefits are available for veterans with anemia that is service-connected. To be service connected, the veteran must also show that the anemia began during active military service or was aggravated by military service.
If your anemia is caused or aggravated by another service-connected illness, it could also be service-connected on a secondary basis.
Anemia can be caused by many conditions, including folic acid deficiency, central nervous system impairment, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Treatment for anemia typically includes taking iron supplements and eating foods high in iron. In some cases, blood transfusions may be necessary.
Service Connection for Anemia
In order to establish service connection, you would need a diagnosis of the condition, an in-service event or aggravation, and a nexus linking those two.
Anemia is also recognized by the VA as a presumptive condition for qualifying veterans. In this case, VA “presumes” the condition to be service-connected, even if there’s no specific Nexus (meaning “link” or “connection”) for service connection.
Once service connection is established, the VA will evaluate your anemia severity using a disability rating system. If you are found to be disabled by your anemia, you may be entitled to receive VA benefits for anemia (including monthly compensation and access to VA health care).
Qualifying for an Anemia VA Rating
Veterans must provide evidence of how the condition has impacted their ability to work or live a normal life. In most cases, this will involve documenting symptoms such as fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.
Veterans who provide this evidence may qualify for a partial or total VA disability for anemia. The benefits awarded will depend on the severity of the condition and the veteran’s ability to work.
VA Disability Rating for Anemia
Once you have established that your anemia is service-connected, the next step is to determine what level of disability rating you qualify for.
There are several types of anemia, and the VA disability rating for each type depends on the severity of the condition. Each of the anemia has its own diagnostic code: 7714: Sickle cell anemia; 7716: Aplastic anemia; 7720: Iron deficiency anemia; 7722: Pernicious anemia and Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia; 7723: Acquired hemolytic anemia; 7721: Folic acid deficiency anemia.
Sickle cell anemia is rated at 10%, 30%, 60%, or 100%, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
- 10% – The 10% rating is the least severe and is given to veterans who have entered remission and are asymptomatic but have sustained organ impairment.
- 30% – The 30% rating is for a veteran with one to two pain episodes within 12 months.
- 60% – The 60% rating is given if the veteran has three or more pain symptoms in a 12-month period or pain that prevents even light manual labor.
- 100% – The veteran must have at least four pain episodes within 12 months to be given a 100% rating. The pain must prevent light labor and can occur in major organs, skin, bones, and/or joints.
Aplastic anemia is rated at 30%, 60%, or 100%.
- 30% – At the 30% rating level, you require an infusion of platelets or red blood cells or have an infection at least once in 12 months.
- 60% – At the 60% rating level, you require an infusion of platelets or red blood cells or have an infection at least once every 90 days for 12 months. You may also use continuous therapy with an immunosuppressant agent.
- 100% – At the 100% rating level, you require an infusion of platelets or red blood cells or have an infection at least once every six weeks over 12 months.
Iron deficiency anemia is rated at 0%, 10%, or 30%.
- 0% – Asymptomatic or requiring treatment only by dietary modification
- 10% – Requiring intravenous iron infusions at least 1 time but less than 4 times per 12-month period, or requiring continuous treatment with oral supplementation
- 30% – Requiring intravenous iron infusions 4 or more times per 12-month period
Pernicious anemia and Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia are rated at 10% or 100%.
- 10% – If you require continuous treatment with vitamin B injections, vitamin B12 sublingual or high-dose oral tablets, or nasal spray, you may be eligible for a 10% disability rating.
- 100% – If your condition is more severe and you require a transfusion due to severe anemia or have central nervous system impairment including peripheral neuropathy, myelopathy, or encephalopathy. In that case, you may be eligible for a 100% disability rating.
Acquired hemolytic anemia is rated at 0%, 10%, 30%, 60%, or 100%, depending on the severity of the symptoms.
- 0% – Asymptomatic
- 10% – Requiring one course of immunosuppressive therapy per 12-month period
- 30% – Requiring at least 2 but less than 4 courses of immunosuppressive therapy per 12-month period
- 60% – Requiring immunosuppressive medication 4 or more times per 12-month period
- 100% – Requiring a bone marrow transplant or continuous intravenous or immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., prednisone, Cytoxan, azathioprine, or rituximab)
Folic acid deficiency anemia is rated at 0% or 10%.
- 0% – If it doesn’t cause any symptoms or can be easily controlled by diet, then it is rated 0%.
- 10% – If it requires you to continuously take high doses of folic acid supplements, it is rated 10%.
If you are disabled by anemia, getting a formal evaluation from a VA-certified doctor is important to get the anemia VA disability rating you deserve.
What Type of Anemia Is Associated With Chronic Kidney Disease?
There are various types of anemia, each with its underlying cause. Anemia associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD) is typically caused by a combination of factors, including decreased production of erythropoietin (a hormone that regulates red blood cell production) and iron deficiency.
In CKD patients, these factors can decrease the number of healthy red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Symptoms of CKD-related anemia may include fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
If left untreated, anemia can lead to serious complications like heart problems and organ failure. While there is no cure for CKD, early diagnosis and treatment of anemia can help to improve symptoms and prevent complications.
How Is Anemia Secondary to Chronic Kidney Disease Treated?
Treatment for this type of anemia typically involves using erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, which help increase the body’s production of red blood cells. In some cases, blood transfusions may also be necessary.
In addition, patients with CKD-related anemia may need to take iron supplements to ensure that their bodies have enough iron to produce red blood cells. With proper treatment, anemia secondary to CKD can be controlled and the symptoms alleviated.
Getting Help with Your Anemia VA Disability Claim
At VA Claims Insider, we’re here to walk you through everything you need to know, including how to file your VA claims. We hope this guide has been helpful. Remember, if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us for support.
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