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The GERD VA Claim: How to File and What to Expect

Last updated: January 31, 2024

Understand that GERD, with symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation, is a common and impactful condition in the veteran community, often linked to military service.[1]

Establishing a service connection is essential for a GERD VA claim, requiring evidence that links GERD to military service, such as stress or dietary changes during deployment.

Gather all relevant medical records, including military and civilian records, which document your GERD diagnosis, treatment, and responses to treatments.

Choose the most suitable method for submitting your claim, whether online, by mail, or in person, using VA Form 21-526EZ, and attach all necessary evidence.[2]

Be prepared for a thorough review by the VA, which may take weeks to months, and involves an examination of your medical records and personal statements.

Are you a veteran grappling with the discomforts of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)? You're not alone. This chronic condition, known for its unwelcome heartburn and regurgitation, might be more than just a daily nuisance - it could be a service-connected health issue. Navigating the VA claim process for GERD might seem daunting, but it's a path towards getting the support and recognition you deserve. 

In this guide, we'll walk you through the essentials of filing a GERD VA claim, from understanding your eligibility to what you can expect during the review process. So, if GERD has been a lingering companion since your days in service, it's time to take action and learn how you can claim the benefits meant for you.

1. Understanding GERD in Veterans

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common condition among veterans, characterized by the backflow of stomach acids into the esophagus, leading to various uncomfortable symptoms. Its prevalence in the veteran population is noteworthy, often linked to unique aspects of military service.

  • Symptoms and Impact: The primary symptoms of GERD include persistent heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing. These symptoms can lead to discomfort, pain, and other complications like esophagitis. In severe cases, GERD can significantly disrupt sleep and daily activities, affecting a veteran's quality of life.[1]
  • Service-Related Causes: For many veterans, GERD is not just a health condition; it's a lingering effect of their service. Factors like prolonged stress, dietary habits during deployment, and exposure to certain environments can contribute to the development of GERD. Additionally, GERD can also manifest as a secondary condition linked to other service-connected issues such as PTSD, where medication side effects or stress-related behaviors exacerbate GERD

Understanding GERD's implications is crucial for veterans, as it underscores the importance of seeking appropriate treatment and recognizing the condition as potentially service-connected. This acknowledgment is the first step towards managing the condition and seeking VA benefits.

2. Eligibility for a GERD VA Claim

To establish eligibility for VA disability compensation for GERD, veterans need to meet specific criteria, which helps the VA determine the connection and severity of the condition.

  • Current Diagnosis Requirement: A cornerstone of the claim is a current and formal diagnosis of GERD made by a qualified healthcare professional. This diagnosis should be based on typical symptoms, and may include clinical evaluations like endoscopy or pH monitoring tests, to confirm the presence and severity of GERD.
  • Proving In-Service Connection: Demonstrating that GERD is related to military service is a crucial part of the claim. This may involve linking the onset or aggravation of GERD to specific events or conditions during service. Veterans should gather and submit any relevant medical or service records, including any documentation of gastrointestinal problems during service, or statements that can help establish this connection.
  • Documenting the Severity of Symptoms: The VA also considers how GERD impacts a veteran's daily life and health. Detailed records and descriptions of how GERD affects daily routines, work capacity, and overall well-being are essential. This includes information on frequency and intensity of symptoms, any dietary restrictions, medication requirements, and how these factors impair the veteran's normal functioning.

3. Gathering Medical Statement and Supporting Evidence

Fast Facts

A current, formal diagnosis of GERD from a healthcare professional is crucial for your claim, based on symptoms and clinical evaluations.

Filing a claim for GERD with the Veterans Affairs (VA) requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Here are the evidence you will need to ensure a successful outcome of your VA claim.

Gather Medical Evidence

  • Comprehensive Medical Records: Your claim should include all relevant medical records related to GERD. This includes documentation from the time of service (if applicable) and current records. Key elements are diagnostic tests (like endoscopy reports), treatment records (including medications prescribed), and any notes on hospital visits or consultations with gastroenterologists.
  • Details of Treatment and Response: Include details of the treatments you've undergone for GERD and your response to these treatments. This can demonstrate the persistence or severity of your condition over time.
  • Secondary Conditions: If GERD has led to other health issues, such as esophageal damage, or if it's a secondary condition resulting from another service-connected disability (like PTSD), include documentation for these conditions as well.

Personal Statements

  • Veteran's Statement: Write a detailed personal statement that describes your GERD symptoms, the impact on your daily life, and any connections you perceive between your military service and the onset or worsening of GERD. Be as specific as possible about how GERD affects your ability to perform daily tasks, work duties, and social interactions.
  • Buddy Statements: Consider including statements from fellow service members, family, or friends who can corroborate your health condition. They can provide observations on how GERD has affected you over time, especially if they have witnessed your struggles during or after your service.

4. Submitting Your GERD VA Claim

Fast Facts

Personal and buddy statements are vital, providing insight into how GERD affects your daily life and corroborating medical evidence.

Once you have gathered all necessary medical evidence and personal statements, the next step is to formally submit your GERD claim to the Veterans Affairs (VA). This process is crucial, as it sets in motion the official review and decision regarding your claim. Here’s how you can proceed:

Choose the Right Submission Method

  • Online Submission: The most efficient and recommended way to submit your claim is through the VA's eBenefits portal. This platform allows for a streamlined submission process and easier tracking of your claim status.
  • Mail Submission: If you prefer, you can mail your completed claim form and accompanying documents. Ensure that you have all the correct addresses and that your documents are copied for your records.
  • In-Person Submission: You can also file your claim in person at a VA office. This option can be beneficial if you require assistance or immediate confirmation of your submission.

Filling Out the VA Form 21-526EZ:

This form is the standard Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. Fill it out carefully, ensuring all information about your GERD condition, including onset, severity, and impact on your life, is accurately represented.[2]

Attach all your gathered evidence, including medical records, personal and buddy statements, to this form before submission.

5. The Claim Review Process

fter submitting your claim, ensure you receive a confirmation of receipt from the VA. This can be an automatic confirmation if submitted online, or a mailed receipt if submitted by post.

Once received, the VA will review your claim, which includes evaluating your medical evidence and the information provided in your application. This process can take several weeks to months, depending on the complexity of your case and the VA's workload.

The Evaluation Process

During the evaluation process of a GERD VA claim, the VA thoroughly reviews all your medical records, including those from both military and civilian healthcare providers. They focus on the details of your GERD diagnosis, treatment history, and how consistently and severely the symptoms have affected you. 

Additionally, your personal statement and any buddy statements are examined to understand the everyday impact of GERD on your life. If GERD is related to another service-connected disability like PTSD, the VA also assesses how these conditions are linked, especially if GERD symptoms are worsened by treatments or stress from the primary condition.

Decision and Notification

After reviewing all the evidence, the VA will make a decision. If your GERD is determined to be service-connected, the VA will assign a disability rating based on the severity of your condition. This rating affects the amount of compensation you receive.

You will be notified of the VA's decision through a letter. This notification will detail the VA's findings, your disability rating, and the amount of benefits you are eligible for.

It’s important to understand the VA's rating decision. The rating is based on how GERD affects your ability to function, particularly in terms of work and daily activities. If your GERD is less severe and less frequent, you might receive a lower rating. Conversely, more severe and frequent symptoms leading to greater life disruption may result in a higher rating.

6. Final Steps and Appeals

If you agree with the VA's decision, you can proceed with receiving your benefits. However, if you disagree, you have the right to appeal. The appeal process allows you to present new evidence or argue for a higher rating. In any case, staying informed and proactive throughout this process is key to effectively managing your GERD VA claim.

Final Words: Successfully Managing Your GERD VA Claim Journey

In conclusion, navigating the GERD VA claim process can be a comprehensive journey, but understanding each step makes it manageable. From recognizing GERD's impact on your life to meticulously preparing and submitting your claim, this guide aims to help veterans approach their GERD VA claim with confidence. Remember, the key is in the details: accurate medical records, personal insights, and a clear demonstration of the service connection are crucial. Whether you're at the start of filing your claim or awaiting a decision, knowing what to expect can make all the difference in achieving a favorable outcome.

Learn the essential steps to increase your VA disability rating. Read our guide to discover how to navigate the process effectively and secure the benefits you deserve.

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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