Two conditions that a veteran can not have a separate VA rating for are GERD and IBS. This might be confusing since the symptoms affect the opposite sides of the GI tract. However, the Code of Federal Regulations Title 38 (hereafter, 38 CFR) has the codes set up, where specific conditions that can not each be rated. If both conditions were rated the veteran would be double-dipping into the VA money pot which can be referred to as pyramiding.
What Is Pyramiding?
Pyramiding is a VA term that means you can not be rated for the same symptoms twice. This rule applies to claims in all areas of the VA rating system. This rule makes it so that a veteran can only have one mental health rating. It makes sense when you think about mental health symptoms because it’s hard to separate symptoms and feelings of anxiety from that of depression. So, in this case, both anxiety and depression are combined and the VA rates the overall mental health of a veteran. It can be harder to accept this rule when it comes to physical conditions like GERD and IBS.
Symptoms for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a condition that mainly affects the upper GI track. GERD is rated under Hiatal Hernia in the VA’s eyes. Here is the Excerpt from the 38 CFR for Hiatal Hernia.
A veteran suffering from GERD might experience:
- Acid Reflux
- Painful Swallowing
- Chest/Shoulder Pain
- Feeling of food coming back up
- Bitter taste in mouth
Symptoms for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):
IBS is rated under the Diagnostic Code (7319). See Excerpt below.
A veteran experiencing IBS might have the following symptoms:
- Gut Grumbling
- Changes in Bowel Movements
- Excessive Gas
- Might be Unable to Control Bowel Movements
Can I file for both GERD and IBS?
If you are not currently rated for either condition and you suffer from both, you can file for both at the same time. The VA should evaluate both the GERD and IBS conditions. Take the time to write a lay statement for each condition. Explain what symptoms you have and what medications or diet changes you use to treat your symptoms.
You may be wondering, ‘if I suffer from GERD and IBS, how will the VA decide which one to rate?’
After evaluating the VA should side with whatever condition warrants a higher rating. They can also combine the titles and give only one rating for the overall GI condition. For example, the VA might grant a 30% for “GERD with IBS symptoms.”
GERD and IBS can be very difficult conditions to live with. If you are not yet rated for either GI condition, think about filing for both and see what sticks.