doctor holding tablet with illustration of kidneysYour kidneys are two fist-sized organs that filter waste and excess fluid from your blood. All of that waste material gets flushed out in your urine to prevent a buildup of that waste in your system. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys can no longer filter the blood the way they’re supposed to. When you lose kidney function, you can face serious medical problems, including kidney failure.

There are two types of kidney disease: acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure or injury typically occurs after an illness, use of drugs, or an injury and is usually reversible. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is not reversible and will eventually result in kidney failure.

Approximately 7.7% of veterans are diagnosed with CKD each year, and the occurrence of CKD in veterans is approximately 34% greater than in the general public. If your kidney disease was a result of your time in the military, you might be eligible for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Known as a “silent” killer, CKD isn’t easy to detect because the signs and symptoms for this condition often occur very late in the process, and damage to the kidney has already occurred. Veterans in the early stages of CKD are usually not aware that they have this condition. However, there are signs and symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor, including:

  • Changes in urination. You may feel the need to urinate more often, see blood in your urine, or experience urine that is bubbly or foamy.
  • Loss of appetite. You may feel too sick, tired, or full to eat due to the toxin buildup caused by damaged kidneys.
  • Feet and ankle swelling. If your kidneys can’t eliminate excess fluid and salt from your system, you may experience swelling in some of your extremities.
  • Itchy skin. This is a sign that your blood may have an imbalance of nutrients and minerals. High blood levels of phosphorus can cause itchy skin.
  • Weakness and fatigue. When toxins build up in your blood, you may feel less energetic or excessively tired. CKD may cause anemia—when your blood does not have enough red blood cells—causing you to feel weak.
  • Eye puffiness. This is an early sign of CKD. Puffiness around your eyes can be caused by protein leaking into your urine.

How the VA Rates Kidney Disease

The VA rates kidney disease under 4115a, Ratings of the genitourinary system—dysfunctions and separates the criteria for this condition into the following five disability ratings:

  • 100%. Requiring regular dialysis, or precluding more than sedentary activity from one of the following: persistent edema and albuminuria; or, BUN more than 80mg%; or, creatinine more than 8mg%; or, markedly decreased function of kidney or other organ systems; especially cardiovascular.
  • 80%. Persistent edema and albuminuria with BUN 40 to 80mg%; or creatinine 4 to 8mg%; or generalized poor health characterized by lethargy, weakness, anorexia, weight loss, or limitation of exertion.
  • 60%. Constant albuminuria with some edema; or, definite decrease in kidney function; or hypertension at least 40% disabling under DC 7101.
  • 30%. Albumin constant or recurring with hyaline and granular casts or red blood cells; or transient or slight edema or hypertension at least 10% disabling under DC 7101.
  • 0%. Albumin and casts with acute nephritis; or hypertension non-compensable under DC 7101.

Kidney Disease as a Secondary Condition

Most kidney diseases are secondary conditions caused by diabetes and high blood pressure. Thus, the occurrence of CKD in veterans is high, as many veterans are diagnosed with these two conditions. High blood pressure can cause inflammation in parts of the kidney, and both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can cause kidney failure. Diabetes can create scarring in parts of the kidneys and cause them to begin leaking albumin. If the kidneys are scarred beyond repair, patients face kidney failure.

Both diabetes and high blood pressure are common service-connected disabilities. Thus, if a veteran can prove that they suffered kidney infections as a result of their military service conditions or were exposed to Agent Orange during service, which is known to cause Type 2 diabetes and is included on the VA’s presumptive conditions list, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Contact Cuddigan Law

If you are seeking VA disability benefits for CKD or your benefits claim has been denied, contact the legal team of Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help document your kidney disease with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. If your CKD is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.