Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition with an uncommonly big name. That is why it is usually referred to by its acronym GERD. GERD occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus. This dangerous situation can lead to a painful erosion of the lining of the esophagus which can cause ulcers and it can increase the risk of cancer.

A separate but related condition is a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach moves up into the chest through a small opening in the diaphragm. A hiatial hernia can cause GERD, but the reverse is not true. GERD cannot cause a hiatal hernia. There is no specific VA rating for GERD. It is rated under the diagnostic code for hiatal hernia.

You can be awarded VA disability benefits for a hiatal hernia or GERD, but winning your case can be challenging. For all VA disability cases you must show a direct service connection—that is that your military service caused or aggravated your impairment. To show a direct service connection for a hiatal hernia or GERD it is helpful if you can show with medical records that you were diagnosed with the condition while on active duty. Another way to satisfy the direct connection requirement is a statement from medical expert that your condition began during your service and has continued since.

Many veterans have been awarded benefits for GERD as a secondary VA disability claim. You’re eligible for secondary disability benefits if your illness or injury has caused another different and separate impairment. For example, GERD can be a secondary condition to PTSD, because the medications to manage PTSD symptoms can cause GERD. Other medications for other conditions can also cause GERD. A secondary disability claim can sometimes be an easier path for obtaining benefits rather than trying to establish a service connection for GERD itself.

If you are seeking VA disability benefits for GERD or any other service-related illness or injury, we can help you navigate the complex VA disability process including guidance on how to establish a secondary VA disability claim. Contact us for a free evaluation of your situation. At Cuddigan Law you have a team of professionals on your side who will fight for your rights.



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska