What are Seizures?

Seizures are a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells (i.e. neurons) that cause temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movement (such as twitching or convulsing), behaviors, states of awareness, or sensations. Seizures are not all alike and can be a single event due to an acute cause, like a medication. When someone experiences recurring seizures, this is known as epilepsy. Epilepsy can be congenital, meaning it is caused by genetic factors, or it can be acquired, such as through a trauma brain injury (TBI) or stroke. Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) due to TBI is one of the most common causes of epilepsy among veterans. 

There are two types of epileptic seizures, along with several subtypes:

  • Focal seizures start in one part of the brain and spread to other areas and can be mild to severe depending on how much of the brain becomes involved.
  • Generalized-onset seizures are surges of abnormal nerve discharges throughout the cortex of the brain at the same time. There are several types of generalized-onset seizures:
    • Absence seizures (“petit mal seizures”) cause brief staring episodes in children. Juvenile absence epilepsy can persist into adulthood, with some people developing tonic-clonic seizures in addition to absence seizures as they age.
    • Myoclonic seizures consist of sudden body or limb jerks that can involve the arms, head and neck.
    • Tonic and atonic seizures (“drop attacks”) consist of a sudden stiffness in the arms and body, which can cause falls and injuries.
    • Tonic, Clonic and Tonic-clonic (formerly Grand Mal) seizures can evolve from focal or generalized seizure types. These seizures cause loss of consciousness and phases of tonic (stiffening) and clonic (twitching or jerking) muscle activity.

Psychological factors can also play a role in causing seizures, though not of the epileptic type. Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) are episodes of movement, behaviors, or sensations that are similar to epileptic seizures but do not have a neurologic origin. Rather, they are somatic manifestations of psychological distress. According to one study, PNES were identified in 25 percent of veterans admitted to epilepsy monitoring units (EMU) at a single VAMC over a 10 year period.

How The VA Rates Major And Minor Seizures

Under 38 CFR § 4.124a, the VA rates both grand mal (DC 8910) and petit mal (DC 8911) epilepsy under the general rating formula for major and minor seizures. PNES seizures are also evaluated under this rating schedule, but only as secondary to the psychological condition causing the seizures, such as PTSD or major depressive disorder.

General Rating Formula for Major and Minor Epileptic Seizures:

  • 100 – Averaging at least 1 major seizure per month over the last year
  • 80 – Averaging at least 1 major seizure in 3 months over the last year; or more than 10 minor seizures weekly
  • 60 – Averaging at least 1 major seizure in 4 months over the last year; or 9-10 minor seizures per week
  • 40 – At least 1 major seizure in the last 6 months or 2 in the last year; or averaging at least 5 to 8 minor seizures weekly
  • 20 – At least 1 major seizure in the last 2 years; or at least 2 minor seizures in the last 6 months
  • 10 – A confirmed diagnosis of epilepsy with a history of seizures

No matter the frequency of the seizures, if continuous medication is shown necessary to control the veteran’s epilepsy, the minimum schedular disability rating will be 10 percent. If the veteran has both major and minor seizure types, the VA will rate the predominating type. The VA will also not distinguish between diurnal and nocturnal seizures during evaluation.

Getting Assistance With Your Seizures Disorder Claim

If you are a veteran seeking help with your VA claim for your seizure disorder, please contact our office today. Our experienced veterans disability attorneys are ready to help you get the compensation that you deserve.