What Is Vertigo?
Vertigo is a symptom, rather than a condition itself, that causes someone to feel that their environment is moving or spinning around them. The feeling can range from barely noticeable to severely debilitating, sometimes becoming so severe that individuals with chronic vertigo are unable to maintain their balance or do everyday tasks. Attacks of vertigo can occur suddenly and can last for a few seconds or much longer depending on the condition causing the vertigo. Some other symptoms that can occur alongside vertigo are:
- Loss of balance
- Feeling sick or being sick
The most common cause of vertigo is a disruption with the way balance works in the inner ear, although problems in certain areas of the brain can also cause a similar sensation. The most common causes of vertigo among veterans are:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – occurs when tiny calcium particles (i.e. canaliths) build up in the vestibular canals of the inner ear, making it difficult for the body to recognize whether it is sitting, standing, or laying down
- Meniere’s disease – an inner ear condition thought to be caused by build up of fluid and changing pressure. It is also heavily associated with hearing loss.
- Vestibular neuritis (inflammation of the vestibular nerve) or labyrinthitis (an inner ear infection)
- Residual symptoms from a traumatic brain injury (TBI)
How The VA Rates Vertigo
As mentioned earlier, the severity of vertigo can range from relatively mild to completely debilitating depending on what condition is causing the vertigo. Under the VA’s disability rating system, both conditions causing vertigo and vertigo itself are subject to a VA schedular disability rating. Under 38 CFR § 4.87, vertigo (i.e. peripheral vestibular disorders) and Meniere’s disease are rated as follows:
Diagnostic Code 6204 Peripheral vestibular disorders:
- 30 – Dizziness and occasional staggering
- 10 – Occasional dizziness
Note: Objective findings supporting the diagnosis of vestibular disequilibrium are required before a compensable evaluation can be assigned under this code. Hearing impairment or suppuration shall be separately rated and combined.
Diagnostic Code 6205 Meniere’s syndrome (endolymphatic hydrops):
- 100 – Hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring more than once weekly, with or without tinnitus
- 60 – Hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring from one to four times a month, with or without tinnitus
- 30 – Hearing impairment with vertigo less than once a month, with or without tinnitus
As seen above, the maximum schedular disability rating for vertigo is only 30 percent. Given the severe impact vertigo can have on a veteran’s life, this maximum rating does not always provide enough compensation. However, veterans who are unable to work or maintain a substantially gainful occupation as a result of their vertigo are eligible to receive a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating. This rating provides veterans with compensation at the 100 percent rate regardless of their total schedular disability rating.
Getting Service Connected For Vertigo
The most important evidence veterans can provide to the VA when developing their vertigo claim is medical records. Ideally, these records will show that (1) the veteran was diagnosed with or started exhibiting symptoms of vertigo in service or (2) the veteran was diagnosed with or started exhibiting symptoms of vertigo within one year of discharge from the military. Even if the veteran does not have medical records satisfying either of the circumstances above, it is still useful for the VA to have all treatment records regarding the veteran’s vertigo in order to determine the severity of the vertigo. It is also likely that the VA will send the veteran to a Compensation and Pension (C&P) to have his or her vertigo evaluated by a VA examiner. The VA will use that C&P report in addition to any other evidence the veteran submits to determine the severity of the veteran’s vertigo for rating purposes.
Additional helpful evidence for the veteran’s claim could include service personnel records, which would provide the VA with information regarding the veteran’s military occupational specialty (MOS), location of service, and any incident reports which involved the veteran. This type of information is important because it could help the VA determine if the veteran’s vertigo was caused by an in service TBI-causing incident, if the veteran was consistently exposed to loud sounds that could damage the inner ear, or other similar circumstances that could have caused the veteran’s vertigo.
Help With Your Vertigo Claim
If you or someone you know is a veteran seeking assistance getting service connection for his or her vertigo, or would like help applying for a TDIU rating due to their vertigo, please contact our office today. Our veteran’s disability lawyers have ample experience helping veterans with vertigo get the compensation they are entitled to.