The VA is offering new TBI exams to thousands of veterans who did not have their initial examination performed by either a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon, or neurologist. This action impacts more than 24,000 veterans and will ensure these veterans receive a proper initial TBI examination and a new rating decision. The VA is offering new initial TBI exams because it failed to follow its policy requiring that certain medical specialists conduct initial TBI examinations.
On May 18, 2016, in Hudgens v. McDonald, the Federal Circuit ruled that partial knee joint replacements qualify for ratings under Diagnostic Code (DC) 5055, which is the diagnostic code that grants a temporary 100% rating for the year following a knee joint replacement, and then a minimum 30% rating thereafter. This is a great outcome for veterans undergoing partial knee replacement surgery, because prior to this ruling, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims had ruled that DC 5055 applied only to total knee joint replacements.
The veteran in this case, Mr. Hudgens, applied for a temporary 100 percent rating under DC 5055 after he underwent a partial knee replacement on his service-connected knee. The VA denied his claim stating that DC 5055 applied only to total knee replacements, not partial knee replacements.
Secretary McDonald recently revealed more details regarding VA’s plan to expand disability compensation eligibility to veterans who were exposed to contaminated water while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, including Reserve and National Guard personnel who would not normally be eligible for VA disability compensation benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with chemicals such as perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene from leaking storage tanks. ATSDR also determined prolonged exposure to those chemicals increases the risk of certain health conditions.
A “total disability rating based on individual unemployability,” often referred to as TDIU, IU, or individual unemployability, is an avenue for the VA to compensate a veteran who can’t work due to service-connected disabilities at the 100% rate when the veteran’s disabilities do not actually combine to 100%.
The VA announced on Monday that it is beginning the process to amend its regulations and establish presumptive service connection for certain conditions from exposure to contaminated drinking water at U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The VA already provides health care services to veterans who have any of 15 conditions and who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, but the new regulations will permit veterans to receive disability compensation.