At the beginning of March, we reported that the VA had made public their Proposed Changes to the Ratings for the Female Reproductive System. Full details about their proposed changes can be found in that article.
Whenever the VA makes changes like this, they always allow for comments on the proposed changes. We asked for feedback from you, our veterans, so that we could compile and submit a report detailing the main issues that you brought up. We had many people participate and submit comments, and we are excited to now report that we have submitted the following comments to the VA.
Thank you to all who replied. There were many great circumstances and arguments raised, and we feel that there is a good chance that our comments could make changes to the laws and have a hand in ensuring more fair and accurate ratings for our female veterans. We hope to be able to soon report a successful outcome after the VA has taken all comments into consideration and made the final ruling on the proposed changes. We’ll keep you updated.
The VA is rewriting the entire VASRD over the course of 2015 (it will most likely spill into 2016 as well), so many more opportunities will be coming to comment and make your voice be heard. As soon as each section of proposed changes is published, we’ll get a blog up and invite comments, so check back regularly to make sure that you have the chance to make a difference in your life and the lives of other disabled veterans.
Here is the report we filed with the VA in full:
As a national veterans’ organization, we at www.MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.comhave the great opportunity to interact with a large number of disabled veterans, many of which are female. After blogging about the proposed changes to the Gynecological Conditions and Disorders of the Breast, we received numerous comments and opinions about the proposed changes. The following comments are compilations of the main issues our veterans brought to our attention. Thank you for taking our comments into consideration.
We would like to propose adding a new code or adjusting the proposed codes to include infertility due to the loss or loss of use of other organs besides the uterus and ovaries. While the uterus and ovaries provide the main source of female reproductive capabilities, the malfunctioning of other parts of the female reproductive system can also cause similar outcomes and significantly affect the ability of a woman to conceive and bear children.
While the use of analogous ratings could provide fair ratings for veterans, we have been familiarized with the stories of many veterans who have been denied a fair rating because of this flaw in the VASRD rating criteria.
In one particular instance, a veteran developed a severe infection while on active duty that resulted in the removal of one fallopian tube and the complete loss of use of the other. She was declared infertile at age 19. After leaving the military, she applied for disability benefits, but was only awarded a 0% rating under code 7614 for injury of the fallopian tubes. The rating criteria under this code only provides a compensable rating if there are active symptoms, but doesn’t take into account the loss of reproductive abilities. Looking at the codes (7617 – 7620) for loss or loss of use of the uterus or ovaries, the minimum rating for a condition that causes infertility is 20%. This rating does not take into account any symptoms at all, just whether or not the organs are able to function reproductively. As such, it would only make sense to have any damage to any part of the female reproductive system that causes infertility to be rated at least 20%. After 25 years and repeated appeals, this veteran is still only receiving a 0% rating for a condition that made her infertile, while many other veterans with the exact same symptoms, just different organs damaged, have ratings of 20% or more.
Although not directly related to the rating criteria, we would like to propose adding repeated miscarriages to the presumptive list for female veterans who have been exposed to radiation, herbicides, or other environments that could negatively impact the ability of a fetus to properly develop and carry to full term.
There is a large amount of direct evidence that exposure to radiation and other agents can have a huge impact on the life of an unborn child, even years after the mother was exposed. The largest cache of supportive data for this argument is undoubtedly the massive amount of birth defects found in children of Vietnamese mothers and female Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange. While the VA offers benefits for children born with birth defects of such female veterans, there are no direct benefits offered to veterans who are unable to bear children at all after the same exposure.
One of our veterans argued the issue that “repeated miscarriages from an unknown etiology while on Active Duty should be considered as potentially ratable, and awarded Special Monthly Compensation (k).”
Finally, a question: With female sexual arousal disorder now recognized, how powerful will it be as supporting evidence for military sexual trauma?