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The VA has added clarification regarding obesity and nutrition as factors for getting service connection

We have news about obesity and nutrition as contributing factors to getting service connection for your VA disability benefit claim! In case you missed it, the VA has made a handful of different updates lately (see more on GERD here, gastrointestinal conditions here, and IBS here). Some new criteria have been added for evaluating Veterans' conditions, and those seeking service connection will want to read up on the updated terminology for obesity and nutrition.

Here's everything you should know about the VA's recent updates regarding obesity and nutrition:

What updates has the VA made regarding obesity and nutrition?

In this latest update, the VA has outlined a few different terms that now apply when evaluating conditions. Regarding weight loss and nutrition, Veterans will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Weight loss related terms

  • Substantial weight loss: An involuntary loss greater than 20% of an individual's baseline weight sustained for three months with diminished quality of self-care or work tasks.

  • Minor weight loss: Involuntary weight loss between 10% and 20% of an individual's baseline weight sustained for three months with gastrointestinal-related symptoms, involving diminished quality of self-care or work tasks, or decreased food intake.

  • Inability to gain weight: substantial weight loss with the inability to regain it despite following appropriate therapy.

  • Baseline weight

  • This refers to the Veteran's clinically documented average weight for the two years preceding the onset of their illness – or at their most recent discharge physical appointment (only if relevant). If neither of these weights is available or currently relevant, then use ideal body weight as determined by either the Hamwi formula or Body Mass Index tables, whichever is most favorable to the veteran.

  • Undernutrition

  • This term means a deficiency due to a lack of one or multiple essential nutrients. It can also include the body's inability to absorb, use, or retain nutrients. When this happens, the body fails to maintain normal functions and healthy tissues. Symptoms of undernutrition include loss of subcutaneous tissue, edema, peripheral neuropathy, muscle wasting, weakness, abdominal distention, ascites, and Body Mass Index below normal range.

VA definitions regarding obesity and nutrition to be familiar with

The following definitions are used under a handful of different diagnostic codes.

  • Therapeutic diet: A meal plan that controls the intake of certain foods or nutrients and is part of the treatment of a medical condition and is normally prescribed by a physician and planned by a dietician. There are different types of these diets, determined by:

  • Prescribed dietary modification

  • Dietary intervention, or

  • Dietary restriction

So what does dietary modification really mean? Well, these diets are simply modifications of regular diets, paying close attention to what the Veteran needs for their individual nutrition. The VA uses these under specific diagnostic codes, depending on the clinical needs at hand. For example, a Veteran with an impaired ability to swallow may begin a therapeutic diet to suit their needs during treatment. Keeping a journal of your health history can massively benefit your claim.

Inspiration for getting on a healthy routine

Looking to reimagine your diet or get on a healthy routine? Check out our library below for some inspo. But remember, always consult your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise plan.

Make filing your VA disability benefits claim simple and easy

Filing a VA disability benefits claim on your own can be both confusing and time consuming. We're here to make the process a smooth one – saving you from lost time, extra costs, and frustration. Contact us today for a chart review, Nexus Letter, DBQ, or another one of our services (see the full list of what we can help you with here).

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