VA Denied Your Hypertension Claim — What Now?

VA Denied Your Hypertension Claim — What Now?
Jonathan Heiden Jonathan C. Heiden is an attorney at West & Dunn who represents veterans at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

VA Rating Hypertension

Veterans often struggle to receive service connected disability benefits for hypertension. Many times this happens because a veteran has in-service blood pressure readings that are clearly elevated but fail to meet the readings that VA requires. However, it’s important to know that just because an elevated blood pressure reading from active service does not meet VA’s requirements, that does not by itself allow VA to deny a veteran’s claim.

VA’s Hypertension Rule

VA regulations do not agree with current standards for diagnosing hypertension.

  • VA requires that a veteran’s blood pressure readings must have a diastolic reading that is “predominantly 90mm or greater” and /or a systolic reading that is “predominantly 160mm. or greater with a diastolic blood pressure of less than 90mm.”

These requirements are significantly higher than the standards provided by the American Heart Association. Not only does the agency require the blood pressure readings to be greater than what is used by the American Heart Association, it also requires that the initial blood pressure reading be “confirmed by readings taken two or more times on at least three different days.” This means, for those still in active service, that if a military doctor does not recognize an elevated blood pressure reading and conduct additional blood pressure tests that would meet the VA’s regulations, a veteran is left in a difficult position after he or she leaves service.

Elevated Blood Pressure Readings Are Still Favorable Evidence

Veterans in this position are not out of luck. There are two important things to remember:

  1. Do not let VA convince you that your hypertension claim is weak solely because you do not have blood pressure readings that meet the agency’s regulations. Blood pressure readings that meet the American Heart Association’s requirements are still favorable evidence that may provide a way for VA to grant service connection.
  2. It is possible for VA to grant service connection for hypertension even if you did not have blood pressure readings that met its requirements while in service. There are other ways to show that your hypertension is connected to service even if your service records do not include enough blood pressure readings to satisfy VA’s requirements.

All of this means that a veteran who has a diagnosis of hypertension, with elevated blood pressure readings while in service, should not be discouraged from pursuing a claim for VA benefits. VA requires much more than both the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiology to diagnosis hypertension. Also, VA may fail to recognize that elevated blood pressure readings that do not meet their requirements are still favorable evidence that it must consider.

Don’t Give Up On Your Hypertension Claim

If you have a diagnosis of hypertension — from either a military, VA, or private doctor — and you had elevated blood pressure readings while you were in service, do not stop appealing VA’s denial of your claim merely because you do not meet their overly-difficult requirements.

If you have questions about VA’s hypertension requirements or other matters related to service connected disability claims, please feel free to call us at (608) 490-9449 or contact us online.

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