Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is diagnosed when your coronary arteries (the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients) are damaged. Often this occurs because of plaque buildup, making your arteries hard, narrow, blocked or stretched, decreasing the blood flow through the arteries to your heart. CAD can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart attacks.
What Causes CAD?
CAD can be caused by a myriad of things; however, some of them are more common in veterans. For example, diabetes, high stress, and sleep apnea, all are risk factors of CAD.
A metabolic equivalents test (METS) determines how efficiently your heart pumps oxygen to determine if you have CAD. This test involves walking on a treadmill at a gradually increasing pace, while a physician watches you for symptoms that your muscles are not receiving adequate oxygen. The earlier those symptoms show, the more severe your diagnosis of CAD. The VA requires a METS to determine a CAD rating. If you think you have CAD it is important you get a METS test to prove both your diagnosis and rating.
- Presumption: If you served from 1962-1975 in Vietnam or in Thailand as a dog handler or police, or in the Korean Demilitarized zone between 4/1/68 and 5/7/75 you’re eligible for the CAD Agent Orange presumption. A presumption means that you don’t have to prove your service-connection because it is presumed you were exposed to Agent Orange.
- Alternatively: If you served in Thailand from 1962-1975 under a different occupational specialty OR you served any other time in any other place, you need to prove that you were either exposed to herbicides or something else occurred during service that caused or aggravated your CAD. You can prove this by using service records, published studies, personal statements, buddy statements, and medical opinions to explain how or why you think your CAD is service-connected.
CAD ratings are determined by looking at your METS test results. As previously discussed, the earlier symptoms showed that your muscles were not getting enough oxygen during your METS, the more severe your CAD. Thus, your rating is determined by your CAD’s severity & whether you’ve had any episodes of heart failure. If you have had episodes of heart failure, the rater looks to how frequently those episodes occur. For example, if you’ve had more than one episode of acute heart failure in the last year, but they’re not designated as chronic heart failure, then you’d be rated 60%.
- METS Score: 3 or less
- Consistently experiences congestive heart failure & shows left ventricular dysfunction
- Percentage of blood pumped out with each heartbeat is less than 30
- METS Score: 4 or 5
- 2 or more episodes of congestive heart failure during the past year
- Shows left ventricular dysfunction, and the percentage of blood pumped out with each heartbeat is between 30-50%
- METS Score: 6 or 7
- X-ray or electrocardiogram shows evidence of hypertrophy or dilation
- METS Score: 8, 9, 10
- Requires continuous medication
Veterans Help Group has been helping veterans get the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you have questions about how to get VA disability compensation for your CAD, call or chat with us online.