In the February 27, 2015 Federal Register, Vol. 80, No. 39, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) proposed to amend the diagnostic used for ratings for veterans with gynecological disorders and breast disorders. The amendments recognize the changing role women are playing in the military. For example, this month a female pilot of Apache attack helicopters passed the pre-Ranger qualification course and will attend one of the Army’s most grueling combat leadership schools — the Ranger Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The amendments will add disabilities, update medical terminology, clarify the rating symptoms, and reflect the investigations of the DVA Gynecological Conditions and Disorders of the Breast Work Group. Comments and queries about the proposals must be submitted by April 28, 2015. Title 38, Section 4.116 is the section DVA proposes to amend.
There are 19 diagnostic codes (DC) at the moment in 38 C.F.R. 4.116, and DVA proposes to add some new codes and include explanatory notes to existing codes. For example, DC 7619 entitles a female service member to receive a 100% disability rating for complete or partial removal of the ovaries, and the DC reduces that 100% rating to 30% three months after the surgical procedure. Male service members, however, can receive a separate rating for the loss of one testicle as opposed to the single rating a female receives for “complete or partial removal of the ovaries.” DVA proposes to amend the DC to correspond to the male counterpart, or — to put it more succinctly:
Currently, a male Veteran is entitled to a 30% evaluation for service connected removal of one testicle when the second testicle, for reasons unrelated to service is absent or ceases to function. 38 C.F.R. 4.115b, Diagnostic Code 7524, Note. However, the current VASRD does not provide a similar evaluation for a female Veteran whose second ovary is absent or ceases to function for reasons unrelated to service.
Medical research has shown that women who suffer the loss of function of both ovaries are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung cancer, cognitive impairment or dementia, Parkinsonism, osteoporosis, depressive or anxiety symptoms, and sexual dysfunction. This proposal is part of the DVA’s continuing project to update and fix the current VASRD system. Predicting when the DVA will finalize the rule is difficult, but hopefully that will happen before 2016 arrives.