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Seems the VA can on occasion consider obesity merely as a "symptom"* and perhaps even the type of symptom that the VA alleges is caused by the Veteran's own willful misconduct of overeating or being inactive so it can deny the claim. However, since the American Medical Association ( AMA ) recently in June of 2013 has officially declared that "obesity is a disease", might that allow disabled veterans whose service connected condition(s) led to excessive weight gain to now find more success claiming obesity as a ratable secondary medical condition or a disease aggravated by the Veteran's service connected condition(s)? *"Obesity Service connection is not warranted for obesity. Claiming service connection for obesity amounts to claiming service connection for a symptom, rather than for an underlying disease or injury which may have caused the symptom. In this respect, obesity, in and of itself, is not a disability for which service connection may be granted. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit) has defined "injury" as "damage inflicted on the body by an external force." See Terry v. Principi, 340 F.3d 1378, 1384 (Fed. Cir. 2003), citing Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary 901 (29th Ed. 2000). Thus, obesity caused by overeating or lack of exercise is the result of the veteran's own behavior, and as such is not an "injury" as defined for VA purposes. See Terry v. Principi, 340 F.3d 1378, 1384 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (defining "injury" as "damage inflicted on the body by an external force"). The Federal Circuit also defined "disease" as "any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of a part, organ, or system of the body." Terry, 340 F.3d at 1384, citing Dorland's at 511. Obesity that is not due to an underlying pathology cannot be considered to be due to "disease," defined as "any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of a part, organ or system of the body." Id. The body's normal storage of calories for future use represents the body working at what it is designed to do. It is well settled that symptoms alone, without a finding of an underlying disorder, cannot be service-connected. See Sanchez-Benitez v. Principi, 259 F.3d 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2001)." - from a BVA 2009 Decision ---and--- "Obesity or being overweight, a particularity of body type, alone, is not considered a disability for which service connection may be granted. See generally 38 C.F.R. Part 4 (VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities) (2009) (does not contemplate a separate disability rating for obesity). Rather, applicable VA regulations use the term "disability" to refer to the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from diseases or injuries encountered as a result of or incident to military service. Allen v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 439, 448 (1995); Hunt v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 292, 296 (1991); 38 C.F.R. § 4.1 (2009). The question is thus whether the current obesity is a disability-i.e. a condition causing impairment in earning capacity. In this case, there is no such evidence. The veteran has not asserted that obesity causes impairment of earning capacity; instead he asserts that his obesity has caused other disabilities to manifest. There is also no other evidence that the claimed obesity is a disability. Inasmuch as the Veteran does not have a disability manifested by obesity and obesity is not a disease or disability for which service connection may be granted, the Board concludes that obesity was not incurred in or aggravated by service and may not be presumed to have been so incurred. This claim is not in relative equipoise; therefore, the Veteran may not be afforded the benefit of the doubt in the resolution thereof. Rather, as a preponderance of the evidence is against the claim, it must be denied. 38 U.S.C.A. § 5107(b) (West 2002)" - from a 2010 BVA Decision But didn't the VA as early as 2006 already characterize obesity as a disease? "Obesity is a complex and chronic disease that develops from an interaction between the individual’s genotype and the environment." - http://www.healthquality.va.gov/obesity/obe06_final1.pdf "The AMA's decision essentially makes diagnosis and treatment of obesity a physician's professional obligation." - Los Angeles Times http://www.today.com/health/obesity-disease-doctors-group-says-6C10371394
While this isn't particularly new news, there is a large story in USA Today 07/23/2014 page 6B by reporter Nanci Helmich mentioning solid medical research that links sleep deprivation to weight gain: "Losing sleep doesn't just leave you tired--- it can make you fat." This is due to how sleep deprivation affects certain hormones namely increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin. Therefore, the connection of sleep apnea causing weight gain and even diabetes should be a no brainer and service-connecting weight gain/obesity or perhaps diabetes and hypertension as secondary conditions to a sleep disorder could be claimed. I realize that this is sort of a what came first issue: the chicken or the egg? However, if you started out thin/normal weight and then developed sleep apnea which led to weight gain, it would seem that there may be the basis for a well-grounded claim in the absence of other weight causing factors. Remember, not all sleep apnea is OSA / obstructive...there are also central or complex/mixed types as well. More info on this issue at: http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/sleep/disorders/sleep-apnea.htm Also see slide #19: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCMQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fweb.stanford.edu%2F~davesv%2FWeight%2520%26%2520OSA.ppt&ei=-krQU9ydIs6iyATHiIHwCg&usg=AFQjCNFnDNcnaMb34bJh1yZoccIA9kQB7Q&bvm=bv.71667212,d.aWw