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Veterans Law

Peripheral Neuropathy and VA Disability Benefits

August 3, 2018
peripheral neuropathy and VA disability benefits

Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition among veterans who have certain chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus. VA disability ratings depend on the severity and frequency of symptoms.

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerve is damaged, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. It typically occurs in the hands and feet. Those with this condition usually have pain characterized as burning, tinging, or stabbing, and can also experience numbness and weakness.

According to the Foundation of Peripheral Neuropathy, approximately 30 million Americans have some sort of peripheral neuropathy, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the most common type as it is one of the many possible residuals of diabetes mellitus type II.

Service Connection for Peripheral Neuropathy

Arguably, the most common way to service connect peripheral neuropathy is on a secondary basis. Secondary service connection can occur in the event that a veteran’s already service-connected disability causes or aggravates a non-service-connected disability. Disabilities that are service connected on a secondary basis are rated the same way as other service-connected disabilities.

Obtaining service connection for peripheral neuropathy secondary to diabetes mellitus type II would mean that a veteran would have to first be service connected for their diabetes. If a veteran is service connected for their diabetes, they can get secondary service connection for their diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Presumptive Service Connection

Presumptive service connection is another method of obtaining service connection. Early onset peripheral neuropathy is a presumptive condition for veterans who were exposed to herbicides during their military service. However, in this case, the disability must have developed to a degree of at least 10% disabling within one year of the veteran’s discharge.

VA Disability Ratings

VA does not have a diagnostic code (DC) for peripheral neuropathy, so it rates it analogous. Typically, lower extremity peripheral neuropathy is rated analogous to paralysis of the sciatic nerve under diagnostic code 8520. The ratings under DC 8520 range from 80% to 10%:

  • 80% – Complete paralysis meaning that “the foot dangles or drops, no active movement possible of muscles below the knee flexion of knee weakened or […] lost”
  • 60% – Incomplete paralysis, severe with “marked muscular atrophy”
  • 40% – Incomplete paralysis, moderately severe
  • 20% – Incomplete paralysis, moderate
  • 10% – Incomplete paralysis, mild

Ratings are usually determined through Compensation and Pension examinations where an examiner will note the extent of the veteran’s paralysis and the severity.