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Veterans Law

Sciatica and Your VA Disability Claim

June 16, 2017
Sciatica and Your VA Disability Claim

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a nerve condition in which pain radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, traveling from the lower back down through the legs.  It most often occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or pinched, usually by a herniated disk in the spine or an overgrowth of bone on the vertebrae.  Typically, sciatica affects only one side of the body.  Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning sensation, and muscle weakness.

Almost half a million veterans currently receive disability compensation for sciatic nerve issues, according to the 2015 Annual Benefits Report.

How Does VA Rate Sciatica?

Nerve issues, such as sciatica, are rated in three different categories based on the degree of severity of symptoms:

  • Paralysis (the most severe category)
  • Neuritis
  • Neuralgia

 Technically, the term “sciatica” usually refers to neuralgia (i.e. sharp pain due to an irritated or damaged nerve) of the sciatic nerve. Therefore, neuralgia is generally the most common category that veterans fall into; however, it is possible that a veteran’s sciatica may present symptomatology consistent with a higher level of severity. Each of the three categories of nerve conditions mentioned above also have sub-categories for mild, moderate, or severe symptoms, creating many different possible ratings for a condition that affects a nerve.

VA rates sciatica under 38 CFR § 4.124a, Schedule of ratings – neurological conditions and convulsive disorders, as follows:

Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve – Diagnostic Code 8520

  • 80% – complete paralysis in which all the muscles of the leg below the knee fail to work, causing serious difficulty in bending the knee
  • 60% – incomplete but severe paralysis marked by muscular atrophy, poor blood circulation, and limited functionality of the affected body part
  • 40% – incomplete but moderately severe paralysis
  • 20% – incomplete but moderate paralysis
  • 10% – incomplete but mild paralysis

 Neuritis of the Sciatic Nerve – Diagnostic Code 8620

  • 60% – severe neuritis marked by a loss of reflexes, loss of sensation, and muscle atrophy; seriously limited functionality of the affected body part
  • 40% – moderately severe neuritis
  • 20% – moderate neuritis
  • 10% – mild neuritis

Neuralgia of the Sciatic Nerve – Diagnostic Code 8720

  • 20% – moderate neuralgia involving tingling, numbness, and moderate to severe pain, along with interference with the affected limb’s functionality
  • 10% – mild neuralgia causing tingling or mild pain, with only minor interference with the limb’s functionality

Importantly, there is no disability rating for severe neuralgia.

Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick at 800-544-9144

It can be difficult to distinguish between the various categories and degrees of severity for sciatic nerve conditions.  If your claim for benefits for sciatic nerve issues was denied, or you believe you received an improperly low rating, consult with a veterans attorney to discuss your right to appeal.

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to aid with the appeals process.  Our veterans law practitioners have over 25 years of experience working with veterans. Call 800-544-9144 for a free case evaluation.