Back problems are common among both the general population and the Veteran population. There can be many different types of back problems that could qualify a veteran for disability benefits, including back pain, paralysis of the sciatic nerve, and arthritis.
According to the VA 2015 Annual Benefits Report, a lumbosacral or cervical strain was the third most-common disability claimed by new compensation recipients in the 2015 fiscal year. Over 80,000 veterans were approved to receive disability benefits for a back strain during this period.
Among all recipients of VA disability compensation, a back strain was the fourth most common disability. Paralysis of the sciatic nerve was the seventh most-common disability, with just under 500,000 veterans receiving disability compensation for this condition.
Back problems are typically rated based on a veteran’s range of motion in their spine, although some conditions are analyzed based on other factors, such as periods of incapacitation. A veteran’s range of motion in their cervical spine and thoracolumbar spine will be measured, and a disability rating will be assigned based on the range of motion.
This formula makes some sense when a disability’s impact on a veteran is fully discoverable in a range of motion test. However, there are other situations where a disability can cause pain and other problems without limiting the range of motion.
Arthritis and intervertebral disc syndrome will be analyzed based on how incapacitating the condition is. Note that a condition cannot be rated as degenerative arthritis and evaluated by range of motion tests, only one or the other.
Paralysis of the sciatic nerve is rated based on the level of paralysis. Complete paralysis would result in a total inability to use the muscles of the lower leg. Incomplete paralysis can be rated as severe, moderate, or mild. Other nerve issues can also exist, such as neuralgia or neuritis, which can cause numbness, tingling, and pain.
A primary back disability may also cause a secondary disability. For example, back pain can result in radiculopathy, a nerve condition that can result in numbness and pain. This condition may be independently ratable as a secondary service-connected disability.
For help with your appeal, talk to the veterans law practitioners at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Our veterans lawyers have helped thousands of veterans with their VA appeals, and we can help you, too. Contact us for a no-cost consultation.