Pain as an Impairment for VA Disability Rating Purposes

Deluca v Brown

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided a case on April 3, 2018 that changed how the VA decides claims based solely upon pain.  Before that case, pain that was reported was often ignored in VA claim by Veterans.  This is true, even though “pain on movement” was previously addressed in DeLuca v. Brown, 8 Vet. App. 202 (1995).  In that case, a loss in range of motion due to pain should be compensated.  See generally DeLuca.  Although this has been the law for some time and the VA mentions that “DeLuca” was considered in its Rating Decisions, the VA consistently fails to grant a compensable rating for pain on movement.

Sanders v Wilkie

Then came along Saunders v. Wilkie, a case that stated that pain alone is compensable as a disability.  In Saunders, the Court stated that, “…pain alone is an impairment because it diminishes the body’s ability to function, and that pain need not be diagnosed as connected to a current underlying condition to function as an impairment.”  See Saunders v. Wilkie, 886 F.3d 1356, at 1354 (2018).  Of course, this can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and Veterans that file their own claims may run afoul of the many different possible interpretations and ways to make legal arguments concerning case law.  Lawyers with many years of experience, at times, have difficulties in the application of new laws until the edges of the new laws have been worn smooth by the courts and time.  However, the Court gave us a clear understanding of what it meant in this instance.

The Court went on to state that, “…functional loss is compensable even if the range of motion is not limited.”  Id. at 1367.  The Court further told us in its Conclusion that there need not be an underlying diagnosis or identifiable condition related to that pain for that pain to cause functional impairment.  Id.  What this all means is that Veterans now have another path to being compensated for pain without the sometimes ‘difficult to get’ diagnosis for an underlying medical condition.  The claims process can be tricky and difficult to understand at times: if you have questions, please research your issues and your remedies.  If you want representation for your benefits claims, give us a call here at Berry Law Firm.  If you do not choose us, please choose representation that is adequate and capable of handling your claims.  And as always, do not make your choice of whether to hire a law firm based solely on advertising: do your research on the firm you are considering.  Don’t get discouraged by getting your claims denied by the VA and quit: you fought for your country, you earned those benefits.