In the general population, many people suffer from back pain. Unfortunately, back problems are also common in Veterans who suffer service-related disabilities. Complaints of back, neck, and spine pain are usually in the top five most common issues presented to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Sufferers who can connect their condition to their military service can apply for VA disability for back pain. The application process can be complicated and frustrating. Sometimes, legitimate disability claims are denied, or the VA assigns a low VA back pain rating that doesn’t accurately reflect the severity of the Veteran’s disability.
Many Veterans experience intense and/or chronic back pain that makes it difficult or impossible to work or manage daily life challenges or activities. Even if you get to the Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination stage, you may receive a VA back pain rating far below the level you deserve.
If you have applied for VA disability for back pain or other back-related conditions and your application was denied or if you received an unfavorable rating level, you may still have options. A dedicated VA benefits lawyer can review your circumstances to see if you may qualify for a higher VA back pain rating or if you can appeal your VA benefits denial.
To find out if you qualify to receive VA disability back pain benefits, you need to apply through the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are several ways to apply—in person at a VA regional center, online, or by mailing a form to the VA. To apply, you must fill out a VA form 21-526EZ: Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits
After the VA receives your application, the VA will determine if you can be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension Exam. In order to qualify for a VA C&P, you must present evidence that you have a current disability or current symptoms, you have some event in service or some in-service disability, and there may be a connection between your current symptoms and your service.
At your C&P exam, you will meet with a medical professional and provide information about your back condition, how it started, and how your back condition affects you. You may have to submit to a physical examination, including a range of motion tests and other measurements, and an interview where you can explain your situation.
The doctor will send the results of your C&P exam to the VA, and based on that information, the VA will determine if your back condition is military service-related. If your condition is deemed service-related, the VA will assign a disability rating between 0 percent and 100 percent.
During your C&P exam, the doctor will use various tools and tests to determine the extent of your disability. Range of motion is one of the biggest factors in a VA back disability rating.
However, range of motion is only one factor in functional disability. For instance, you may have a good range of motion, but you still suffer from severe pain while remaining still. If your pain issues are not reported to the VA, or if the VA does not place enough importance on your condition, you may receive a lower disability rating than you deserve.
The VA can be very conservative when assigning disability ratings. To qualify for a 100 percent disability rating for back conditions, your issues must extend beyond your back and affect other areas of your body and your life.
For example, to qualify for 100 percent disability for back problems, you may need to show that your spine is locked in an unfavorable position.
This condition may include:
If you have some range of motion, you will not receive a 100 percent disability rating for your back pain. Likewise, if your spine is frozen in a neutral position, it is considered favorable, and you will not be rated as 100 percent disabled.
When assessing VA disability for back pain ratings, the VA will consider a factor known as the painful motion principle. Basically, if you feel pain during movement, your disability rating should be at least 10 percent, even if your range of motion is fairly normal.
Many Veterans who suffer severe functional losses, pain, and the inability to hold employment only receive a 10 percent or 20 percent disability rating when they first apply for benefits. Since the average VA disability rating for back pain is only 10 percent, many Veterans are not receiving the benefits they deserve without further assistance from trained legal professionals.
As you can imagine, a 100 percent disability rating is reserved for those Veterans who have service-related back conditions that cause severe functional limitations. Another way to achieve a 100 percent VA disability rating for back pain is to combine your back-related rating with other conditions that add up to 100 percent disability.
Some of the more common back injuries Veterans suffer as a result of their military service include:
In addition to showing an injury or disability, Veterans must show that their condition or illness is the result of an event that happened during their service to qualify for VA benefits.
As mentioned earlier, back problems are one of the most common conditions reported by adults, not just Veterans. Back problems can be caused by many factors, including age, degeneration, normal daily activities, and regular wear and tear. Proving a military connection can be challenging, especially if your symptoms did not appear for several years after your separation from duty.
To prove your injury is service-related, you need to show:
Evidence to support these factors could include medical records, statements from you or service buddies and family members, and your military service records. Some Veterans do not provide enough evidence to support their application, and their request for disability benefits is denied, or they receive a very low rating, which means a lower amount of benefits each month.
If your application results were unfavorable, you have several options. You might:
If you’re a Veteran who suffered a service-related injury or event and now you face back pain as a result, reach out to Berry Law to learn more about your legal right to VA benefits. We are Veterans fighting for Veterans, and we’ll go to battle for you to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
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