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Can I Get VA Disability For Back Pain?

Can I Get VA Disability For Back Pain?

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.

Do You Qualify for VA Disability For Back Pain?

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.

How is a VA Back Pain Rating Calculated?

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.

How to Get a 100 Percent Disability Rating For Back Pain

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:

  • Complete involvement of your neck and spine with no possible movement or flexibility
  • No range of motion throughout your back—it is essentially frozen in place
  • The unfavorable position must be an unnatural or non-neutral position

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. 

Common Back Injuries Recognized by the VA

Some of the more common back injuries Veterans suffer as a result of their military service include:

  • Herniated discs – These most often occur in the lower back and can lead to leg pain, numbness, and weakness. Veterans may experience a herniated disc from twisting or turning while lifting or from an impact. 
  • Spinal cord damage – Also known as SCI, these injuries involve damage to the nerve system that handles communication with the brain. Veterans may develop SCI from direct impact to the spine or the tissues and structures surrounding the spinal cord. The damages may be temporary or permanent and affect the area of the body below the location of the injury.
  • Degenerative disc disease – although referred to as a disease, this is actually a condition where damaged spinal discs cause pain. Once a disc is damaged, it cannot repair itself. Veterans may suffer disc degeneration from certain activities and direct injuries. 
  • Spondylolisthesis – This can occur when one of your spinal vertebrae slips out of place onto the bone below it. Surgery may be required to treat this condition. Veterans may suffer this condition as a result of trauma or fracture. 
  • Spinal stenosis – When the space around your spinal cord becomes too narrow, you may feel tingling or numbness and back and neck pain. In Veterans, this condition can be caused by bulging discs, spinal fractures, or other injuries.

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:

  • Current symptoms of a back condition
  • An in-service injury or event that you can link to your back troubles, for example, an injury that occurred during training, a military car accident, repetitive movements during your service, or another service-connected disability that caused or aggravated your back condition 
  • A medical connection (also called a nexus) that links your current condition to the in-service event or other disability

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. 

What to Do if Your VA Benefits Application Is Denied or Your Rating Is Too Low

If your application results were unfavorable, you have several options. You might:

  • Appeal your denial – there is a process to file an appeal when the VA fully denies your benefits application. It is complicated and time-consuming. Consult an experienced VA benefits appeal law firm to ensure the best possible outcome.
  • Appeal your VA disability rating or combine your back pain condition with other conditions to increase your overall rating to receive the benefits you believe you deserve.
  • Apply for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) – this route may be an option if your back pain rating is too low for your real-life concerns—for example, if you can’t work because of pain or range of motion limitations but your rating does not provide the compensation you need to meet your financial obligations. To succeed in a TDIU application, you must prove that your service-related condition makes it impossible to maintain substantially gainful employment. If the VA agrees, you can receive a 100 percent rating.
  • Speak with a dedicated VA benefits lawyer. To fully understand your options and how you can proceed under your unique circumstances, make an appointment with a law firm dedicated to helping Veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

Trust Berry Law to Help You Pursue VA Disability for Back Pain

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. 

Call us at (888) 682-0751 or fill out our online contact form to see how our tenacious legal professionals can help.

John S. Berry, , Attorney for Veterans Disability
John S. Berry, , VA Disaility Lawyer
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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