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How To Appeal a Back Injury Caused by Military Service

How To Appeal a Back Injury Caused by Military Service

In the military, it is common for Veterans to experience events and injuries that cause back pain. When they leave the military, some Veterans may not think their injury is anything major, especially if they are younger. Many younger Veterans push through the pain and do not address it, thinking it will get better over time.

However, this is rarely the case. Back injuries can be a life-long issue if they are not and addressed properly. Because of this, it is essential to make a claim for your back injury if it was caused by something during your time in the military. But if your claim is denied, how do you go about appealing it? In this article, we will go over how you can appeal a VA decision for your back injury.

How Do I Start?

Once you get an initial denial from the VA, you may be confused about where you should start so you can appeal the decision. The first thing to do is to figure out why the VA denied your claim or your increased request in the first place. They will usually disclose why they did not accept your claim. You can then gather the necessary evidence to show why you deserve the compensation you are requesting.

If you do not know where to start figuring out the initial problem, a professional attorney familiar with VA decisions will be able to help you. From there, they will gather the necessary information to make a compelling appeal. They also have resources and medical professionals you can contact if you need a professional medical opinion.

Making a Service Connection

Establishing a service connection is one of the most important parts of making a claim through the VA. Claims are often denied because of a lack of evidence showing that the Veteran’s time in the service caused their disability. If this is the reason your claim is denied, you must compile evidence that shows the VA otherwise.

The first thing to do is look through the records from your time in the service. Whether medical records or service records, anything that helps describe an event or injury that caused your back problem can help further your claim. Even documents from a superior that note how you should refrain from doing certain exercises or excuse you from your duties can be used to show that your back injury is a service-related condition. 

You can also ask fellow service members to make a buddy statement, outlining all the details that they know of what caused your back injury. The VA will consider all of these things when reviewing your appeal.

Why Is My Claim Denied?

It can be challenging if the VA denies your claim. Thankfully, you can always appeal the decision, so it is important to know how.

There are three main ways a Veteran can appeal a VA decision. First, they can file a supplemental claim with new evidence for the VA to consider. Second, they can request a higher-level review by a more experienced claim reviewer in the VA to look at the evidence that you initially gave. Third, they can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals and select different options from that.

You should consult legal advice to know which option is best for your particular situation. After you decide the best way to appeal a denial, you have to make sure everything else is ready to make a compelling case. 

The VA expects evidence regarding the denial and a well-constructed appeal to give you the benefits that you want. This is why it is important to have attorneys at your side that are familiar with VA decisions and appeals. It can be overwhelming for a Veteran suffering from a disability to go about the whole process alone. At Berry Law, we are accredited by the VA, which means we have years of experience helping Veterans get the benefits they deserve.

Does My Back Injury Have To Be Caused by a Specific Injury in Service?

Many times, Veterans have a back injury due to their time in the service, but it was not the direct result of a specific injury in service. Even if this is the case, they may still be able to make a service connection. Many Veterans attribute their back injuries to the duties they had to fulfill in the military, such as guarding, participating in jumps or rucks, and being on their feet constantly.

If the Veteran did not go on sick call during this time, they should reach out to family, friends, or fellow service members who remember any complaints that the Veteran made about back pain. They can write this in the form of buddy statements, which can be used as VA-recognized evidence. These come in handy when other forms of documentation have been lost or destroyed. They will go a long way in convincing the VA about your service-related injury. Statements by the Veterans themselves about their back pain during their service can also be used.

Because the VA will usually tell you why they denied your claim, evidence like this can help supplement an initial claim. Sometimes evidence is missing that could have caused the VA to make a different initial decision. Gathering the necessary information and having your attorneys go through it can help compel the VA to get you the benefits you need.

Back problems can also be caused by other conditions, such as knee, hip, or foot problems that change how a Veteran walks. If the underlying injury is service-connected and the evidence shows that the disability is at least as likely as not caused by the back condition, the Veteran will be able to receive disability benefits for the back condition.

Once that is done, the Veteran will go to a medical professional who can connect their evidence to their current disability. The key part in this is that the disability has to be current. Many Veterans go through their C&P exams, thinking that this will be enough to make the connection. However, examiners will often use the exit exam to show that the Veteran’s back problem was resolved before leaving the military. This would disqualify the Veteran from receiving any benefits for their back problems. 

When the Veteran goes into their C&P examination, they should be prepared to give as much detail as possible about the history of their injury and symptoms they have suffered. Once the medical professional gives their opinion, if they cannot make a nexus, the Veteran can try another medical professional that will give them a satisfactory opinion.

What Determines the Rating?

The VA rating for back injuries is determined based on the Veteran’s range of motion rather than the pain they endure. Even if the pain is life-altering, it will only be rated 10%. 

When the Veteran goes to an examination for their back injury, the medical professional will measure them to see their range of motion. When the Veteran is at their exam, they should describe any flare-ups or pain they encounter when they try to move. The examiner will put this in their report, which can be used to make a claim or get an increased rating.

Conclusion

Back injuries caused by your time in the military can threaten the quality of your livelihood. Often, back injuries go unaddressed and worsen over time, causing many complications in a Veteran’s health and productivity. 

Because of this, it is crucial to make a claim through the VA, even if it is denied. When it is denied, you can always appeal the decision. Working with a professional team of attorneys is your best bet to gain the benefits you deserve. At Berry Law, we will ensure that you have all of the necessary documentation and evidence needed to make a convincing appeal to the VA.

For more information on VA appeals and decisions, visit our website.

Sources:

Back pain – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic 

Low Back Pain: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments | Cleveland Clinic  

VA Claim Exam (C&P Exam) | Veterans Affairs 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm 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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