Common Errors with VA Musculoskeletal Disability Claims

Common Errors with VA Musculoskeletal Disability Claims

Veterans in the U.S. Armed Forces often have trouble submitting successful musculoskeletal disability claims to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for a wide range of reasons. One of the most prominent mistakes is failing to seek medical treatment for their injuries.

Without a qualified medical exam, diagnosis, and records, there is no official proof of the condition for future reference. Without official medical records, the VA may deny your claim.

Fortunately, there are ways you can address this issue. Keep reading to understand more of the most common errors with VA musculoskeletal disability claims and how to avoid them.

First, What Are Musculoskeletal Disabilities?

Musculoskeletal disabilities (MSDs) are long-term injuries affecting bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues. These conditions can cause chronic pain and loss of function.

In fact, musculoskeletal disabilities are among the most costly and disabling disorders in the United States. According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), here are the most common MSDs:

MSDs can make it difficult to live a normal life and hold a job. In some cases, Veterans may receive a 100% disability rating for injuries such as permanent lower back pain related to MSD.

Why Are Musculoskeletal Claims Denied?

It’s common for many Veterans to file musculoskeletal claims because of their years of military service. Unfortunately, these claims can be denied based on several misunderstandings:

1. Many Military Personnel Treat Themselves

Military personnel often resort to self-treatment when facing critical injuries. For example, a soldier suffering from a knee injury might just ice it down and take Tylenol.

In doing so, they will likely not record this injury in their medical records. This means they cannot prove they received medical aid or even that the injury happened. To make a successful VA disability claim, you must prove that your injuries occurred during your military service.

When soldiers treat themselves, they cannot easily validate their service-connected injuries. Without a service connection, the VA will not grant benefits.

2. Military Personnel Sometimes Seek Treatment From Other Corpsmen

Another reason why the VA denies musculoskeletal is that a soldier will visit another corpsman for medical aid, meaning the Veteran did not go to the medical clinic for treatment.

Inherently, the unit medical professional might have offered a generic pain assessment and issued an anti-inflammatory, such as Motrin (Ibuprofen). Chances are every Veteran can relate to a scenario like:

Hey Doc, my back hurts” or “Hey Doc, I have this pain in my knee.” Then the response is, “Here. Take Motrin and drink some water.

The service member then takes the 800 mg pills and goes back to work. The medic may never actually pull the medical file and create an entry that the service member received treatment for back or knee pain.

3. The VA May Not Consider the Evidence Provided

Even if you provide a genuine medical record to prove your condition occurred during your military service and that a qualified medical professional treated you, the VA may not properly consider that evidence and deny your claim. If that happens, you should consider filing an appeal. Consult with an experienced VA benefits lawyer to better understand your rights and options.

If the Veteran’s medical file doesn’t reflect proper medical treatment or the VA ignores the evidence provided, the VA may deny your claim. But don’t give up hope.

How to Prove Treatment in Service

If you don’t have a record of your injury in your medical file, you may still be able to submit a successful claim. For example, you could submit a statement on VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim Form) explaining when you were injured in service and what medical attention you sought for the issue.

This statement alone will not grant service connection, but it can provide needed context to the lack of medical treatment in service. This is just one piece of the puzzle.

Next, you will need to provide medical evidence of a current disability or symptoms of a disability.  This can be done through current medical records or can be part of your statement.

Once you have the context that proves the presence of a current disability, and an event in service, you’ll need a medical opinion or nexus letter to draw a correlation. The VA can order you to undergo an examination to determine the extent of your injuries.

Based on your injuries, the medical professional can draw a correlation between your current disability and past military service. The key here is to provide an adequate statement that forces the VA to order an examination.

Here is what a compelling statement might look like:

While on a training mission, I injured my knee. I sought treatment from the medic and was given Motrin and a brace. The training was three weeks long, and I could not get pulled from the training without being dropped from the exercise. After the exercise, I continued to ice and take over-the-counter medicine. My injury was nagging and never healed, but I did not want to be kicked out of the unit. I had to remain 100 percent mission-ready.

This statement isn’t enough to make a service connection, but the VA should assess your claims by ordering an examination. If this happens, you have a much greater chance of proving a service connection.

The VA Can Deny Your Claim Based on Clerical Errors

Military medical files rarely look alike. Some are handwritten, and some use abbreviations that are not universal in the healthcare industry.

For example, if the Veteran claims back pain and the VA reviews the medical records but misses LBP (lower back pain) handwritten in the margins, the claim could get denied for “No Event in Service, No Treatment in Service.”

This is why having a detailed statement is essential. If you know that your medical file has abbreviations or is not specific, you can explain the missing information in your statement to help convince the VA that a medical examination is warranted.

Contact Berry Law to Discuss Your Claim

The VA can deny musculoskeletal claims for many reasons. Sometimes, Veterans won’t seek official medical care because of the demanding nature of their work. Other times, their medical files can be overlooked during the evaluation process. Whatever the case, if your claim has merit, you deserve a fair chance.

If you need help submitting a solid musculoskeletal claim to the VA, the skilled VA benefits legal team at Berry Law can help. If you’re ready to discuss your claim or appeal, give us a call at (888) 883-2483 to speak to our team.

John S. Berry, , Lawyer for VA Disability Benefits
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Benefits Attorney
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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