Shrapnel describes sharp, dangerous fragments of metal created by an explosion. For many soldiers, an injury from shrapnel is a very real and ever-present threat when on the frontlines in combat. Bombs, mines, and other types of explosive devices can create small, airborne fragments of metal capable of long-term damage, which can affect a soldier years after they have left the service. Shrapnel wounds from combat can even leave soldiers with lifelong disabilities.
The fragmets created by explosions can even cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI) by puncturing a soldier’s skull. This type of injury can dramatically affect a soldier’s life, often leading to a host of long-term physical and psychological problems. Shrapnel wounds sustained to the head can be especially impactful on a Veteran’s life in the years after their military service.
If you are a Veteran suffering from the long-term effects of a shrapnel wound, you can qualify to receive significant disability benefits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). The VA grants monthly disability benefits to Veterans with a service-related disability, including a shrapnel wound. In this post, we’ll discuss how the VA rates shrapnel wounds and how to receive a higher disability rating from the VA if you are given one that is too low.
Shrapnel wounds can fit into four different categories in the eyes of the VA – slight, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. Each of these categories is attributed to shrapnel wounds based on the long-term impact they have on a Veteran’s life. Based on the severity of a shrapnel wound, the VA will grant a specific disability rating to a Veteran, which corresponds to a certain level of monthly benefits.
Slight shrapnel wounds have the least effect on a Veteran’s life in the years following the initial injury. These wounds do not get infected and leave behind minimal scarring. Slight shrapnel wounds do not contain embedded fragments of metal that may sometimes remain dangerously lodged in a wound after an injury. A slight shrapnel wound also does not typically inhibit a Veteran’s ability to move.
Moderate shrapnel wounds sometimes involve significant scarring, long-term effects of infection, and other issues that categorically separate them from slight wounds. This type of injury is significantly more severe and typically has a much bigger negative impact on a Veteran’s everyday life, even decades after the initial injury. Moderate shrapnel wounds are often a combination of both an entrance and an exit wound, which can cause them to have a greater effect on a Veteran’s long-term mobility.
Moderately severe shrapnel wounds are a level up from moderate injuries from shrapnel. This type of wound may have become severely infected, led to a long-term hospital stay, or left a Veteran severely physically impaired. A moderately severe shrapnel wound is often bad enough to stop a veteran from working or carrying out everyday tasks.
Finally, severe shrapnel wounds are some of the most severe injuries a soldier can sustain. These types of injuries may cause bone fractures and significant mobility impairment and, in many cases, can leave a Veteran completely ineligible to work. If a Veteran is suffering from the long-term effects of a severe shrapnel wound, they are highly likely to qualify for a 100% disability rating from the VA.
If a disabled Veteran is approved to receive monthly benefits from the VA, they will be given a specific disability rating that corresponds to a certain monthly compensation level. This rating is assigned in 10% increments between 10% and 100% – any lower than 10% means that a Veteran’s disability was not significant enough for them to qualify for benefits.
For a disabled Veteran suffering from a shrapnel injury, the disability rating can vary based on several factors. The categorization of the shrapnel wound on a scale from slight to severe plays a crucial role in the VA’s decision-making process when giving a Veteran a disability rating.
That’s not the only factor that can impact a Veteran’s disability rating, though. If a Veteran is suffering from additional disabilities on top of their shrapnel wound, these other conditions can also affect their disability rating. In addition, the VA pays close attention to testimonials from trusted friends and fellow soldiers, who can serve as eyewitnesses to verify the severity of a Veteran’s shrapnel wound.
When it comes to shrapnel wounds, the VA’s rating process is not always simple, nor is it always 100% accurate. Some Veterans may end up with a disability rating that is far lower than their condition warrants.
The potential for the VA to inaccurately rate a Veteran who is suffering from a shrapnel wound does not mean that the Department is out to get Veterans, though, or that they want to withhold benefits from Veterans who deserve them. It does, however, mean that you may not always end up with a perfectly accurate rating when the VA makes their initial decision regarding your claim. However, you always have the right to appeal the VA’s initial decision.
If you have a shrapnel wound and file a claim to receive disability benefits from the VA, your claim will be met with one of two outcomes – rejection or approval. If it’s rejected, the VA has determined that you are ineligible to receive compensation for a few reasons. The VA’s primary grounds for denying a claim are lack of sufficient medical evidence, lack of a connection between a disability and military service, and failure to take the VA’s required Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam.
When the VA denies a Veteran’s claim, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You can contest any VA decision with an appeal or a request for a decision review. An appeal can involve multiple hearings, starting at your regional VA office and potentially moving beyond your region to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and sometimes even to higher courts. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the appeals process, making a case to the VA that you deserve a different decision than the one they initially gave you.
A decision review involves requesting the VA to reevaluate your claim. In a decision review, the VA may ask you to present further evidence to support your claim, either in the form of medical records or testimonials from fellow soldiers. An independent medical exam (IME) is often a part of the decision review process. An independent medical exam involves getting evaluated by a private doctor who is not connected to the VA. This doctor can carefully examine your military records in order for you to get a second opinion to present to the VA.
The VA may also recognize and consider testimonials from fellow soldiers and other trusted individuals who have seen the impact that your injury has had on your life. These testimonials are known as “buddy statements” and can have a major influence on the outcome of your claim in some cases.
If you are suffering from the long-term effects of a shrapnel wound that happened during your time in the military, you deserve to get the support you need from the VA. This type of injury can have a devastating effect on your life, with the physical effects often making it nearly impossible to work. The psychological impact is equally difficult to deal with. If the VA gives you a lower rating than you deserve or rejects your claim altogether, you may need to appeal the decision to receive a rating that accurately reflects your condition.
Each of the VA’s disability ratings is significantly higher than the ones before it – a 20% rating is a big jump in monthly benefits from a 10% rating, and a 50% rating means exponentially higher monthly benefits than a 10% rating does. If the VA gives you a rating that is lower than you deserve, it can have a disastrous impact on your financial stability.
If your shrapnel wound is dramatically affecting your life and making it hard for you to function normally, we can help you get the support you deserve from the VA. At Berry Law, we’ve helped over 10,000 disabled Veterans appeal unfavorable VA decisions. We can represent you at your regional VA office, at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, or as far as the appeals process takes you. You shouldn’t have to fight alone, and we’re here to fight alongside you, as long as it takes. Contact Berry Law today to receive a free case evaluation.
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