VA Disability for Gunshot & Shrapnel Wounds

VA Disability for Gunshot & Shrapnel Wounds

The Department of Veterans Affairs uses specific medical criteria to determine benefits for gunshot and shell fragment wounds. Detailed documentation of wartime injuries and proper application of the VA Rating Schedule are critical. Some combat-wounded Veterans are later denied benefits because they can’t prove a service connection, and many other Veterans are deprived of thousands of dollars in VA disability benefits because of incorrect ratings.

Veterans may have additional disability claims for medical complications of bullet or shrapnel injuries during military service. Furthermore, many Veterans who were injured by gunfire or foreign bodies from explosions while on active duty suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You need attorneys who know your rights.

What Are Gunshot Wounds?

Gunshot wounds are any wounds sustained as a direct result of gunfire. Gunshot wounds may be sustained from enemy combatants or from fellow soldiers. (In these cases, they are referred to as “friendly fire” incidents.) Regardless, gunshot wounds can be very serious and even debilitating.

Gunshot wounds can lead to a wide range of illnesses, diseases, and long-term injuries and health problems, including but not limited to:

  • Severe muscle damage
  • Internal and external bleeding
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Organ damage and organ failure
  • Spinal damage, up to and including paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Severe muscle disability and reduced muscle substance

This type of injury must be treated quickly to save the life of the victim. Even if a Veteran recovers, a gunshot wound could leave them permanently disabled. In these cases, the Veteran may qualify for disability benefits and compensation from the VA.

VA Disability Ratings for Gunshot Wounds

In the majority of cases, gunshot and shrapnel wound effects are evaluated using the VA Schedule of Ratings for Muscle Injuries. These ratings take a variety of symptoms and conditions into account, such as fatigue, pain levels, weaknesses, loss of muscle tone or substance, limited movement or disability, amputation possibility, and impaired coordination.

When a Veteran seeks compensation or disability benefits for a gunshot wound, they must sit for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam. During this exam, the Veteran’s injuries will be classified from slight to severe:

  • Slight injuries are those that results in minimal scarring or residuals and no apparent evidence of impairment or atrophy.
  • Moderate injuries show signs of prolonged infection, as well as entrance and exit scars. They may also show some signs of functional impairment
  • Moderately severe injuries require hospitalization for long-term treatment of the wound and its symptoms. They have consistent symptoms and there is usually a significant impairment in strength and endurance that can prevent the Veteran from keeping up with their work responsibilities
  • Severe injuries require longer hospitalization and oftentimes have severe scarring. They show widespread damage to close muscle groups and show loss of muscle tissue in the wound area. Veterans with these deep penetrating wounds suffer severe impairments to coordination, strength, and/or endurance and have a lowered threshold of fatigue.

You may receive a disability rating depending on how severe your gunshot wound is and, more importantly, the long-term effects’ severity.

For example, if you suffer a gunshot wound with minimal scarring and no functional impairment, you may receive a low disability rating of 10%. If your gunshot wound causes you to lose part of the motion in your arm or leg, you may receive a much higher disability rating of 40% or more, leading to higher VA disability compensation.

Can You Get a 100% Disability Rating for Gunshot Wounds?

You can get a 100% disability rating for gunshot wounds, but the wound must be completely disabling or debilitating to some extent. For example, if you suffer a gunshot wound to the back that prevents you from using your lower legs, you will receive a 100% disability rating from the VA.

But that’s because you can no longer move your legs, not necessarily because the injury occurred due to a gunshot. In this way, gunshot wound disability ratings and compensation are not uniquely rated by the VA. Instead, your wounds and conditions/disabilities will be rated according to their effects on your life.

VA Benefits Lawyers and the Combat Wounds

In World War II and the Korean War, combat injuries were typically treated near the front lines. The nature and extent of gunshot wounds were well documented by commanders and physicians in the field, resulting in a clear service connection and proper gunshot wound rating. This dynamic changed in the Vietnam War, when wounded fighters were more likely to be evacuated to medical centers far from the combat zone, and often flown stateside for advanced medical care and recuperation. Unfortunately, the paperwork did not always catch up with Vietnam Veterans who suffered gunshot or shrapnel wounds, leading to a changed rating decision. Without detailed medical records, their later VA claims were denied or Veterans benefits were paid at a lower VA rating.

Attorneys John S. Berry Sr. (Vietnam) and John S. Berry Jr. (Bosnia, Iraq) are combat Veterans. They have a unique understanding of VA disability claims in the context of modern warfare, triage of combat injuries and the military chain of command.

Our disability lawyers have represented Veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, as well as more recent conflicts, namely Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The former cases can be difficult because of the time lag and missing records. The latter can be difficult because the VA Rating Schedule may not reflect the unique medical issues associated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or armor-piercing rounds.

Our mission is ensuring that clients receive a maximum rating and corresponding benefits for their service-connected gunshot and wounds from metal fragments. Our lawyers will work to corroborate the service connection or the extent of injury for a gunshot-related VA disability claim. We are a law firm that represents Veterans throughout the United States. Call (888) 883-2483 or contact us online.


38 CFR § 4.73 – Schedule of ratings – muscle injuries. | Cornell

Gunshot wounds – aftercare | MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

2023 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates |

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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