Back injuries are one of the most common injuries Veterans face. However, back injuries, especially any injury to the spine, can be very serious. Herniated discs are a prevalent type of spinal injury. If you developed a herniated disc while in service or exacerbated your injury while in the military, you are entitled to herniated disc VA disability compensation.
What is a Herniated Disc?
To understand what a herniated disc is, you must first understand the anatomy of the spine. The spine is made up of the vertebrae (bones in the spine), discs (cushions between the spinal bones), and a spinal cord. A herniated disc is an injury to the discs that help cushion the bones of your spine. These discs have a soft, jelly-like interior (nucleus) and a hard, rubbery exterior (annulus).
According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, a herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus. Herniated discs often affect the lower back, but they can impact any part of the spine.
What Causes Herniated Discs?
Herniated discs are typically related to aging and are therefore considered degenerative. This happens because the discs become less flexible as you get older, leading to tears when you strain or twist your back. A herniated disc can also be caused by a traumatic injury to the back, but this is rare.
Often, a Veteran can develop herniated discs by putting too much strain on their back. For example, a Veteran may lift things with their back muscles instead of their leg muscles, leading to a tear. If you worked a physically demanding job in the military, you are at a higher risk of developing a herniated disc or other back problems.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
Veterans who are suffering from a herniated disc could be dealing with a few different symptoms. There are typically three main symptoms associated with a herniated disc. According to Mayo Clinic, a person with a herniated disc may have:
- Arm or leg pain – Often described as sharp or burning
- Numbness and tingling – Radiating numbness or tingling in the body parts affected by the nerves
- Weakness – Nerves impacted by a herniated disc may cause muscle weakness, depending on the location of your injury
It is also possible to have a herniated disc without any symptoms.
Getting Herniated Disc VA Disability Benefits
A Veteran can receive VA disability for herniated discs if they can show that their military service caused the disability, the disability worsened while in the military, or another disability caused by service led to the herniated disc.
If the military caused your herniated disc or made it worse, you can receive herniated disc VA disability compensation by getting your injury service connected. If another service-connected disability caused your herniated disc, you can get compensation based on secondary service connection.
Service Connection for Herniated Discs
To get service connection for your herniated disc, like all VA disabilities, you must prove three different elements. You must provide the VA with:
- A current medical diagnosis of the disability
- An in-service event or stressor that caused the disability
- A medical nexus connecting the in-service event to the current disability
Veterans can also receive herniated disc VA disability benefits on a secondary basis.
Secondary Service Connection
Veterans can get secondary service connection for a disability if it was caused by another service-connected condition. For example, let’s say a Veteran is receiving VA disability compensation for PTSD. Later on, the Veteran develops sleep apnea. They see a doctor who concludes that the sleep apnea was primarily caused by the Veteran’s PTSD. Therefore, a Veteran can receive VA disability compensation for sleep apnea on a secondary basis if they can show it was caused by their PTSD.
Herniated Disc VA Disability Ratings
The VA rates herniated discs by the number of incapacitating episodes it causes and the limitation to a Veteran’s range of motion. If you go to a C&P examination for your herniated disc, the doctor will likely have you bend or twist in multiple directions to determine how limited your range of motion is. They will use this information to assign you a VA disability rating for your herniated discs.
Veterans Serving Veterans
If you need help appealing your herniated disc VA disability claim, Berry Law can help. Berry Law fights for Veterans who were denied disability compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or given a low disability rating. Berry Law has been helping Veterans with their legal needs for over 50 years, and we have helped thousands of Veterans successfully appeal unfavorable VA decisions.
As a team founded by a Vietnam Veteran, Berry Law is committed to getting fellow Veterans the disability compensation they deserve. Contact the Veterans at Berry Law today to receive a free case evaluation.