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What Happens If You Lose a Limb While in the Military?

What Happens If You Lose a Limb While in the Military?

Veterans are exposed to a wide range of potential hazards and dangers when serving in the military. 

Unfortunately, approximately half of the extremity trauma experienced in recent conflicts during the Global War on Terror were severe arm injuries, including amputations. Limb loss can occur from explosions, combat, serious accidents, and more.

If you or a loved one served in the military and lost a limb during your service, you need to know what to expect and what disability benefits you may be entitled to. Read on for more information.

Can You Still Serve if You Lose a Limb in the Military?

If you lose a limb while serving in the military, you may still qualify for certain service positions. 

For example, some Veterans can use physical training and prosthetic limbs to keep their original jobs. This option depends on the nature of your job before your accident or incident. 

If you lose a limb in the military, you may be unable to be on the frontlines or fight in combat positions. However, you may still be able to operate as a support operative. If your rank is high enough, you may further be able to retain your leadership and management responsibilities depending on the nature of your amputation and other symptoms.

Ultimately, if you lose a limb in the military, you may continue to serve. In the aftermath, the military will explain your options, including being discharged or continuing your service.

VA Disability for Lost Limbs

The VA provides disability benefits to Veterans who lose their limbs while on active duty or as a direct result of their military actions.

For example, if you see combat and are injured, and the injury requires amputation, you will qualify for disability benefits. Like all other disabilities and conditions, you must receive a service connection for any lost limbs to get disability benefits, including monthly compensation.

However, you can also recover disability compensation for lost limbs through a secondary service connection if you require amputation because of a primary, service-connected disability.

For instance, if you develop cancer because of exposure to toxic chemicals like Agent Orange and a limb must be amputated because of cancer growth, you could receive permanent disability benefits to pay for medical care, account for reduced job opportunities, and more. 

What Are the VA Disability Ratings for Limb Amputations?

The VA will award you a disability rating and monthly compensation based on:

  • Which limb(s) you lost
  • Where the amputation(s) took place on the affected limb(s) 
  • Any other symptoms or side effects you may experience from the amputation(s)

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of disability ratings you can receive for amputations experienced during your time in the military.

Finger Amputations

Although fingers are attached to hands, the VA rates finger amputations separately from hand or arm amputations. Diagnostic codes can range from 5126 to 5151. 

Generally, the VA disability ratings for finger amputations are as follows:

  • 70% disability rating if you lose five fingers on your dominant hand
  • 60% disability rating if you lose four fingers, including your thumb on your nondominant hand or four fingers but not the thumb on your dominant hand
  • 50% disability rating if you lose three fingers, including the thumb on your nondominant hand or three fingers but not the thumb on your dominant hand
  • 40% disability rating if you lose two fingers, including the thumb on your nondominant hand or three fingers but not the thumb or index finger on your dominant hand
  • 30% disability rating if you lose the index and long, ring, or little fingers on your nondominant hand or if you lose the long and ring fingers on your dominant hand
  • 20% disability rating if you lose the long and little or ring fingers on your nondominant hand

Arm and Hand Amputations

For arm and hand amputations, as with leg amputations, the highest disability ratings are only awarded to Veterans who experience complete amputations. Here’s a breakdown of the ratings you can expect to receive:

  • 100% disability rating for the complete amputation of an arm or hand
  • 90% to 70% disability rating if you experience an upper arm amputation above or below the insertion of the deltoid muscle
  • 80% to 60% disability rating if you experience a forearm amputation above or below the insertion of the pronator teres muscle

Essentially, the VA determines that you will need more compensation and monthly financial assistance if you lose all or most of your arm or hand. 

Leg and Foot Amputations

Servicemembers who have lost a foot or leg will receive disability ratings based on how much of the limb is amputated, as with arms and hands. Here’s a breakdown of the disability ratings you should expect:

  • 100% disability rating if you completely lose a leg
  • 90% disability rating if you completely lose a leg but retain femur and intrinsic pelvic musculature
  • 80% disability rating for amputations starting at the upper third of the leg
  • 60% disability rating for amputations starting at the middle or lower third of the leg, when a defective stump is present and if an amputation is recommended, or when an amputation isn’t improved by prosthesis
  • 40% disability rating for a leg amputation below the knee, which allows for a prosthesis
  • 40% disability rating for a foot amputation

The VA considers losing a foot less severe than losing a leg, hand, or arm.

What Happens If You Lose Both Hands, Arms, or Legs/Feet?

If you lose both of your arms, hands, legs, or feet, you will automatically receive a 100% disability rating

You will receive the maximum monthly compensation possible, as your disability will make it difficult for you to perform previously accessible physical activities no matter what.

For this disability rating, the VA doesn’t distinguish between the dominant or nondominant extremities (as they are both amputated or lost). This is true whether you lose both hands, arms, legs, or feet immediately or if you lose one initially, then have to have the second amputated later.

What Happens If Your Disability Worsens?

If your disability worsens, you may qualify for increased disability benefits or a new disability rating entirely.

For example, if you lose a limb in the military but the affected tissue is infected and requires a more severe amputation later, you may qualify for an increased disability rating. However, you must file an appeal with the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive this.

The right Veterans law attorneys can help you through the appeals process step-by-step. They can help you gather additional evidence, prove that your condition has worsened in the recent past, and once again highlight the service connection that ties your amputation to your military service.

How Do You File a Claim for Benefits?

To file a claim for benefits for an amputation, you must file Form 21-526EZ. Veterans law attorneys can help you file a successful claim for benefits and receive compensation for your lost limb(s).

Note that this may only be necessary if you must have a limb amputated because of some element of your military service after you leave the military. Suppose your limb is amputated while you are still in the military, and you are discharged from the military afterward. In that case, you will likely automatically start receiving disability benefits because the VA will be aware of your condition from the outset.

If you aren’t sure whether you deserve military disability benefits, contact Veterans law attorneys today. The right attorneys can look at your situation, determine whether receiving a service connection is likely, and help you file the right paperwork and forms to maximize your disability rating. The higher your disability rating is, the more compensation you can expect.

Contact Berry Law

If you lost a limb while in the military, you could qualify for significant disability compensation. Depending on the severity of your amputation(s) and your symptoms, you could even receive a 100% total disability rating, compensating you for loss of income and medical bills.

Berry Law can help at every step of the process. Our experienced attorneys can help you gather strong evidence, file a claim for disability benefits, or appeal a previously denied claim for benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation and more information.

Sources:

The Military Extremity Trauma Amputation/Limb Salvage (METALS) Study – PMC | NCBI

Soldier Amputees Have More Options for Continued Service | Defense.gov

Amputation | Limb Loss | MedlinePlus

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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