VA Disability Rating for Peripheral Neuropathy
As a U.S. military veteran, you may apply to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a disability rating and receive benefits for certain service-connected medical conditions like peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is caused by nerve damage, leading to pain in the extremities and muscle weakness. People with moderate to severe cases of peripheral neuropathy may qualify for up to 80 percent VA disability. If you have peripheral neuropathy, it’s critical to undergo a compensation and pension examination to determine whether you’re eligible for VA disability benefits.
When you decided to join the armed forces, you likely weren’t thinking of the potential consequences to your health. You envisioned serving your country and making the world a safer place. While those are very honorable objectives, military service can have long-term consequences on your physical and mental well-being. The Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes the medical conditions and disabilities that can arise from serving in the armed forces and provides VA disability benefits for those who qualify.
One medical condition that is common in military veterans is peripheral neuropathy. If you suffer from symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, visiting a VA medical facility or your preferred primary physician is critical to get correctly diagnosed.
Veterans and Peripheral Neuropathy
Individuals who suffer from peripheral neuropathy have damage to their peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system consists of nerves communicating between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. When these nerves sustain damage, communication between various areas of the body becomes disrupted, and signaling goes haywire.
It’s common for people with peripheral neuropathy to experience pain, numbness, and feelings of muscle weakness. For instance, they may lack the strength to carry a shopping bag or experience severe leg pain when making sudden movements.
Known risk factors for peripheral neuropathy include exposure to herbicides and other toxins. For instance, people exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War often develop peripheral neuropathy. Other common causes of peripheral neuropathy include diabetes, certain infections, chemotherapy, and certain injuries.
If you’re concerned you may have peripheral neuropathy, look for the following symptoms:
- Pain, numbness, or weakness in the hands or feet
- Loss of sensation or reflexes in the hands or feet
- Trouble staying steady when walking
- Unexplainable burning or stinging sensations in the body
- Insensitivity to varying temperatures or touch
If you notice these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a qualified physician to see if you have peripheral neuropathy or a similar disorder.
How the VA Rates Peripheral Neuropathy
The VA does not have a specific disability rating code for peripheral neuropathy. Instead, multiple rating codes are available depending on the nerve(s) impacted and the severity of your condition. However, the VA rates neuropathy analogously to several conditions listed under 38 CFR § 4.124a – neurological conditions and convulsive disorders. You may qualify for benefits for peripheral neuropathy under the following listings :
- Paralysis of the sciatic nerve
- Paralysis of the common peroneal nerve
- Paralysis of the ilioinguinal nerve
Of the classifications, paralysis of the sciatic nerve carries the highest potential disability rating, at 80 percent. Paralysis of the common peroneal nerve has a maximum disability rating of 40 percent, and paralysis of the ilioinguinal nerve has a maximum rating of 10 percent.
Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve
To qualify for an 80 percent disability rating for paralysis of the sciatic nerve, you must have complete paralysis of the foot with no movement possible in the muscles below the knee. Typically, flexion of the knee is weakened or may be lost entirely.
A 60 percent disability rating for paralysis of the sciatic nerve is possible for those with severe damage and visible muscular atrophy below the knee. A 40 percent rating is available for those with moderately severe damage. Moderate cases qualify for 20 percent disability, while mild cases may meet the requirements for 10 percent disability.
Paralysis of the Common Peroneal Nerve
A veteran who exhibits extreme difficulty flexing or turning the foot and can’t feel or extend their toes may qualify for a 40 percent disability rating for paralysis of the common peroneal nerve. Additional disability ratings of 30 percent, 20 percent, and 10 percent are possible for less severe cases of the condition.
To determine what nerve is causing the symptoms in your hands or feet, you must see a trained physician who can properly diagnose your condition. They’ll need to perform various tests and diagnostic exams to identify the source of your symptoms.
TDIU and Peripheral Neuropathy
Total disability individual unemployability (TDIU) benefits are available for veterans whose service-related medical conditions prevent them from working, even though the VA hasn’t found them 100 percent disabled. A veteran who meets the TDIU requirements will receive compensation equal to a veteran declared 100 percent disabled through the VA’s rating system.
To meet the requirements for TDIU, you’ll need at least one service-related condition with a 60 percent VA disability rating or a mix of disabilities with a combined rating of at least 70 percent. Veterans who try to qualify for TDIU based on several disabilities must have at least one condition with a 40 percent or higher rating.
You may meet the requirements for TDIU if you have an 80 percent disability rating from paralysis of the sciatic nerve. Veterans with lower ratings from peripheral neuropathy may qualify for TDIU by combining various disabilities, with one of those conditions rating at least 40 percent.
Peripheral Neuropathy as a Secondary Disability
If your peripheral neuropathy isn’t directly related to your military service but results from another condition linked to your time in the armed forces, you may still qualify for a disability rating. Examples of disabilities connected with peripheral neuropathy include diabetes and various types of cancer. Experiencing a severe back injury during your service could also lead to peripheral neuropathy.
To qualify for a peripheral neuropathy disability rating as a secondary condition, you must prove it is directly related to your service-connected disability. A qualified physician can help you establish the connection between your peripheral neuropathy and your original disability.
Presumptive Service Connection for Peripheral Neuropathy
The term “presumptive service connection” refers to disabilities or medical conditions the VA automatically presumes are related to the veteran’s time in the military. To qualify for a presumptive condition, you must provide evidence showing the time and location of your service and your diagnosis.
Peripheral neuropathy is presumed service-related if the veteran was a prisoner of war for more than 30 days. A presumption the condition is service-connected also exists for veterans exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides, where the peripheral neuropathy became at least 10 percent debilitating within a year of exposure.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Peripheral Neuropathy
If you have a peripheral neuropathy diagnosis or suspect you may suffer from the condition, it’s very important to seek attention from a physician and apply for VA disability benefits immediately. The longer you wait, the less likely the VA is to attribute your condition to your time in the military.
You must undergo a VA compensation and pension (C&P) exam to get a VA rating for peripheral neuropathy. Your VA physician will conduct the exam to determine the severity of your condition. Following the exam, they’ll complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for Peripheral Nerves. Review the questionnaire before your examination to understand what they’re looking for, and bring any medical records from your primary care physician or other doctors to the appointment.
Expect the VA provider to conduct various tests during your appointment, such as measuring your muscle strength and ability to flex and move your legs and arms. They’ll also look for abnormalities in your skin and tissues and evaluate your sensory perception of touch and temperature.
While undergoing a C&P exam can be time-consuming, you won’t qualify for disability benefits without one. Prepare for your appointment accordingly and gather pertinent medical records to streamline the process.
You may have additional questions regarding peripheral neuropathy and qualifying for VA disability benefits. Feel free to contact Veterans Guide. We’re happy to assist you with any inquiries.
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