VA Disability Rating for Radiculopathy
If you are a veteran suffering from radiculopathy, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs uses a rating system to determine your level of disability and the amount of your monthly compensation payments. The VA rating for radiculopathy evaluates the unique symptoms you are experiencing to determine the disability benefits available to you. Veterans Guide can provide information on how to file and where to find legal assistance to help you process your application.
When a nerve at the root of your spine is pinched or damaged, you may experience a range of symptoms referred to as radiculopathy. The location of the affected nerve determines what symptoms you may experience, the impact on your ability to work and live a normal life, and the VA disability benefits you could be entitled to. The VA rating for radiculopathy and the severity of your symptoms will determine the benefits available to you.
Gathering evidence and filing your claim can be a complex and time-consuming process. The resources available through Veterans Guide can show you how to get started and tell you what information you need to provide to the VA. We can also direct you to local VA benefits attorneys with the medical professionals and experience you need to make the most of your VA disability claim.
What Is Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy encompasses a variety of spinal cord conditions due to injuries to the back, neck, and other areas. The condition is caused by a compressed nerve root in the spine. The pinched nerve can cause pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling, and weakness. The exact type and location of the symptoms depend on the region of the spine affected.
Nerve Groups Impacted by Radiculopathy
There are three types of radiculopathy, depending on the area affected:
- Cervical radiculopathy involves a compressed nerve in the neck with weakness and numbness radiating into the shoulders and arms.
- Lumbar radiculopathy involves a compressed nerve in the lower back and can impact the sciatic nerve—the largest nerve in your body—causing “sciatica,” the most common form of the condition.
- Thoracic radiculopathy involves a pinched nerve located in the mid to upper back and is the least common type.
Veterans and Radiculopathy
Live-combat veterans experience injuries that result in radiculopathy at alarming rates. For veterans who were not deployed, the physical nature of military life can lead to injuries that fall under the VA rating of radiculopathy. Spinal cord injuries that impact mobility and quality of life have long-term and life-altering implications.
How Does Your Time in Service Cause Radiculopathy?
Spinal injuries, such as herniated disks, spondylosis, and bone spurs, are the most common causes of radiculopathy. Thus, an injury to your back or spinal cord during service may have either caused or worsened your radiculopathy.
Repetitive strain on your back during the day-to-day physical activities of your military service could also cause or exacerbate these spinal injuries, eventually leading to radiculopathy.
The unique circumstances of your service and related injuries will determine whether or not your current diagnosis will entitle you to VA disability benefits.
How Does the VA Rate Radiculopathy?
The location of your radiculopathy injury determines its code and categorization, and these injuries are broken down by nerve group as follows:
- Cervical radiculopathy is evaluated under codes 8510, 8610, and 8710.
- Lumbar radiculopathy is evaluated under codes 8520, 8620, and 8720.
- Bilateral factor: If both sides of the body, such as the arms or the legs, are impacted, the VA will issue a rating for each side.
- Sciatica, or sciatic nerve radiculopathy: paralysis of the sciatic nerve is the 7th most common VA disability and can range higher than typical radiculopathy.
The codes that apply to your symptoms will impact the expert assessments you need to support your application.
The VA ratings of radiculopathy are presented and broken down into percentages. Mild cases, or cases resulting only in sensory symptoms like tingling, are rated between 10 and 20 percent.
Moderate cases fall between 20 and 40 percent, typically involving serious sensory symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, and impeded movement.
Severe cases involve significantly impeded motion. Severe cases are rated up to 50 percent.
Complete paralysis is anything that ranges over 60-70 percent. This would involve any cases of radiculopathy that prevent or severely impact movement in the affected nerve regions.
The extent to which your movement is impacted determines the VA rating of radiculopathy assigned for your symptoms.
TDIU and Radiculopathy
Veterans with disability ratings of less than 100 percent who cannot work due to their condition may seek benefits under the Total Disability Individual Unemployability program, or TDIU. Veterans qualifying for TDIU receive the same benefits a 100 percent rating would provide.
To be eligible, you must have one disability rated at least 60 percent or multiple disabilities with a combined rating of at least 70 percent with one rated 40 percent or higher.
When filing for compensation for your radiculopathy, you must have evidence from relevant diagnostic tests. While it is possible for the physician conducting your Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam to complete such tests, you can also schedule them with a professional of your choice before your VA exam.
Radiculopathy as a Secondary Disability
You may be eligible for secondary service connection compensation if your radiculopathy is a secondary service disability. A secondary service disability is caused or aggravated by a direct service-connected condition.
Radiculopathy often stems from other primary conditions, such as back conditions or back pain. Radiculopathy magnifies the severity of other conditions, and other conditions can also worsen radiculopathy. Thus, you may be entitled to claim radiculopathy as a secondary condition to another one.
Radiculopathy is often related to the following conditions:
- Back strain
- Spinal injury
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Degenerative arthritis
- Spinal stenosis
If you have developed Radiculopathy as a result of another condition from your time in the military, then you are eligible to apply for it as a secondary disability. If proven, the VA will combine your ratings to achieve a total overall rating.
Service Connection by Aggravation for Radiculopathy
Your radiculopathy doesn’t need to develop in the service to be eligible for VA disability benefits. It could also be a pre-existing condition worsened by your service or result from another service-connected condition.
The evidence concerning your current condition, previous condition, and its interaction with your service impacts your claim’s chance of success.
Prior Conditions Worsened by Service are Eligible for Disability
For a veteran to receive service-connected benefits, the following elements are necessary:
- An occurrence while in service that either caused the condition or aggravated a pre-existing one
- A current diagnosis of the same condition or disease
- A medical expert’s opinion linking the condition with military service
The required medical opinion to link the condition to your service is referred to as a nexus letter. It may be beneficial to work with a medical expert who understands the format of the nexus letter and what the VA is looking for.
How Do I Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Radiculopathy?
Obtaining VA disability compensation for radiculopathy requires:
- Gathering evidence and expert opinions to identify and evaluate your injuries and symptoms
- Completing the appropriate forms and filing your original claim
- Filing your claim up to 180 days before your discharge or at any time following discharge through a postservice claim
We understand that the process of proving your injuries and collecting VA benefits can be frustrating. Without sufficient evidence, claims can and will be denied. Mistakes in the paperwork can delay receiving the benefits you deserve.
The resources at Veterans Guide will help you through the process. We also provide information on how to find a local VA benefits lawyer who can walk you through everything from filing to collecting the compensation you deserve.
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