VA Disability Benefits for Spine Conditions
Published May 16, 2018
Most people experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, spinal injuries are all too common for veterans. Military lifestyle, deployment, and training often lead to spine conditions that can last a lifetime. These conditions can be debilitating, seriously threatening your ability to hold down a job or partake in hobbies you once enjoyed.
How Back Injuries Happen
The back is the body’s workhorse, but few people recognize just how much activity is impacted by the spine until an injury occurs. In both military and civilian settings, too much pressure on the back can lead to strains in areas of the spine. Veterans often have a history of carrying heavy loads or repetitive motions that strain their backs. The discs in the back act as shock absorbers, but they have their limits. Lift too much, too often, and you’ll develop serious back issues. Because of this, many suffer from degenerative disc disease or herniated discs.
Forward flexion of the spine refers to the forward motion of a backbend. When the spine is flexed repeatedly with heavy weight on it, serious injuries can occur. Many spine conditions stem from this exact motion and in many cases last a lifetime. Thankfully, the VA offers disability benefits for those with spine conditions stemming from their service.
Benefits for Injured Veterans
You’ve made sacrifices for your country, and it’s our job to make sure you’re compensated for injuries incurred while serving. If your spine condition stems from military service, you may be entitled to compensation benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. To receive compensation, you’ll need to have your injury service-connected and rated by the VA. VA disability ratings for back pain range dramatically depending upon the area of the back injury and the severity. The higher the rating, the greater the amount of compensation.
Applying for benefits and receiving them can be aggravating but well worth the effort. It may take months or even years to get the benefits you deserve. Don’t allow paperwork and deadlines to stop you from taking advantage of what is owed to you.
Rating Spine Conditions
Ratings are used by the VA to determine the severity of an injury. Ranging from zero to 100 percent, this figure helps determine the benefits you’ll receive. Generally speaking, the higher your rating, the more benefits you’re likely to receive. For spinal injury ratings, your range of motion is taken into consideration. For example, if you have forward flexion of the lumbar spine at 30 degrees or less, your spine condition will be rated at 40 percent. If the forward flexion of your lumbar spine is between 30-60 degrees, however, you could see a rating of just 20 percent.
To measure your range of motion, a physician will use a tool called a goniometer to measure forward flexion. The number of degrees a person can move backward or forward will significantly influence the rating they receive. Other factors to consider include where pain first shows up in the range of motion as well as the occurrence of flare-ups.
Many times, a spine condition can result in additional conditions that can also impact a rating. If you suffer from a back injury, you may also experience a secondary condition of radiculopathy down the legs, which can be a pain, numbness, or tingling sensation. Radiculopathy would be a condition rated separately from the back itself.
Appealing Rating Decisions
The VA doesn’t always get rating decisions right the first time. Spine conditions are notoriously difficult to rate correctly. For this reason, many choose to appeal their rating decision. You may wish to work with a VA-accredited attorney who has experience building a case for appealing a rating. Such lawyers are well-versed in the steps necessary to appeal and can help you gather the appropriate documentation, connect you with independent medical experts and represent you throughout the appeals process.
Get the Legal Help You Need
If you’re considering appealing your disability rating for a back injury, consider reaching out to our team at Veterans Law Group. We’ve helped thousands of veterans get the VA disability pay they deserve. Widely respected throughout the field of veteran’s disability lawyers, VLG is eager to help you with your appeal. Get started today with a free consultation.