Lower Back Pain Va Disability Rating


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Specific Challenges Of Back Injuries

VA Disability Rating for Lower Back Pain

When a person injures their foot, they may find themselves out of commission and on bed rest while they recuperate. A pair of crutches or wheelchair can help them get around while their foot heals. For those with back injuries, though, the solution is rarely as simple.

Because doctors cannot see the tendons, ligaments and muscles the way they can bone fractures, back injuries are often incredibly difficult to treat. Instead of a straightforward prescription of bed rest or medication, medical professionals must go the trial and error route, gauging their patients reaction to targeted and sometimes painful treatment. Even exercise, commonly recommended to people recovering from accidents, can exacerbate back injuries.

Since the spine is so critically important to the way the human body moves, even activities like sleeping, walking and sitting can become painful for a person with a back injury. Stress, time in front of the computer and even the gentlest of exercise can jeopardize the progress of someone with a back injury. Such injuries affect virtually everything a person does and can be worsened in ways you least expect, making them one of those most challenging afflictions with which a veteran can be diagnosed.

Plantar Fasciitis Secondary To Back Pain

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that affects the heel and arch of the foot. It is often caused by overuse, such as running or standing for long periods. However, it can also be caused by other conditions, such as back pain.

When someone experiences back pain, they often compensate by walking differently. It can stress the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. Over time, this can lead to inflammation and pain in the heel and arch.

Can I Get To A 100 Percent Rating For A Back Disability

The diagnostic codes do allow for a 100 percent disability. But, you have to show unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine to qualify for that.

This would mean that you are bent forward but cannot move any portion of your spine at all. In other words, your thoracolumbar spine does not move and your cervical spine does not move either. That is obviously a very significant limitation.

But, you should keep in mind that you may still be able to qualify for a 100 percent rating for a back disability if your disability makes you unemployable.

A 40 to 60 percent thoracolumbar spine rating means that you are severely limited by your back. You would either have very limited range of motion or incapacitating episodes requiring bedrest at least 4 weeks in the last year. Individuals with these limitations will often find it difficult to find or maintain employment.

I speak to many veterans who have one VA rating of 40 percent or higher and other smaller ratings that brings their total rating up to 70 percent or more. These veterans could often potentially qualify for TDIU benefits and get paid at the 100 percent level because their disabilities prevent them from finding work.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims. He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

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Pain And Underlying Conditions

Previously, the VA only awarded former servicemembers with benefits for a chronic back condition and pain did not factor in with the rating. Today, veterans back pain injury claims are compensable with a current diagnosis that is linked to their time in service. This change has dramatically improved the odds of a veteran obtaining the disability benefits they are entitled to.

How To Get A 100% Rating For Back Pain

VA Disability Ratings for Back Pain and Spinal Arthritis

A 100% rating is given when the entire spine is immovable because of a back injury. However, more commonly, veterans are able to achieve a 100% rating through a combination of back and neck injury ratings and other conditions. Often, nerve issues can arise from back or neck conditions and cause a veteran to lose mobility of their feet and hands.

The VA considers back issues in the lumbar spine separate from the cervical spine. A veteran with issues with both portions of the spine could get a rating for a back condition and a neck condition.

Veterans with a severe neck or back condition may be entitled to total disability based on individual unemployability .

TDIU, which pays at the same rate as a 100% rating, is given to veterans with service-connected conditions that prevent them from keeping substantially gainful employment. A veteran must have at least one service-connected disability rated at least at 60%, or two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70% or more, including one single disability rated at 40% or more.

One way to find out if you could be entitled to this benefit is to look at your functional limitations, Ton said. The VA has to consider impairments in standing, sitting, bending, climbing stairs, grasping, and carrying objects, for example, because those are common work tasks.

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How Do I Establish Service Connection For Sciatica

To be eligible for VA disability benefits for sciatica, you must first prove that your condition is the result of your time in the military service. For direct service connection, you should prove the three elements:

  • A current, diagnosed sciatica condition
  • An in-service situation or event that may have caused or contributed to your problem
  • A medical opinion linking the in-service situation or event to your sciatica condition

Once youre diagnosed with sciatica or a related issue, its time to file a VA disability claim for VA benefits.

Remember, sciatica may also be a secondary issue to other service-related conditions, so be sure to check with your doctor or health care provider for a medical opinion. Then, file a disability claim for your medical issues.

Applying For Va Disability Benefits For Back Problems

Once youve been diagnosed with your back condition, you will need to establish a service-connection.

While most back disabilities can be traced to a specific event or injury that should be in your military records, you may also have back problems due to the physical stress of training and other work while in service. If that is the case you will want to obtain buddy letters from family, friends, and fellow service members, explaining the difference in your physical health before, during, and after your time in service.

Also, be sure to keep your own records, detailing what you experience day-to-day in regards to pain and obstacles to full functionality. You can do this by requesting your files from the military and always keeping another copy of your medical records.

In order to receive VA disability for back problems, like all VA Claims, the VA will be looking for as much evidence as possible.

For more information and details on how to submit a successful claim, check out this video below:

If you are ready to get started with your VA claim the fastest way to go is here! Dont allow back pain to prevent you from doing the things that you love!

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Back Impairments: What Qualifies

The dangerous and physically demanding tasks commonly performed by members of the U.S. military put servicemembers and veterans at risk of developing orthopedic conditions of the back. Whether your back pain is the result of an acute injury sustained during service or caused by the chronic stress you experienced during training and regular duty, any back conditions caused or worsened by your military service are eligible for service connection and compensation.

Orthopedic conditions affecting the back are compensated differently depending on the degree of disability, so it is incredibly important that you work with a physician to determine the correct diagnosis for your condition and get your symptoms recorded as early as possible. Understanding what is causing your chronic back pain will also help you find the most effective treatment method.

The VA disability rating system separates orthopedic conditions of the spine into those affecting the back and those affecting the neck . For the purposes of calculating a veterans total disability rating, back and neck impairments are treated as separate disabilities, with the exception of unfavorable ankylosis of both segments . There are a number of different back conditions that are subject to compensation under the VA disability system, including the following:

-Mechanical back pain syndrome

-Facet joint arthropathy

-Degenerative disc disease

-Ankylosing spondylitis of the thoracolumbar spine

-Vertebral fracture

What Is Limitation Of Range Of Motion For Va Disability For Back Pain

WINNING a VA Disability Rating for Back Pain

The limitation of range of motion principle is arguably the most important principle that applies to VA disability ratings for back pain.


Because the general rating formula for diseases and injuries of the spine talk about flexion, which is the act of flexing or bending.

Any limitation of Range of Motion should be measured with a Goniometer by the medical professional at your VA C& P Exam for Back Pain.

You must be open, honest, and truthful at your C& P exam for back pain, and make sure to STOP the C& P examiner as soon as you feel any pain.

If you cant move at all without pain, make sure to let the examiner know that.

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Prevalence Of Arthritis Of The Back Among Veterans

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that degenerative arthritis is the primary reason for disability discharge among service members. Over 395,000 veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for degenerative arthritis of the back according to VAs 2015 Annual Benefits Report. Injury and joint overuse are common causes of arthritis in the back among service members.

Secondary Conditions To Lumbar Strain

When you experience an injury to your lower back, the ligaments, muscles, and discs can all be affected. It is referred to as a lumbar strain.

Lumbar strain can lead to several secondary conditions, including herniated discs, sciatica, and chronic back pain if not treated properly. While rest and ice may help to relieve some of the pain associated with lumbar strain, it is important to see a doctor if the pain persists.

Otherwise, you may be at risk for further damage to your back.

We hope this guide has been helpful. Were VA Claims Insiders here to walk you through everything you need to know. Remember, if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us for support.

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How To Get A Range Of Motion Test For Back Pain

To assess VA disability for back problems, the VA most often uses the General Rating Formula for Diseases and Injuries of the Spine to evaluate them. Their rating is determined most commonly by assessing your range of motion. Their formula looks at the flexion at the waist and determines if it is limited by injury.

According to the VA, flexibility must be fairly limited to even get a 20 percent disability rating. This will be determined on whether there is forward flexion greater than 30 degrees but less than 60 degrees. Meaning that if you are significantly limited in your ability to bend at the waist, you might qualify for the 20 percent rating. Usually, previous diagnoses from doctors or therapists will be used to determine this.

The range of motion method of determining your VA benefits rating generally will end up as one of the following:

Of course, a limited range of motion is not the only way to get VA disability for back problems. It is also possible to obtain at least a 20 percent rating if you are regularly experiencing muscle spasms severe enough to develop an abnormal walking gait. They will also evaluate you for the following abnormal spinal contours:

  • abnormal kyphosis

Available Va Benefits For Back Pain Or Spinal Conditions

Lumbar Spine: Va Disability Rating Lumbar Spine

Your assigned VA disability rating for back pain determines the benefits you receive. Based on percentage, you could earn anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars monthly. On top of monthly financial compensation, certain disabilities are eligible for additional benefits such as clothing allowances. This is money on top of the monthly benefits that allow you to purchase clothing, items, or accessories that may be necessary to continue your everyday life. For example, VA compensation for a back brace, wheelchair, or crutches.

Although it is unlikely to receive a 100 percent VA disability rating for back pain, it is possible to earn full compensation if your condition prevents you from working.

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How Hard Is It To Get Va Disability For Back Problems

There is no data available on the approval rate of VA back pain claims. Anecdotally, in online forums some veterans said they breezed through the self-directed claims process while others complained of denials and lengthy appeals.

A veteran service organization such as AMVETS, the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars can assist you with your claim or appeal. These organizations are experienced in navigating the VA claims process and can work on your behalf.

» MORE: Check your VA home loan eligibility with today’s top lenders

Here is a list of VA-accredited Veteran Service Organizations that can help with your claim.

Additionally, you can reach out to an attorney that specializes in VA disability claims. But, keep in mind that this option may be costly. In addition to legal fees for a retainer, you may need to cover additional associated medical costs, like an appointment for a second opinion.

Here Are A Few Pointers For Your Back Claim

If the spine is frozen and cannot move at all, it is considered favorable if it is frozen at 0° for flexion or extension. If it is frozen at any other place in flexion or extension, then it is considered unfavorable.

All measurements are rounded to the nearest 5

There are some very rare circumstances where a physician can declare that a limited ROM is normal for an individual and thus not ratable. This is very rare and only happens if the physician can provide significant evidence that the ROM is normal for a particular individual.

There is one general rating formula for any condition of the spine that is used in the majority of cases. Well discuss this general formula first, and then address exceptions. The general formula is based primarily on the range of motion . The images below show a standard ROM for the cervical and thoracolumbar spines.

Remember, your rating is based on the range of motion

Military Disability Made Easy has many great resources for any aspect of your claim that you are considering. Head over to their website and take a look around. You will find many great resources there.

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Common Signs And Symptoms Of Degenerative Disc Disease In Veterans

A few of the risk factors for Degenerative Disc Disease include your age, prior back injuries, car accidents, being overweight or obese, a sedentary lifestyle, or other forms of bodily trauma.

Generally, some of the more common symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease include:

  • Pain that worsens when sitting .
  • Pain that worsens when standing, bending, lifting, or twisting.
  • Feeling better while walking or even running than while sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Feeling better by changing positions often or lying down.
  • Periods of severe pain that come and go. These can last from a few days to a few months before getting better. They can range from dull nagging pain to severe disabling pain.
  • Pain in the low back , mid back , or neck , depending on where the affected disc is, possibly even radiating to the legs, arms, and hands .
  • Pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling in the extremities.

What Is The Painful Motion Principle

Radiculopathy VA Disability Rating: Cervical, Lumbar, Thoracic

The painful motion principle means that regardless of range of motion, if pain is present, the claimant should at least be awarded the minimum level of disability for that condition.

For example, lets say you have full range of motion for your back, but you have pain during movement, you should be awarded the minimum level of disability for the condition, which for most muscuoloskeltal conditions is 10%.

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Va C& p Exams For Back Pain

After you file your claim, the VA may decide to conduct a compensation and pension compensation exam on your back or spine if they need more information or medical evidence to support your claim.

C& P exams help VA evaluators determine the severity of your condition and assign a rating for it. Your rating will determine your eligibility for monthly payments and other VA health care benefits, according to the VA.

Radiculopathy And Back Pain

Spinal conditions are also known to sometimes cause nerve problems. One of the most common conditions secondary to spinal conditions is radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy is caused by compressed nerves in the spine and results in pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the nerve. If radiculopathy is caused by a low back condition, the individuals will feel the symptoms in the lower extremities . If radiculopathy is caused by a neck condition, the symptoms will be felt in the shoulder and can travel down the arm and into the hand.

If your spinal condition results in the development of a new disability or makes an existing disability worse, remember that you may be entitled to secondary service-connection for the new or aggravated disability. These conditions under the secondary rating disabilities would be rated separately from the primary spinal condition.

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