VA Disability Ratings for Essential Tremors

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VA disability rating for tremors can be a complicated process. There are many factors that VA considers when determining a rating, including the severity of the tremors and how much they impact daily life. In this guide, we’ll discuss VA’s rating criteria for essential tremors and how veterans can receive benefits for this condition.

What are Essential Tremors?

Essential tremor is a disorder that affects your nervous system. This causes shaking that you can’t control, and it might happen anywhere in your body. However, it most commonly happens in your hands when you’re doing certain motor tasks like drinking from a glass, sewing, tying a shoelace, cutting your meals, etc.

Essential tremor is a neurological disease characterized by uncontrollable shaking. It affects people of all ages, and it is most commonly seen in middle-aged vets. While usually not life-threatening, essential tremors are a distinct ailment that has been mistakenly linked to Parkinson’s disease and can get worse with time. Always be sure to consult with your doctors.

Common Symptoms of Essential Tremors

  • Shaking
  • Numbness
  • Reduced sensation in the fingers and toes
  • Unexplainable high muscle tension
  • Difficulty coordinating muscle movement
  • Among other issues

As you can see, at face value, it can be tough to differentiate between Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremors.

Essential tremors are distinguished from Parkinson’s disease because they are not associated with a loss of dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra. Essential tremors are also not associated with a loss of dopaminergic nerve terminals in the striatum, which is the part of the brain that helps control movement. Below is one of our best attorney videos where they discuss VA disability for Parkinson’s Disease.

Service Connection for Essential Tremors

There are a few ways to establish service connection for essential tremors. These include direct Service Connection, secondary service connection, and service connection via aggravation.

Direct service connection means that there is a specific connection between your current disability and your time in service. VA must be able to directly link the two. In order to do this, you’ll have to show the following three:

  1. A current diagnosis of essential tremors
  2. Evidence of an in-service event or injury
  3. A medical nexus, or medical connection, between your essential tremors and the in-service event above.

For example, if you develop tremors after being exposed to a neurotoxin while on duty, you likely would have direct service connection.

Secondary Service Connection for Essential Tremors

Secondary service connection means that you don’t have a direct link between your essential tremor diagnosis and your time in service. However, you do have tremors that are secondary to a primary service-connected condition, in other words, caused or aggravated by this other condition.

For example, if you have a service-connected condition that caused damage to your nervous system, or perhaps you sustained a traumatic brain injury and now experience tremors. In these cases, you would be able to get a secondary service connection for your essential tremors.

Service Connection via Aggravation for Essential Tremors

Service connection via aggravation means you had a pre-existing condition when you entered service, and your time in service made it worse. For example, suppose you had mild tremors before enlisting and during service; they became worse or more frequent. In that case, you might be eligible for VA disability benefits.

You must be able to show VA with evidence that your time in active duty aggravated or worsened the pre-existing tremors that previously were not enough of an issue to keep you from enlisting in the US armed forces.

C&P Exam for Essential Tremors

A C&P exam is an examination performed by a VA-hired doctor who will gather information about your medical condition to provide an opinion to the VA about the severity of your disability. The C&P exam for essential tremors will include a review of your medical records as well as a physical and neurological examination.

The VA-hired doctor will also ask you questions about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. It is important to be honest, and open with the doctor, as this information will help VA decide your disability rating.

VA Disability Rating for Essential Tremors

So, what’s the VA disability rating for essential tremors? Unfortunately, there are no specific VA disability rating criteria for essential tremors. However, VA will likely rate your claim by borrowing the paralysis of the median nerve VA diagnostic code 8515. With this code, they can give you a percentage rating based on the severity of your symptoms.

VA will consider how much your tremors affect your ability to use your extremities, as well as how often they occur when assigning a VA disability rating.

10%: If you have mild tremors in one arm or the other that occasionally interfere with your activities

20% rating for essential tremors: If you have moderate tremors in one arm or the other that frequently interfere with your activities

30% rating for essential tremors: If you have severe tremors in one arm or the other that constantly interfere with your activities

40% rating for Essential tremors: If you have paralysis that affects your non-dominant hand, it will be hard for you to do some things, but theoretically, VA thinks you can still get by mostly okay.

50% Disability Rating for Essential Tremors: You have lost much of your ability to use your dominant hand, and it is partially paralyzed.

Again, keep in mind that these ratings are just a guide based on the median nerve criteria and that VA could change its mind and rate things differently based on specific symptomology and your specific situation.

TDIU for Essential Tremors

If your essential tremor disability is so severe that it prevents you from maintaining substantially gainful employment, then you may be eligible for a 100% VA disability rating through Individual Unemployability (TDIU). This benefit allows VA to rate you as 100% disabled even if your service-connected conditions do not individually warrant a 100% VA disability rating.

To be eligible for TDIU, you must show that your service-connected conditions make it impossible for you to maintain substantially gainful employment. While there are no set VA disability rating criteria for essential tremors, VA will likely look at the severity of your symptoms and how they affect your ability to work.

If you are unable to work because of your essential tremor, be sure to apply for TDIU benefits!

To qualify for unemployability due to essential tremors, VA must likely find that:

  • You are unable to obtain or maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of your essential tremors.
  • You must have at least one VA service-connected disability rated at least 40% with a combined rating total of 70% or higher.

For more details on TDIU, check out our unemployability guide here!

Denied VA Benefits for Tremors?

If you have been denied VA disability benefits for your essential tremors, don’t give up. We have years of experience helping veterans just like you get the benefits they deserve.

Just got a rating decision you didn’t agree with? Press the button below and contact us today for a free case evaluation with our Disability Coordinators.

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