If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, you may be wondering what your herniated disc VA disability rating will be. Herniated discs are a common condition that can affect the spine, they are also known as bulging discs.
The discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, and when they become herniated, the material inside the disc can bulge or break through the outer layer.
This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the neck, arms, or legs. Herniated discs can also be caused by degenerative disc disease and lead to intervertebral disc syndrome. Herniated discs could lead to other conditions, such as spinal stenosis or sciatica.
In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about VA disability ratings for herniated discs in order to obtain VA disability compensation. We will cover service connection, compensation and pension exams, and how VA ratings classify herniated discs. We will also discuss TDIU for herniated discs and what to expect during the va claim application process.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a herniated disc:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Pain that radiates down your arm or leg
- Numbness or tingling in your neck, arms, or legs
- Weakness in your arms or legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Service Connection for Herniated Discs
To be eligible for disability benefits for a herniated disc, you must have a current diagnosis of the condition and meet the eligibility criteria for VA disability benefits. You must also provide evidence that shows a service connected disability to your military service. VA disability claims evidence can be direct or circumstantial, and include:
- Official records of a herniated disc during active duty
- Medical evidence from private doctors linking the current diagnosis to an in-service injury, disease, or event that has been at least as likely as not (50% likelihood) caused the current condition
- Lay evidence (statements from friends, family members, or coworkers) that you had the condition while in service.
A positive VA disability rating for a a bulging disc or a herniated disc is based on the extent of your symptoms, how impaired your range of motion is, prevalence of incapacitating episodes, and how all of this impacts your daily life.
The VA will consider factors such as pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking to determine the veterans disability rating.
Disability ratings range from 0% to 100%, with higher ratings indicating more severe symptoms.
Secondary Service Connection for Herniated Discs
In addition to a direct connection, you may also be eligible for a secondary service connection if your herniated disc causes symptoms of another condition.
The second condition must have an established service connection and be at least as likely as not (50% likelihood) caused by the herniated disc. Some common conditions that may be associated with herniated discs include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Chronic pain syndrome
- Hemorrhagic or thrombotic stroke
- Multiple sclerosis
- Degenerative arthritis
- Pain in your cervical spine
If you are granted a secondary service connection for herniated discs, you will receive the same rating as your primary condition.
Service Connection by Aggravation for Herniated Discs
If your herniated disc was caused or aggravated by military service, you may be eligible for service connection by aggravation, and a higher VA disability rating.
To qualify, you must provide medical records that show your condition was at least as likely as not (50% likelihood) caused or aggravated by an in-service injury, disease, or event.
Compensation and Pension Exams for Herniated Discs
The VA will use medical evidence from private doctors to determine eligibility for service connection.
However, the VA may also request a compensation and pension (C&P) exam to evaluate your symptoms and assess how much they impact your daily life.
The VA doctor my examine your entire spine, spinal cord, test your forward flexion, range of motion, cervical strain, and ask you questions about your family history of degenerative disc disease.
The results of this exam can be used in conjunction with any other medical evidence you provide to determine your VA rating. If the results from your C&P exam conflict with other medical evidence, the VA will contact your doctor for clarification and can request a second opinion.
If there is still a disagreement after the second opinion has been issued, your case may be reviewed by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA is the final authority on VA decisions regarding disability VA benefits.
VA Disability Ratings for Herniated Discs
The VA uses 38 CFR § 4.71a, Schedule of Ratings – Musculoskeletal System to rate herniated discs. The following are the VA disability ratings for herniated discs:
- 10% – During the previous 12 months, has there been a period of one week or more when you were unable to work because of an incapacitating episode, with a duration of at least one week but less than two weeks?
- 20% – Veterans who have had episodes that last for at least 2 weeks, but less than 4 weeks, in the past 12 months, may be able to qualify for this rating.
- 40% – Having episodes that last for at least 4 weeks but less than 6 weeks in the past 12 months
- 60% – During the previous 12 months the veteran has experienced an incapacitating episode that lasted at least 6 weeks
How Does the VA Rate Herniated Discs?
Veterans affairs uses the above rating criteria to determine how to rule on your VA disability claim, in addition to the general rating formula assigned to the follow symptoms:
- Muscle weakness: The extent to which your muscles are weak, no issues to functional loss .
- Difficulty walking: The amount of difficulty you have walking ranging from no issues to severe or no ability to walk.
- Loss of balance: The extent to which you have lost your sense of balance, which can range from no loss of balance to severe loss.
The VA will also consider any limitations you may have in your daily life. These limitations can range from mild, such as being unable to lift heavy objects, to severe, such as being completely bedridden.
TDIU for Herniated Discs
In some cases, herniated discs can make it difficult or even impossible to work. If this is the case, you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). To qualify for TDIU, you must show that your condition prevents you from securing and maintaining substantially gainful employment. This means any job that pays at least $18,000 per year pre-tax.
The VA will look at all of your medical evidence to determine whether you are unable to work. This includes your symptom ratings, the results of any C&P exams, and any statements from your doctors about your ability to work. If the VA decides that you are unable to work, they will award TDIU benefits at the 100% rating.
The VA disability ratings for herniated discs can be confusing, but hopefully, this article has helped to clear things up. If you have questions on appealing a VA disability claim, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!
You can also check out our other blog posts on VA disability ratings for conditions like:
– Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
– Mental Illness Ratings
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