VA Ratings for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome

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What is Intervertebral Disc Syndrome

Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (also known as IVDS) is a back condition involving the intervertebral disc or disc fragments. 

  • With IVDS, these discs may be displaced at the lumbar, cervical, or thoracic areas of the spine. Intervertebral disc syndrome is a common cause of back pain. 
  • Those who have this condition will usually find that it is made worse after the individual sits or bends for an extensive amount of time. 
  • This condition may also lead to nerve pain in other areas of the body, such as legs and arms or along the sciatic nerve
  • IVDS can also cause nerve pain in the legs and arms, depending on where the displaced disc is located in the spine. 
  • One common type of nerve pain that IVDS can cause is sciatica which is pain along the sciatic nerve. 
  • Individuals who suffer from IVDS often experience limited motion and it can also lead to issues with the bladder or bowels.
  • Men who have IVDS may find that erectile dysfunction is a noted side effect as well. 

Service Connection for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome

intervertebral disc syndrome

For the VA to cover your Intervertebral Disc Syndrome, it is important to connect it to your time in service. This is done in multiple ways, but “direct connection” is often the easiest to prove. However, you must be able to show the VA that the injury is a direct result to you having served in the military.

The three elements needed to successfully make a service connection claim include:

  • Current diagnosis of your Intervertebral Disc Syndrome
  • Information about an occurrence or an incident that occurred while you were serving that lead to the injury or aggravation of this injury.
  • Medical Nexus – This is a medical description that connects the diagnosed IVDS with the particular occurrence that is said to lead to it.

Your VA doctor will work with you to help establish this and provide proof if it is available so that you can file your claim.

Secondary Service Connection for IVDS

Not every injury or problem is able to be directly connected to your time in service. However, there is still a connection. Another way to prove service connection for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome is through a secondary service connection. Put simply a secondary service connection means that you are connecting the injury you are looking for coverage to with your time in service through another injury or incident that IS considered service-connected. For example, if you are not diagnosed with IVDS for several years after you were no longer serving it may not be able to be directly connected to your service. However, if you do have another service-connected injury that may be in part the cause of your IVDS that could help you obtain secondary service connection

intervertebral disc syndrome

An example of a secondary connection with IVDS is that you were diagnosed with whiplash as a service-connected injury due to an accident that occurs while in service. Many years later that could lead to degeneration of your discs and IVDS.

Service Connection by Aggravation | What if you were diagnosed before service?

An additional method of proving service connection for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome is by service connection by aggravation. In a case where you were already affected by Intervertebral Disc Syndrome before beginning service, you may still be eligible to have the VA provide some coverage if you can prove that your time in service aggravated the syndrome or made it worse. The overall process is quite similar to other forms of proving service connection. However, instead of proving service caused the injury, your doctor would only have to prove that your service made it worse.

Compensation & Pension (C&P) Exams for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome

To receive a disability rating from Veteran’s Affairs for IVDS, you may need to go through compensation & pension exams. After you submit your information about your disability to the regional office, they will check out the information and determine if you need a C&P exam through a VA office.

intervertebral disc syndrome

This exam is very similar to any diagnosis exam. The doctor will ask questions about your pain, symptoms and other issues related to your injury. However, you will also be asked about your duties in the military and the incident (if any) that lead to your IVDS. This is an interview only and usually very brief.

This doctor will not be treating you for your IVDS but only putting together information to make an official diagnosis. The doctor may consider other possible causes of your back pain besides IVDS as well. 

The doctor will create his or her own conclusions about your pain situation and forward the findings to the RO. Then, you will hear back from someone in the regional office to determine what the next step or steps should be.

How does VA Rate Intervertebral Disc Syndrome?

The rating for IVDS occurs under the diagnostic code 5243. The criteria for rating IVDS is based upon how much bed rest the veteran’s doctor recommended over the past year and the full number of incapacitating episodes. 

intervertebral disc syndrome

An incapacitating episode would be when the acute symptoms of the disorder require the physician to treat the pain directly and bed rest may be recommended. 

The ratings of IVDS range from 10% – 60%. A 10% rating would include an episode that was between 1 and 2 weeks total over the past year while a 60% rating would include incapacitation of at least six weeks over the past year. Other ratings would occur between those two extremes.

The VA will make the disability rating based on information from your doctor regarding how many times the disorder was treated and how long the patient was prescribed bedrest over the last 12 months.

TDIU for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome

TDIU stands for total disability individual unemployability. It is possible to get rated as TDIU for IVDS if you can prove that you are unable to gain substantial employment as a result of your IVDS. The overall process of getting this rating is similar to any other rating; however, there is the additional proving that the service-connected injury prevents you from working or working in any substantial capability.

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