Veterans Disability Info Blog

What You Need to Know About Your Radiculopathy VA Rating 

If you suffer from back problems you may be eligible for significant disability benefits.

Many military Veterans suffer from back trouble and related symptoms. You may have had back problems or injuries even before you entered the military, but they got worse due to your military service for various reasons. As a result, you now have symptoms such as sharp or dull pain, numbness in your hands, arms, or legs, or weakness and limited range of motion. The general medical term the VA uses for these kinds of conditions is “radiculopathy,” and many Veterans diagnosed with it receive substantial amounts of monthly financial compensation.

The Claim Doesn’t Have to Be Related to an In-Service Military Injury

VA disability claims based on a direct service connection theory have to be directly tied to an accident or injury that occurred during your active military service. However, that is not required for radiculopathy. If radiculopathy is due to a service-related accident or injury, then that makes you eligible for disability compensation on a secondary basis. This means that an existing service-connected condition caused the radiculopathy.  In most cases, radiculopathy comes from a spine condition.  But even if you had a preexisting condition before you joined the military, and it only got worse while you were enlisted in the military, you can be eligible for the same monthly disability payments based on an aggravation theory. For example, if you had a back injury playing sports, due to a car accident, or at work before you entered the military – and it got worse while in the military – then you can file a VA disability claim.  But keep in mind that with an aggravation theory, you must be able to establish a baseline level of the disability, which will then be subtracted from the level of disability after the aggravation is considered. Contact a VA claims lawyer if you have questions about your claim.

How the VA Disability Rating System Works: Our VA Claims Lawyer Explains

  • Your VA disability rating is based on how severe your disability is, and you are scored on a range of disability from 10% (minor disability) to 100% (full disability).
  • The scores are rated in 10% increments, from 10% to 20% to 30% and so on.
  • Your score increases based on how severely you are disabled and how much that impacts your everyday life.
  • That is determined by what your medical doctor reports, which may include additional disabilities beyond radiculopathy.
  • Your score and the amount of financial compensation you are eligible for also typically increase if you have dependents such as a spouse or children, but only once your combined rating reaches 30 percent.
  • Compensation based on this rating system can range from around $165 a month on the low end of the scale to more than $3,900 a month at the high end.
  • Compensation due to medical disability is also routinely adjusted to keep up with inflation, the way Social Security benefits receive cost-of-living adjustments.

Symptoms of Radiculopathy Are Not Limited to Back Trouble

All kinds of things triggered by back trouble and radiculopathy can adversely affect your ability to do activities you used to do and enjoy. Those may include ordinary things like working to support yourself and your family, performing daily chores, driving a vehicle, or taking care of yourself by dressing, showering, or preparing meals. Although radiculopathy is due to damage or injury to your back or spine, which can cause painful pinched nerves and herniated discs in your spinal column, the symptoms can also be felt in other parts of your body.

Common symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms and shooting pain in your arms and legs.
  • Difficulty bending, lifting, standing, walking, and sleeping.
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, or feet.
  • Loss of strength and range of motion in the shoulders, arms, hips, and legs.
  • Partial or complete loss of feeling in your feet or hands.
  • Incontinence, or the inability to control urination or bowel movements

How the VA Determines Eligibility and Compensation

The VA evaluates your eligibility based on a medical diagnosis and how that aligns with the VA’s rating or scoring system. The more limited your range of motion is before you start to experience pain, and how much that negatively impacts your ability to do daily activities, the higher your rating. That’s why it’s extremely important that you describe all of your pain and physical limitations to your physician so they can document these as evidence to present to the VA. You can also be rated for more than one condition or set of radiculopathy symptoms simultaneously, raising your disability rating to increase your eligible benefits.

Various Types of Radiculopathy

  • Cervical radiculopathy refers to pain from a pinched nerve or other condition in the neck area. That can result in pain, tingling, or numbness that radiates into the shoulders and down the arms to the hands.
  • Thoracic radiculopathy occurs when a nerve is pinched or otherwise impacted in the upper part of your back – which typically causes pain in the chest or torso.
  • Lumbar radiculopathy occurs in the lower back, frequently leading to pain, numbness, and tingling in the hips and legs, especially along the path of the sciatic nerve running down the leg. When lumbar radiculopathy is severe, it can limit your ability to stand or walk and can even result in incontinence.

Primary and Secondary Conditions

But as mentioned before, you do not necessarily have to connect the radiculopathy to a particular injury, accident, or other single specific event that occurred while you were in the service. In fact, it is more common to see this condition emerge secondary to a spine condition.

  • These conditions that aren’t primary conditions or the main ones directly connected to an injury or accident while in active service are called “secondary conditions.”
  • But they are rated the same way as primary conditions are, and you may suffer from pain and loss of range of motion due to both primary and secondary conditions.
  • If the radiculopathy affects both sides of your body, so that you have pain in both the left and right leg, then that invokes the bilateral factor.
  • In that case, the ratings for each side of your body will be combined, elevating your rating for higher compensation.

How to Submit a More Successful Claim for Compensation

Dealing with any branch of the government can be a complicated and time-consuming process, whether it’s the DMV, IRS, or VA. The compensation you deserve if you are incapacitated or in pain due to your service to your country can greatly benefit you and your family. Seeking legal help from a qualified and experienced VA claims lawyer specializing in this particular area of the law can potentially ease the process and help ensure your claim is successful. A veterans disability law firm can help you take steps to raise your disability rating, maximize your compensation benefits, minimize the stress of filing an appeal, and increase the chances of success.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.