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Living with back pain can be debilitating, impacting every aspect of one’s life, from daily activities to overall well-being. For veterans who suffer from back pain as a result of their service, navigating the complexities of the VA rating system is crucial to accessing the compensation and benefits they deserve. The VA rates back pain on a scale from 10% to 100%, taking into account factors such as Painful Motion, Limitation of Range of Motion, and Functional Loss or Impairment. In this blog post, we will delve into each of these to provide a clearer understanding of how VA ratings for back pain are determined and the profound impact they can have on veterans’ lives.

Service Connection

Establishing Service Connection for a Back Condition Requires:

  • A current diagnosis of a back condition.
  • Documentation of an event, injury, or illness that occurred during service.
  • A medical connection between the diagnosed back condition and the event, injury, or illness that happened during service.

Painful Motion

Back pain is a prevalent issue among veterans. However, unlike some conditions that can be easily identified through tests or exams, back pain can be challenging to receive compensation for unless accompanied by other noticeable symptoms. This difficulty is where the VA’s principle of Painful Motion comes into play. Regardless of the extent of motion, if a veteran experiences pain during certain movements, they should be eligible for compensation. The VA acknowledges that even mild discomfort or pain can significantly impair an individual’s ability to function in daily life. Therefore, veterans should not dismiss their back pain if it’s not accompanied by severe limitations in movement. It’s crucial for them to accurately communicate the extent of their pain during medical evaluations to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. By recognizing the impact of pain on functionality, the VA strives to provide support to veterans coping with back pain, acknowledging its debilitating effects on their quality of life.

Limitation of Range of Motion

The most crucial principle in determining VA disability ratings for back pain is the Limitation of Range of Motion, which involves assessing the extent of mobility and its impact on an individual’s back condition. This principle encompasses various movements essential for daily activities, including flexion, extension, and rotation. Flexion entails bending the body sideways, extension involves straightening the body, and rotation measures the ability to move around a joint or fixed point. Each of these movements is integral to performing tasks ranging from basic functions to more complex activities.

The degree of limitation in these movements directly correlates with the severity of the disability rating assigned by the VA. Veterans undergoing VA evaluations for back pain should anticipate thorough assessments of their range of motion. These evaluations often entail a series of physical tests and examinations to measure the extent to which their back condition restricts their ability to move freely and perform tasks.

During these evaluations, it is imperative for veterans to be honest and transparent about their symptoms and limitations. Accurate communication ensures that their condition is properly assessed, leading to fair and just compensation. By providing detailed information about their range of motion limitations, veterans can better convey the impact of their back pain on their daily lives and overall well-being. This comprehensive approach not only facilitates an accurate evaluation process but also ensures that veterans receive the compensation and support they rightfully deserve to manage their back condition effectively.

Functional Loss or Impairment

Functional Loss or Impairment is another crucial principle in the VA rating system for back pain. This principle focuses on the overall impact of the back condition on the individual’s ability to function in daily life. It encompasses a range of factors, including pain, fatigue, weakness, lack of endurance, and incoordination, all of which contribute to the impairment of spine function.

When assessing functional loss, the VA considers how the back condition affects the veteran’s ability to perform tasks such as standing, sitting, walking, lifting, bending, and reaching. Veterans may also experience limitations in their ability to participate in recreational activities, work, and social engagements due to their back pain.

It’s essential for veterans to provide detailed information about how their back condition affects their daily life during VA evaluations. Documenting specific instances where their pain or limitations hinder their ability to perform tasks can strengthen their disability claims and increase their chances of receiving a higher VA rating.

Common Back Conditions that Cause Pain

  1. Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc) – This term refers to a back injury where a disc in your spine bulges or protrudes, sometimes putting pressure on nearby nerves.
  2. Arthritis – Veterans commonly experience different forms of arthritis in their backs, including degenerative, traumatic, and rheumatoid arthritis. Among these, degenerative arthritis is the most frequent.
  3. Lower Back Strain – This is an injury to the lower back that causes symptoms like muscle spasms, pain, limited movement, numbness or tingling, stiffness, and inflammation.
  4. Degenerative Disc Disease – This condition occurs when the discs between the vertebrae lose their cushioning, making them more susceptible to damage or tearing.
  5. Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS) – This condition affects the discs situated between the vertebrae in the spine, causing symptoms such as pain, discomfort, and numbness. With IVDS, one or more discs start to deteriorate.

This is not an exhaustive list. Several other back pain conditions may also qualify you for VA Disability Pay. If you would like to schedule an appointment with our VA Accredited Attorney at Chad Barr Law call 888-2-VETLAW or fill out our free case evaluation below.


Understanding VA Ratings for Spinal Conditions

When it comes to evaluating spinal conditions for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), understanding the VA Rating Scale is crucial. This scale provides a framework for assessing the severity of various spinal impairments, including intervertebral disc syndrome and ankylosis. Let us delve into these ratings to gain a better understanding of what they entail.

Pain VA Rating Scale

The Pain VA Rating Scale primarily focuses on assessing limitations in range of motion and the severity of ankylosis. Here is a breakdown of the ratings:

  • 100%: This rating is assigned for severe cases where there’s unfavorable ankylosis affecting the entire spine.
  • 50%: Assigned for unfavorable ankylosis affecting the entire thoracolumbar spine.
  • 40%: Assigned for forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine of 30 degrees or less, or favorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine.
  • 20%: Assigned for forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 30 degrees but not greater than 60 degrees; or, the combined range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine not greater than 120 degrees; or muscle spasm or guarding severe enough to result in an abnormal gait or abnormal spinal contour such as scoliosis, reversed lordosis, or abnormal kyphosis.
  • 10%: Assigned for forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 60 degrees but not greater than 85 degrees; or, combined range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 120 degrees but not greater than 235 degrees; or, muscle spasm, guarding, or localized tenderness not resulting in abnormal gait or abnormal spinal contour; or, vertebral body fracture with loss of 50 percent or more of the height. Additionally, if you do not have limited range of motion but experiences painful motion, a minimum VA rating of 10% should be applied.

Intervertebral Disc Syndrome VA Rating Scale

Another common spinal condition evaluated by the VA is intervertebral disc syndrome. Here is how the ratings work:

  • 60%: Assigned for incapacitating episodes lasting at least 6 weeks (about 1 and a half months) during the past 12 months.
  • 40%: Assigned for incapacitating episodes lasting at least 4 weeks but less than 6 weeks (about 1 and a half months) during the past 12 months.
  • 20%: Assigned for incapacitating episodes lasting at least 2 weeks but less than 4 weeks during the past 12 months.
  • 10%: Assigned for incapacitating episodes lasting at least one week but less than 2 weeks during the past 12 months.

Understanding Incapacitating Episodes

An incapacitating episode, as defined for VA evaluations under diagnostic code 5243, refers to a period of acute signs and symptoms caused by intervertebral disc syndrome. These episodes necessitate bed rest prescribed by a physician and treatment by a physician.

We Can Help

Navigating the VA Rating Scale for spinal conditions can be complex. Our experienced attorneys can walk you through the process and help fight for the VA disability rating you earned. Reach out to our VA disability attorney today at 888-2-VETLAW.