Neck pain can be a debilitating problem that impacts literally every area of your life. Arthritis in the neck, otherwise known as the cervical spine in the VA rating schedule, can make even day-to-day actions unbearably painful and can cause serious disruptions to employment, mobility, and personal autonomy. If you are suffering from neck arthritis, jumping through the hoops of the VA disability process can seem overwhelming and cumbersome. Getting the compensation you need to live your life is no small matter, and navigating the VA system’s eligibility requirements can be an obstacle to that progress. If you are seeking VA disability for neck arthritis, you likely have a lot of questions about the process and how to get started. Let’s dive deeper into what you need to know, including how to appeal a denial from Veteran Affairs for your neck arthritis claim.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you already filed a claim with the VA for neck arthritis and were denied service connection benefits. This can be frustrating and disappointing, but it’s important that you don’t see this bump in the road as a defeat. Unfortunately, many valid claims are initially denied by the VA. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the common ones is a lack of adequate supporting evidence about the injury or its severity.
While this is certainly not everyone’s experience, it’s important to be prepared for the reality that establishing service connection and obtaining VA disability for neck arthritis may be a long and arduous process for some veterans. If you have been denied or if you are preparing your initial claim and want to make sure you do everything you can to make the process go smoothly, it’s important to know the details about how the VA disability process works for neck arthritis injuries.
The VA rating system works more or less the same regardless of the type of injury, but the nature of neck arthritis can cause some unexpected challenges.
A VA disability rating percentage is awarded in multiples of 10, representing the severity of the impact of the disease or injury. For example, if someone is given a 30% disability rate, it would indicate that the injury is impairing the individual so that they see a decrease of 30% to their overall health and functionality. Each disability receives a separate rating, and the combined, or overall rating, is used to determine the amount of monthly compensation you will receive.
Each VA rating is determined by a multitude of factors, some of which are within your direct control. It’s important to make sure you are providing the most accurate, up-to-date, and detailed medical evidence possible so that your rating will reflect your actual disability. These factors include the following:
The VA will also recognize that an individual can be impacted by more than one service-related injury. In these cases, the rating for the injuries may be combined, but it will never exceed 100%.
For neck arthritis, the VA is going to be looking for evidence of impairment related to mobility of the neck, including range of motion testing. In particular, the information submitted or measured during the C&P exam will need to include details on cervical spine flexion, which is a measure of the movement in turning the head and tilting at the shoulder.
In order to establish service connection and qualify for VA disability benefits, you will need to show the connection, or nexus, between your injury and your active duty service. Service-related tasks such as carrying a heavy pack, operating machinery, parachuting from an airplane, or even being required to hold particular positions with your neck/spine for extended periods of time can all be related to neck arthritis.
Even if you had a medical history of neck pain prior to your service, you can demonstrate that service-related activities exacerbated the existing cervical spine condition, which can be another route toward establishing service connection and qualifying for VA disability.
Demonstrating the connection between service and your cervical spine injury may require a medical nexus opinion or well-thought-out explanation. One method for establishing this connection is making sure that you have thorough, well-documented accounts of the progression of your arthritis over time. Arthritis is a degenerative disease, so that means that you can expect the conditions to worsen as time goes on. Even if you do not have enough impairment to warrant compensation through disability right now, getting documentation about the progression of the disease will help establish a timeline. If you can demonstrate that your time in the service was followed by an increase in pain, a lack of mobility, or other symptoms of neck arthritis, you can help to show the link between your service and the disease.
Another strategy for establishing the connection between neck arthritis and service includes letters or testimony from members of your unit who can make statements about the kind of service-related work you did that may have exacerbated your neck arthritis. You can also use evidence such as pictures or training manuals that demonstrate a need to carry heavy gear or hold specific positions for extended periods.
A veteran disability lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you have gotten a denial on your claim for service-connected neck arthritis. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved, they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement to service connection.
If your VA disability claim for neck arthritis has been denied, be sure to contact the VA-accredited attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the compensation you deserve.