Vet on wheelchair

Veterans Disability For Chronic Pain (Somatic Symptom Disorder)

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Living with chronic pain can feel overwhelming and leave you feeling unsure of where to turn for relief. Somatic symptom disorder, a condition that contributes to the feeling of chronic pain, affects thousands of veterans across the United States. While chronic pain VA disability benefits are available to veterans, successfully obtaining this compensation is a difficult and arduous process.

At VetLaw, we are dedicated to protecting veterans’ rights at all levels of the VA process. We work tirelessly to craft the strongest claim possible for our clients, optimize their chronic pain syndrome VA rating, and appeal unfair denials of their claims. To learn more about how we can help, consider contacting us today.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Pain?

Pain is a normal reaction to injury or illness of the body, and usually subsides once the body heals. For some people, however, pain persists long after the cause is gone. Chronic pain can last for months or years and can affect all parts of the body. It can impact all areas of a person’s life and take a toll on their physical and emotional health.

Some people with chronic pain can develop a condition called somatic symptom disorder, which is characterized by a significant focus on physical symptoms – like pain, dizziness, or fatigue – that cause emotional distress and problems with day-to-day activities. Individuals who suffer from somatic symptom disorder struggle with extreme and excessive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings related to their physical (somatic) symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of this disorder include:

Individuals with somatic symptom disorder experience constant fear and worry about potential illness. They may view normal physical sensations as signs of a serious illness and may feel more severely impaired than what would be expected from a medical condition. Many people who struggle with somatic symptom disorder also have anxiety or depression, which can further exacerbate the issue.

Does the VA Consider Chronic Pain to Be a Disability?

Yes, the VA does consider chronic pain and somatic symptom disorder to be a disability. To be eligible for chronic pain VA disability benefits, it is required that a veteran meets the following criteria:

  • They have a current diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder.
  • There was an event or incident that occurred during their service.
  • Their diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder can be linked to the in-service event or incident.

Establishing the connection between your medical condition and your military service is critical. This connection is called a medical nexus and can be proven through a VA Compensation & Pension examination and other medical documentation. It is important to note that the VA considers pain that manifests during service, pain that worsens during service, and pain that is diagnosed after service as disabling. As long as your chronic pain is somehow linked to your military service, VA disability benefits may be available to you.

How Does Military Experience Influence Symptoms of Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain and somatic symptom disorder are common among veterans due to exposure to various physical and psychological stressors. In some cases, veterans report chronic pain due to injuries that occurred during their service, such as phantom limb after an amputation or spinal cord damage after a serious accident. In other situations, chronic pain develops as an effect of another underlying condition like post-traumatic stress disorder or a sleep disorder. Musculoskeletal issues such as sciatica or arthritis may also contribute to chronic pain diagnoses in veterans.

What Is the VA Rating for Chronic Pain?

The chronic pain syndrome VA rating is evaluated based on 38 CFR § 4.130, which sets forth the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. The rating that you are assigned for your condition will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how much your somatic symptom disorder impacts your daily life.

Veterans who experience mild symptoms and are still able to function in work and social environments, for instance, will receive a lower disability rating of 10%. Individuals who suffer from moderate symptoms and occasional work/social impairment may receive a 30% rating. Veterans who struggle with more severe symptoms and who experience major impairment in their work and social relationships will receive a higher disability rating of 50-70%.

Finally, those who are totally unable to function in work and social relationships and who suffer from symptoms like delusions, grossly inappropriate behavior, and who are a danger to themselves and others will likely receive a 100% disability rating. Your attorney can provide more detail on the chronic pain syndrome VA rating system and the evidence needed to improve your rating according to the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.

How Is the Rating Impacted if Chronic Pain Is a Secondary Condition?

Chronic pain can also be connected to your claim as a secondary condition. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain that is associated with a primary disability like depression, you may obtain one VA disability rating for depression and a secondary disability rating for chronic pain. The VA will then use these two separate disability ratings to determine your total, combined VA disability rating. This rating cannot exceed 100%, so the VA will use a specific formula to calculate the combined VA combined disability rating. You can estimate your combined rating here or discuss this matter with your attorney.

What If the VA Denies Your Claim for Chronic Pain?

Every year, the VA denies thousands of claims for disability benefits. If your claim for chronic pain VA disability was denied, there are several ways for you to continue your case and obtain benefits. The three VA appeal options include:

  • Submitting a Supplemental Claim to include new or relevant evidence that can support your case.
  • Requesting a Higher-Level Review to have a senior reviewer determine whether an error or difference of opinion changes the decision.
  • Scheduling a hearing, submitting evidence, or requesting a direct review through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Seeking assistance from an experienced attorney can be valuable after your claim for VA disability benefits is denied. Your attorney will review your case and offer solutions to help you successfully appeal the denial. They will work with you to acquire evidence, establish a medical nexus, and ensure that your chronic pain VA claim is approved.

Hiring an Attorney Near You to Help You with Your VA Disability Appeal for Chronic Pain

If you are living with chronic pain, obtaining VA disability benefits can help relieve the financial and emotional burden of your condition. Unfortunately, with so many claims denied every year by the VA, obtaining these benefits can be challenging. At VetLaw, we work with veterans to successfully file chronic pain VA disability appeals and secure the benefits our clients need and deserve.

As the law firm of choice for veterans across the country, we provide the most comprehensive guidance and legal counsel to all of our clients, working diligently to uphold their rights throughout every stage of the VA process. To schedule your free case review and discuss your claim in more detail with our team, consider contacting us today.