Vet on wheelchair

Spinal Cord Injury Claims

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney


The spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Damage to the backbone could sever or disrupt this connection and may impede daily tasks and certain bodily functions.

Making matters worse, damage to the spinal cord may be permanent and leave you with these symptoms for the rest of your life. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation program can provide benefits to former servicemembers who suffer debilitating injuries while on active duty.

If your backbone injury is the result of an incident that occurred during your active duty service, you may be entitled to receive benefits. VetLaw’s team of qualified legal advocates can help you pursue spinal cord injury claims – even if you have already received one or several denials.

We encourage you to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (855) 670-0614 or filling out our contact form today.

Service-Related Backbone Injuries

Of course, those who serve in combat face exposure to enemy contact. However, injuries sustained during training accidents or while serving in a logistics capacity can also form the basis of a successful backbone injury claim. Spinal cord injuries can result from accidents involving ground vehicles or helicopters as well as simple falls while on base.

Fortunately for veterans, the VA’s disability compensation program provides benefits to offset any injuries servicemembers suffer while on active duty. A local attorney can help a veteran evaluate the effect of military service on their physical health and pursue disability compensation.

Vets Are at Risk for Multiple Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

In the military, there are many incidents that can compress or even sever a veteran’s spinal cord. Unfortunately, spinal cord injury survivors usually experience permanent complications below the site of the injury. This may include paralysis, inability to detect pressure and temperature, loss of muscle mass, and more.

A spinal cord injury can be complete, which means the brain’s connection to nerves and muscles below the injury site has been totally severed. Veterans with complete spinal cord injuries generally lack sensation in or muscle control over the impacted areas.

Alternatively, a veteran with an incomplete spinal cord injury may recover or maintain some control over movements and experience sensations.

A Veteran’s Level of Impairment is Also Determined by the Location of Their SCI

While categorizing a spinal cord injury (SCI) as complete or incomplete can indicate a veteran’s prognosis for recovery, that doesn’t full describe the injury. Classifying the spinal cord injury by the location of the damage is also important.

The higher up on the spine the injury is, the more nerves, muscles, and organs are potentially impacted. The main types of spinal cord injuries are:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar
  • Sacral

Each of these refers to a region of the spinal cord. A veteran with a cervical spinal cord injury has sustained damage in between their C-1 and C-7 vertebrae. As a result, anything below their neck is likely affected. Cervical spinal cord injuries have the lowest survival rates. Injuries to the sacral region, located near the tailbone, are less extensive. 

Although the spinal cord technically ends before it reaches the sacral section of the spine, we group an injury to the sacral nerves with spinal cord injuries. Veterans with sacral spinal cord injuries may experience mobility challenges along with loss of bowel or bladder control.

The VA provides disability benefits for spinal cord injuries that result from a veteran’s military service.

Secondary Conditions Caused by Service-Related Spinal Cord Injuries

With the spinal cord unable to relay information between the brain and other parts of the body, veterans with service-connected SCIs are at a greater risk for certain physical conditions. Restricted movement due to an SCI can also leave veterans susceptible to further harm. 

If your spinal cord injury is service-related and you develop a connected medical issue, the VA may grant you benefits for your Secondary Condition. Examples of health complications for spinal cord injuries include: 

  • Bowel and bladder issues, such as incontinence
  • Dangerously low or high blood pressure
  • Blood clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Loss of muscle mass and bone density
  • Respiratory issues, including recurrent pneumonia
  • Chronic pain

Additionally, many veterans with service-connected spinal cord injuries suffer from secondary mental health conditions.

An SCI may require changing careers or leaving the workforce altogether, grappling with uncomfortable and inconvenient medical issues, navigating relationships with reduced sexual function, and managing daily tasks with limited physical independence. 

This can cause considerable stress and discontentment, leading many vets to develop depression or anxiety in the aftermath of a service-connected spinal cord injury. The VA accepts veterans disability claims for mental and physical Secondary Conditions.

However, you should speak with a VA-accredited attorney because cases based on Secondary Conditions are often more likely to result in a veteran spinal cord injury claim denial.

Effects on a Veteran’s Civilian Life

An important part of a damaged vertebrae claim is proving the impact of a former servicemember’s injury on their civilian life. VA staff members will assign a disability rating that determines the level of benefits that a former servicemember will receive.

Getting regular examinations from a doctor who can examine the extent of an injury could be substantially beneficial to any claim. The sooner medical treatment is sought following service, the easier it is to prove the connection to an in-service injury.

Incidents that affect a veteran’s lower back can cause them to lose feeling or function in their legs. Injuries to the middle of the spine can impact arm and organ functions. Additionally, spinal cord injuries in the neck can result in total or partial paralysis. Many veterans with spinal cord injuries need to seek ongoing physical therapy.

A VA-accredited attorney can help demonstrate the full impact of the disability and provide support for a spinal cord injury claim.

Let a VA Benefits Attorney Help You Appeal a Veteran Spinal Cord Injury Claim Denial

Spinal cord injuries are among the most severe conditions that can affect members of the military. A direct and sudden blow to the vertebral column could leave spinal nerves vulnerable to damage. Many times, these conditions do not heal and may result in life-altering losses.

If your backbone damage is the result of serving on active duty, you may qualify for VA disability compensation benefits. Applicants must demonstrate the impact of their injury on their civilian life. Additionally, they must connect their spinal cord injury to their active duty service to qualify for VA disability benefits.

An attorney from our experienced legal team can help you prepare a claim or file an appeal if you are a veteran and have already received a spinal cord injury claim denial. Call our firm today to start discussing your case with well-versed legal counsel.