Veterans Disability for Sciatica

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

It is very common for veterans to suffer from injuries that lead to a nerve condition called sciatica. This condition can be debilitating, impacting a veteran’s ability to secure gainful employment or perform daily activities. For this reason, VA disability for sciatica is available to compensate veterans who suffer from this painful nerve condition. Whether you are considering filing a claim, trying to improve your VA rating for sciatica, or seeking to appeal a denied VA claim, we are here to help guide you through the process. To speak with our team about your case, consider contacting VetLaw today.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, or tingling that happens along the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. This condition happens when one or more nerves are pinched, compressed, or otherwise irritated, oftentimes resulting from a herniated disc or an overgrowth of the bone. Also referred to as lumbar radiculopathy, sciatica symptoms can include:

  • Pain: the most common symptom of sciatica, the pain can range from a mild ache to sharp and burning pain. The pain can begin slowly and get worse after sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, during certain times of the day, or sneezing, coughing, or laughing. Many people also report feeling pain shoot or radiate down the impacted leg.
  • Tingling (paresthesia): similar to when your leg falls asleep, many people state an uncomfortable tingling sensation in the affected leg.
  • Numbness: sciatica affects the communication between your brain and your legs, leading to a lack of sensations in the impacted area.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence: some people report experiencing this severe symptom, which affects a person’s ability to control their urination or defecation.

There are several factors that put veterans at high risk for developing sciatica. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Current or previous injuries to the spine or lower back
  • Strenuous physical activity leading to wear and tear of the body
  • Insufficient core strength
  • Work activities such as heavy lifting, regular bending, or sitting in an awkward position for an extended period of time

While many people recover from sciatica, some develop long-term, chronic pain that affects their ability to work or engage in everyday activities. In some cases, a person can develop “drop foot,” making it impossible to walk normally. If your sciatica impacts your daily life, you may be entitled to VA disability for sciatica.

Does the VA Consider Sciatica to Be a Disability?

Yes, the VA does consider sciatica to be a disability. Based on information in the Annual Benefits Report for 2022, over one million veterans receive compensation for paralysis of the sciatic nerve. In fact, it is common for sciatica to develop as a result of another back problem or condition. Many veterans who have a different service-connected disability such as lumbosacral strain or cervical pain, for instance, service-connect their sciatica as a secondary condition.

What Is the VA Rating for Sciatica?

The VA considers sciatica to be a nerve issue, which is grouped into three main categories under 38 CFR § 4.124a based on the severity of your symptoms and the nature of your disability.

Paralysis

The most severe category, paralysis refers to the loss of strength or control of muscles in the body. This is typically caused by major damage to the nerve. Under Diagnostic Code 8520, paralysis ratings for sciatica are assigned as follows:

  • 10% for mild but incomplete paralysis
  • 20% for moderate but incomplete paralysis
  • 40% for moderately severe but incomplete paralysis
  • 60% for severe but incomplete paralysis characterized by limited functionality, muscular atrophy, and poor circulation
  • 80% for complete paralysis in which all muscles below the knee fail to function normally

Neuritis

Caused by inflammation of peripheral nerves and other nerves beyond the spine and brain, neuritis results in loss of reflexes and sensation, as well as limited functionality of the affected body part. Diagnostic Code 8620 provides for neuritis ratings, which vary depending on the severity of the condition:

  • 10% for mild neuritis
  • 20% for moderate neuritis
  • 40% for moderately severe neuritis
  • 60% for severe neuritis

Neuralgia

The least severe of all three categories, neuralgia is marked by sharp pain due to damage or irritation of the nerve. Under Diagnostic Code 8720, the sciatica VA rating for neuralgia can be either:

  • 10% is assigned for mild cases where the veteran experiences tingling or mild pain and minor interference with the functionality of the body part
  • 20% is assigned for moderate cases where the veteran experiences numbness, tingling, and moderate/severe pain as well as interference with the functionality of the body part

Can You Receive TDIU Benefits for Sciatica?

Many of our current and prospective clients inquire about whether or not they can receive Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits for their sciatica. TDIU benefits are granted to veterans who are completely unable to work due to their service-connected disability or disabilities. If you are awarded these benefits, you will receive a monthly compensation equivalent to that of the 100% rating for your disability.

Oftentimes, sciatica accompanies another disability. For this reason, a common strategy for obtaining TDIU benefits for this condition is to obtain a secondary sciatica VA rating in conjunction with your primary disability. You can receive TDIU benefits if you have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one condition rated at 40% and a combined total rating of 70% or more. Therefore, if you suffer from mild to moderate sciatica rated below 60%, you may combine your ratings from multiple disabilities to receive TDIU benefits. Even if you do not meet the combined ratings criteria, you may also qualify for extraschedular TDIU under certain circumstances.

What Should You Do if Your VA Claim for Sciatica Is Denied?

Unfortunately, many veterans are initially denied VA disability for sciatica. Your claim may be denied for a range of reasons, including a lack of sufficient evidence, human error, or disagreement regarding the severity of your disability. If your VA claim for sciatica was denied, your attorney can help you file an appeal to overturn the decision. There are three different options for appealing a denied claim, which include:

  • Filing a Supplemental Claim to include additional evidence.
  • Requesting a Higher-Level Review to have a senior reviewer reassess the decision.
  • Appealing through the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to submit new evidence, review the decision, or request a hearing.

If your claim for sciatica was denied, there are options available to continue your case. The appeal option you utilize will depend on your specific situation, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for appealing a denied claim. Your attorney can help you navigate this complex process and ensure that you secure the benefits you need and deserve.

How an Attorney Near You Can Help Once Your VA Claim for Sciatica Has Been Denied

If your VA claim for sciatica has been denied, you are not alone. Thousands of veterans are unfairly denied the VA disability benefits for sciatica that they deserve and they are left feeling hopeless and unsure of where to turn for help. At VetLaw, we center our practice around helping veterans successfully obtain the disability benefits they need to regain control of their lives. Leveraging our breadth of knowledge and years of experience with the VA system, we are confident in our ability to secure a favorable outcome for your claim. Consider contacting our office today to begin your free case review with our team of experienced attorneys.