Was Your VA Disability Claim For Back Arthritis Denied?

Back injuries are an incredibly prevalent — and incredibly disruptive — type of disability. If you have a service-related back injury, you could be eligible for VA disability benefits for back arthritis (typically referred to by VA as a lumbar spine disorder). Understanding how eligibility and benefits are determined is an important part of understanding your options as you seek payment that will help you maintain your life while dealing with the disruption of back arthritis.

Read on to learn more about this particular kind of injury and how the VA handles disability claims and appeals for back arthritis.

Types of back arthritis

As a general term, arthritis is used to refer to pain in the joints. As Johns Hopkins explains, “there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and most of them may affect the back or neck.” While this pain can be experienced anywhere along the length of the spine, it is most common in the lower back and the neck. The most common forms of back arthritis include the following:

  • Osteoarthritis– The most common form of arthritis in the back is osteoarthritis, which is a noninflammatory (or degenerative) form. Often, arthritis is attributed to wear and tear on the cartilage between the joints. This means that it can take time for arthritis symptoms to appear. Because of this connection, degenerative disc disease can also be a contributing factor to back arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis– Also known as inflammatory arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system turns on itself and attacks the lining of the joints. Rather than being attributed to wear and tear, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder.
  • Spondyloarthritis– This term refers to a collection of inflammatory diseases that impact the joints and spaces where ligaments and tendons attach to bones. It is also an inflammatory form of the disease.

Regardless of the cause, back arthritis shares several symptoms across different types:

  • Back pain
  • Stiffness/loss of flexibility
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Headaches
  • Whole-body fatigue

How does the VA rate back arthritis?

As with any service-related injury, the VA has a formula for determining if benefits will be awarded and in what amount. The VA assigns each applicant a disability rating based on the severity of the service-related condition. These ratings will be based on evidence from medical professionals, a VA claim exam, and information collected from other sources including federal agencies. If an individual has more than one service-related injury, the ratings can be combined to determine an overall rating for assigning benefits on a combined ratings scale.

In addition, the VA accounts for “aggravating” factors of a service-related incident. This means that if an individual had an existing condition before entering into service that would have been rated a 10% disability but the act of service aggravated the condition to increase it to a 20% disability, the VA would determine it to be a 10% disability for their rating system.

Back arthritis can certainly be a service-related injury that qualifies for VA disability benefits. The VA will assign a rating based on the severity of the condition. In general, the flexion (determined by range of motion (ROM) measurements) of the affected area (lumbar spine for lower back) and the x-ray evidence showing the number of impacted joints will determine the rating.

Common causes of service-related back arthritis

Back arthritis is a common cause of disability resulting in VA benefits. Arthritis can be brought on by a traumatic injury, and this can be one way that back arthritis counts as a service-related injury.

Many service members, on the other hand, do not necessarily have a single traumatic injury to point to as the cause of their back arthritis. Instead, it is the general wear and tear on the body from joint overuse during service that makes the back arthritis service-related.

How is service connection established for back arthritis?

By its very nature, arthritis does often not develop until much later than the event that precipitated its existence. Arthritis shows up after wear and tear that takes place over time, and many service members will find themselves suffering from back arthritis years after their initial service period. In these cases, it can be difficult to point to a specific moment of injury that makes back arthritis service-related.

However, a medical professional can examine records over time to look for joint overuse and evidence of degeneration leading up to the onset of symptoms. In this way, a service member’s time in service can be connected to back arthritis even if it does not show up until much later.

Symptoms that appear within one year of service may also qualify for a presumptive service connection.

Was your VA disability claim for back arthritis denied?

If your VA disability claim for back arthritis is denied, it can be quite frustrating. Having to navigate the system in order to gain access to VA disability benefits can be overwhelming, but an experienced attorney can help you make sure that you are putting the most thorough and accurate case forward. From assuring that the appropriate medical examinations have been done to helping service members launch official challenges to a VA disability claim denial, there are options available.

Matthew  White

Experience

Appellate Attorney Matthew White represents veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Brendan Garcia

Experience

Owner and Lead Attorney Brendan Garcia represents veterans in all 50 states with their VA Disability Appeals, in all stages of the VA Appeals process.

Contact a VA Disability Lawyer Today

A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you have been denied benefits for your service-connected back 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.

If your VA disability claim for back arthritis has been denied, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.

Multiple types of back problems can qualify for VA disability. Some of the most common include:

  • Lumbosacral or cervical strain
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Vertebral fracture or dislocation
  • Spinal fusion
  • Back arthritis

Arthritis in the back (commonly called spinal arthritis) can cause severe pain and limit mobility, both of which could prevent someone from being able to work. For the purposes of VA disability benefits, back arthritis could be considered a disability as long as the arthritis is service-related.

Spinal arthritis, and particularly arthritis in the lower back, can be difficult to treat. Some of the most common ways to treat back arthritis include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Surgery

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Please fill out the form below, or give us a call, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. The more detail you can provide, the better we can determine if we can help you. (And even if we can’t take your case, we will do our best to offer other options, and point you in the best direction we can!)

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