Back pain is a common complaint among Veterans due to conditions such as lumbosacral or cervical strain, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis or segmental instability, ankylosing spondylitis, spinal fusion, and vertebral fracture or dislocation. Veterans with severe back pain that limits their work opportunities may qualify for additional compensation via Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
VA Ratings for Back Pain
VA disability claims for back pain are evaluated under 38 CFR § 4.71a, Schedule of Ratings, Musculoskeletal System. The criteria used to assess a disability rating is largely based on your range of motion, so the C&P examiner will measure how far you can bend forward, backward, and side to side.
A common mistake made in C&P exams is failing to account for pain while bending. For example, you might be able to bend forward 75 degrees even though you experience pain beginning at 40 degrees. The functional loss related to your pain should be taken into consideration when assigning a disability rating.
The impact of flare-ups must also be considered, even if the examination isn’t performed during a flare-up.
Eligibility for TDIU
If back pain is your only service-connected disability, it must be rated at 60% or more. If you have two or more service-connected disabilities, you must have a total disability rating of 70% or more and one condition rated 40% or more to be eligible for TDIU.
Although many Veterans do qualify for TDIU based on back pain, you must keep in mind that this is often not a permanent benefit. If there are treatment options to address the source of your pain or to treat one of the other disabilities used to qualify you for TDIU benefits, you can be scheduled for regular examinations to see if your condition is improving enough that you could seek substantially gainful employment.
Please note that even though back pain tends to become more common as people age, the VA is not allowed to consider your age or the effects of any non-service-connected disabilities in evaluating your TDIU application.
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Working with our Veterans benefits lawyers is the best way to build a strong case for TDIU benefits. Call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.