Gunshot wounds and injuries from explosive devices can lead to permanent impairments. Veterans dealing with muscle injuries or conditions caused by toxic shrapnel are entitled to receive VA disability benefits providing cash compensation and access to medical care.
Ratings for Muscle Damage From Gunshot or Shrapnel Wounds
In most cases, the effects of gunshot and shrapnel wounds are evaluated using the Schedule of Ratings for Muscle Injuries under 38 CFR 4.73. Ratings take into consideration symptoms such as:
- Chronic pain
- Weaknesses and loss of muscle tone or substance
- Limited movement
- Impaired coordination
Injuries are classified as slight, moderate, moderately severe, or severe. The following is a brief overview:
- Slight injuries are simple wounds without debridement or infection that result in minimal scarring and no evidence of atrophy or functional impairment.
- Moderate injuries show residuals of debridement or prolonged infection, entrance and exit scars, and some signs of functional impairment.
- Moderately severe injuries need hospitalization for prolonged treatment of the wound and have consistent symptoms. There is a significant impairment in strength and endurance that makes it difficult for the Veteran to keep up with work requirements.
- Severe injuries need extended hospitalization, have scarring showing wide damage to muscle groups with a loss of muscle in the wound area, and cause the muscles in the affected area to swell or harden abnormally. There is severe impairment of strength, endurance, and coordination.
Specific disability percentages vary depending on the muscle groups that are affected and whether the injury affects the Veteran’s dominant or nondominant muscular region. The effects of pyramiding must also be considered since VA disability rules don’t allow a Veteran to receive compensation more than once for the same manifestation of symptoms even if they have two distinct disabilities.
A less common issue for Veterans with gunshot wounds is shrapnel sickness, a term that refers to the negative health effects that can be caused by the toxic chemicals in shrapnel that remains in the body. For example, the lead, cadmium, and copper in shrapnel can lead to problems with the kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal system. Cadmium and chromium are also known carcinogens.
In these types of cases, a Veteran’s rating is based on the specific condition caused by the toxic shrapnel. Expert medical testimony will be needed to establish the medical nexus.
Contact an Experienced VA Disability Benefits Attorney
The VA application process can be complex, and applications are often wrongfully denied. If you are struggling to access your VA disability benefits or believe your condition hasn’t been rated appropriately, the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.