Chronic pain is becoming increasingly common among the American population as a whole but is often found in Veterans with combat-related injuries or service-connected chronic conditions. However, getting approved for VA disability benefits based on chronic pain is not an easy task.
The Difficulty of Receiving Disability Benefits for Chronic Pain
The VA uses diagnostic codes to classify service-connected disabilities, but there is no diagnostic code for chronic pain. To qualify for disability benefits, a Veteran’s pain must be generally be linked to a diagnosable pathology as opposed to a subjective complaint. For example, back pain may be caused by degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc.
When pain can’t be linked to a specific underlying cause, benefits are often denied. Yet, recent updates to VA law suggest winning benefits is possible on appeal. An April 2018 Federal Circuit decision, Saunders v. Wilkie, involved a female Veteran filing a claim for knee pain. She was diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome and initially denied benefits because of a failure to identify a specific injury causing the pain. On appeal, she won by arguing “disability” refers to a condition impairing normal functioning and reducing earning capacity and that “pain” should be considered an impairment because it diminishes the body’s ability to function. This ruling means that Veterans are now entitled to service-connected benefits for impairments caused by chronic pain regardless of whether there is a pathology identified.
Veterans With Chronic Pain May Also Qualify for Benefits for Depression
Chronic pain and depression are closely linked. Being unable to particulate in activities you once enjoyed can increase feelings of depression, and a depressed mood can increase the intensity of the subjective experience of pain. Veterans with chronic pain who are experiencing symptoms of depression should seek an attorney’s assistance to earn a secondary service connection for this mental health disorder. Including all secondary service-connected disabilities in an application is the best way to maximize available compensation.
Let Us Help
If you’re suffering from chronic pain, you’re not alone. The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, is here to help you access the benefits you’ve earned in service of your county. Call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review with an experienced Veterans benefits lawyer.