What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy (also called peripheral neuropathy), a condition that results from damage to the nerves outside of the brain, can lead to numbness, pain, and weakness, usually in one’s outer extremities. The causes of neuropathy include traumatic injuries, infections, environmental exposures, inherited causes, and metabolic problems. One of the most common causes is diabetes.
Every nerve in the peripheral nervous system has a specific function, so the type of pain someone experiences from neuropathy depends on the affected nerve. Some common signs and symptoms of neuropathy include:
- Sharp jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Paralysis (only for motor nerves)
- Pain during activities that shouldn’t cause pain
If neuropathy affects the autonomic nerves, some symptoms could include:
- Heat intolerance
- Bowel, bladder or digestive issues
- Excessive sweating
- Changes in blood pressure
Neuropathy can affect one nerve (mononeuropathy), two or more nerves in different areas (multiple mononeuropathy), or many nerves (polyneuropathy). Most people with peripheral neuropathy have polyneuropathy.
Getting Service Connection For Neuropathy
Some of the most common causes of neuropathy among veterans are diabetes, Agent Orange exposure, alcoholism, and physical traumas. These causes are common because of the physical and psychological toll military service has on many service members. In order to get service connection for their neuropathy, veterans must prove to the VA that their condition was caused by their military service or by another service-connected condition. This can be done using medical records and service personnel records.
Medical records are by far the most important evidence a veteran can provide to the VA to support service connection for their neuropathy. Ideally, these medical records will show that (1) the veteran was treated for or diagnosed with the condition while still in service, (2) that the veteran’s neuropathy is due to one of his or her other service-connected conditions, or (3) that the veteran began receiving treatment for or was diagnosed with the condition within one year of discharge. If these two criteria are not met, that does not mean the VA will deny the veteran’s claim. However, it may indicate that he or she will encounter more difficulty in getting his or her claim approved. Regardless of what type of medical records the veteran has, he or she should submit all treatment records relevant to his or her neuropathy to the VA. Treatment records are helpful in providing information about the severity of the condition, which can help the VA determine what schedular disability rating to assign provided that the condition is service connected.
Additional evidence that veterans should give to the VA are service personnel records. These records can provide the VA with information regarding when the veteran served, where he or she served, and what his or her MOS was in service. All of that information can tell the VA if the veteran could have been exposed to an environmental contaminant that caused the neuropathy, if he or she was in an accident that could have led to traumatic neuropathy, or other such information related to possible causes of the condition.
How The VA Rates Neuropathy
Under 38 CFR § 4.124a, the VA rates neuropathy depending on the affected nerve and what type of issue is causing the neuropathy. For VA purposes, only individuals with neuropathy that is the result of paralysis, neuritis, or neuralgia are eligible for VA disability compensation. Since the VA rates neuropathy on an individual nerve basis, only a few example ratings will be shown below. The more comprehensive rating guide for neuropathy can be found here.
Diagnostic Code 8520 Paralysis of: Sciatic nerve
|Complete; the foot dangles and drops, no active movement possible of muscles below the knee, flexion of knee weakened or (very rarely) lost||80|
|Severe, with marked muscular atrophy||60|
Diagnostic Code 8620 Neuritis.
Diagnostic Code 8720 Neuralgia.
Diagnostic Code 8530 Paralysis of: Ilio-inguinal nerve
|Severe to complete||10|
|Mild or moderate||0|
Diagnostic Code 8630 Neuritis.
Diagnostic Code 8730 Neuralgia.
Getting Service Connected For Your Neuropathy
If you or someone you know is a veteran with neuropathy, contact our office today to get a free claim evaluation. Our experienced veteran’s disability lawyers can help you get service connection for your condition and ensure that the VA grants you the proper schedular disability rating.