I reported to work expecting a normal day. Unfortunately, I was in an accident while on duty, and it injured my back. However, I began to realize the strangest thing: my left hand was numb! Subsequently, I learned I had radiculopathy in my hand. Later, this became a secondary VA claim.
What Exactly is Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy is a “pinched nerve.” Essentially, the spine pinches the root of the nerve. Notably, symptoms are serious pain, numbness, and tingling. These symptoms start in your spine and extend into your extremities.
Secondary VA Claim
Radiculopathy is a very important “secondary VA claim.” A secondary VA claim is an injury or illness that exists because of a service connected disability. Secondary claims are an extremely important tool. Most notably, they are often crucial in helping a veteran receive 100% disability.
There are many secondary VA claims. Firstly, you need to explore your current disabilities and research if there are any common secondary claims waiting there for you to connect. For example, does your service connected knee injury cause you to overuse your other knee? Similarly, does your Traumatic Brain Injury cause depression?
What Makes Radiculopathy So Valuable?
I have a cervical sprain rated at 20% and a thoracolumbar sprain also rated at 20%. Many back and neck issues are rated under these generic terms. In addition, I have four ratings for secondary radiculopathy (10% each for lower extremities and 20% each for upper extremities). Each of these is a secondary VA claim.
To clarify, I have a combined 40% for back and neck sprains. However, radiculopathy takes me to a combined 70%. In other words- I am almost doubling my RATING with secondary claims.
Multiple Ratings – One Body Part
Radiculopathy is unique. You can “stack” it with other disabilities for the same body part. The value of being rated several different times on the same body part can not be understated. Regulation normally forbids assigning multiple ratings for one set of symptoms.
Radiculopathy Ratings and Locations
A. Cervical radiculopathy: This starts in the neck portion of your spine. It covers vertebrae C1-C7. The rating is 20% for mild symptoms and up to 50% for severe symptoms. However, complete paralysis of the affected area can yield a 70% rating.
B. Thoracic radiculopathy: This covers radiculopathy that starts in the back. It covers vertebrae T1-T12. The rating is 0% for mild symptoms and up to 20% for severe symptoms. However, it can be rated at 30% in extreme situations.
C. Lumbar radiculopathy: This starts in the “lower back.” It contains vertebrae L1-L5. The rating is 10% for mild symptoms and up to 40% for severe symptoms. However, it is rated as high as 60% for extreme symptoms, and as high as 80% in a very few situations.
I See The Value- How Do I File A Secondary VA Claim?
Not so fast. Firstly, you need to be rated for either a back or neck issue before you start filing radiculopathy claims. Remember, radiculopathy is probably going to be a secondary VA claim. You file for radiculopathy ratings after you are already rated for the back or neck.
Secondly, you need to lay the ground work for a successful secondary VA claim. You don’t need to prove the radiculopathy happened on active duty. You do need to prove it is caused by service connected issues. Realistically, an MRI on your service connected back or neck injury is the best way to do that.
MRI’s are quite expensive, but so is being underrated. (Of course, I would first see if the VA or your private health insurance is willing to pay for it). If not, I would definitely consider paying out of pocket. An increased rating percentage will make that out of pocket cost worth it.
The MRI gives a rater proof of any damage to the spine, and that damage is typically where your radiculopathy starts. You need to make your rater’s job easy. The MRI does that for them.
What Do I Do Now?
Do you have symptoms of radiculopathy? Don’t delay! Check out the rest of the CombatCraig.com website
for a huge amount of helpful free content. But, if you really want to get on the fast track, I highly recommend you do what I did: Enroll in Combat Craig’s Boot Camp. It’s where you’ll learn how to develop and file a winning VA Claim the right way from the start.
You earned your benefits, but you still have to fight to claim them. -Tactical Mike