Navigating the VA Disability Rating System for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Claims

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Car crashes come in different types, and how they happen can impact the injuries you suffer and who has to pay for the damages.

The most serious accidents include head-on collisions, angle crashes, and rear-end collisions. You can prevent these accidents by obeying traffic laws and making sure to check your blind spots before changing lanes.

How the VA Rates Disabilities

VA employees review medical evidence and symptoms when evaluating disability ratings. They also consider how the condition limits a veteran’s daily activities and if it has caused or made worse any other service-connected conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The evaluation of carpal tunnel VA disability benefits involves considering the impact of this condition on a veteran’s ability to function, potentially affecting the benefits they may receive.

When a veteran is found to have the condition, they will receive a diagnosis and then be assigned a specific rating based on its severity. These ratings are based on criteria established in the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities and include diagnostic codes, which define symptoms required for different ratings. 

For example, a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis that includes complete paralysis of the median nerve may earn the highest rating of 70 percent. This rating is applied when a veteran can no longer make a fist, can only flex the thumb and index finger, and experiences pain in all other fingers and wrists. Combined ratings are complex and should be discussed with a veteran’s VA lawyer to ensure the best possible rating.

Secondary Service Connection

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful condition caused when the median nerve in the hand and wrist is compressed. This results in numbness, tingling, and loss of grip strength. It can affect both the dominant and non-dominant hand. It usually gets worse over time.

It is possible to receive a service connection for carpal tunnel as secondary to a service-connected disability. To establish this, the veteran must have an official medical opinion from a doctor that states that the primary injury or illness that is causing or aggravating the carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by military service.

Having this type of official medical opinion can help veterans obtain a higher rating for their condition. In addition, it may lead to a claim for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). TDIU can allow veterans who cannot hold gainful employment to seek out financial support. The experienced disability attorneys at Berry Law can assist in the process.

Individual Unemployability Ratings

The VA will rate your carpal tunnel based on its severity and how it impacts your ability to work. The RO will review your medical records, personal statements, and other evidence to determine a rating.

You may qualify for a rating of 10% or 20% for carpal tunnel syndrome, depending on your symptoms’ Frequency, Severity, and Duration. The rating will depend on which hand you have affected, with a higher disability rating for the dominant hand.

If you are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment due to your carpal tunnel, you can be awarded a total disability based on your unemployability (TDIU) rating. This means you can receive compensation at the 100% disability rating level even though your ratings from the schedular evaluation system don’t reach 100 percent. However, you must show that you can’t work with your service-connected disabilities, including carpal tunnel syndrome. The best way to prove this is through objective evidence, such as a medical examination or proof of a worsened condition.

Total Disability Ratings

A diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome can help a veteran with their VA disability claim by providing a clear and concrete way to show that the condition prevents them from working. Since the symptoms are limiting, this could increase their rating under the individual unemployability criteria.

If a former service member meets all the requirements of individual unemployability, they may be eligible for a permanent and total disability rating. This means that their disability will not improve, and they will continue to receive benefits for the rest of their life.

This type of rating is typically reserved for conditions like losing a limb or long-term illnesses. Still, it can also be awarded for secondary infections such as hypothyroidism, which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. For this reason, knowing how the VA establishes a rating is essential. This knowledge will allow veterans to prepare for re-evaluations and ensure their current condition is adequately compensated.

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