Sciatica is a type of pain related to the sciatic nerve, the largest single nerve in the human body. This nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks and hips, and down each leg. Its branches originate near the spine and extend below the knee. People with sciatica often feel shooting pain or tingling in any part of their lower body. But it usually starts on one side of the body. In severe cases, they may experience numbness or muscular weakness in their legs.
Usually, it only affects one side of the body. Individuals may experience difficulty walking or even partial paralysis. People with sciatica say they feel more pain when they stand or sit for a long time. Lying down or walking for short periods may help.
Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy with stretching and strengthening exercises, and lifestyle changes—such as avoiding lower back-stressing activities—may help manage symptoms.
Sciatica is caused by a number of factors, most commonly a herniated or bulging intervertebral disc, trauma to the spine, or narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis). Herniated discs occur when one of the discs that sit between two vertebrae swells and pushes on the nerve roots. At the same time, spinal trauma is any traumatic injury to vertebrae, such as fractures.
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spaces within your spine narrow, leading to compression of nerve roots and causing sciatica.
Additional causes for sciatica vary greatly since nerves can be affected in many ways. Some of the less common causes include degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, pregnancy, piriformis syndrome, and tumors.
Suppose you are a veteran and have experienced pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in one or both of your legs due to sciatica. In that case, you may be eligible for veterans affairs benefits. When it affects both sides of your body, it is called bilateral sciatica. Your sciatica doesn’t have to be service-related to obtain veterans affairs benefits. However, it is important to note that any other conditions you may have must be ruled out as possible causes before filing a claim.
Providing an exact diagnosis from a medical professional will also help strengthen your case for filing a veteran’s affairs claim for sciatica.
If you believe your service-related activities may have caused an injury like sciatica, it is crucial to document as much information as possible.
This might include:
Also, consider gathering other evidence, like medical records or official documents, that could help demonstrate that your service contributed to the injury. By providing this information to support your claim for veterans affairs benefits for sciatica, you can increase your chances of being approved for the compensation you deserve.
Tuley Law Office specializes in helping veterans navigate the complexities of VA claims. Our objective is always to help you obtain the benefits you’ve earned.
If your physician agrees that service-related activities cause your sciatica, you should request their opinion. This opinion should include details about your medical history, any treatments or therapies you’ve had for the condition, and any other information pertinent to a VA claim.
Veterans Affairs rates sciatica disability in terms of the degree of severity of symptoms, according to the three categories: paralysis (the most severe), neuritis, and neuralgia. Depending on the individual case, each of these categories can be further categorized into mild, moderate, or severe ratings.
The VA considers factors such as the extent to which a veteran’s mobility is impacted by their condition and whether or not they can work when determining the rating for a given individual’s case.
Pain levels, sensitivity to touch, temperature changes, muscle strength loss, reflex impairment, and other criteria are also often considered Furthermore, any additional medical conditions associated with sciatica must be documented for a veteran to receive an appropriate disability rating from the VA for this nerve issue.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rates sciatica disability according to the severity of nerve root impairment caused by the condition. In cases where complete paralysis of all muscles in the leg below the knee has occurred, VA disability ratings may be assigned as high as 80%. This rating is determined by factors such as the degree of pain experienced, muscle strength loss, and the inability to move or control the affected leg.
Severe neuritis is a disabling condition that is characterized by reflex loss, sensory loss, and muscle atrophy. This can severely limit functionality in affected areas such as legs or lower back. In cases where the condition is severe, VA may assign a score of 60%, indicating significant functional limitations.
Neuralgia is a condition that can cause moderate symptoms, including tingling, numbness, and pain that may impair the functioning of limbs. This type of condition can also make activities like walking, sitting, or standing difficult. It can also disrupt sleep patterns due to the severity of the pain associated with neuralgia. The maximum VA rating for neuralgia is 20% disability.
One of the major issues with the Veterans Affairs (VA) rating system for sciatica is that the terms used to measure it are often highly subjective and undefined. The criteria don’t list any specific symptoms that a veteran must have to be rated as having mild, moderate, or moderately severe sciatica. The only term with a clear definition is ‘severe incomplete paralysis.
There are no standardized measurements or ways of accurately determining the existence and degree of this chronic condition. This can lead to differences in how doctors and VA workers assess a veteran’s claim, affecting whether they receive the financial compensation they deserve. As a result, veterans may be denied benefits due to an inaccurate or incomplete evaluation of their sciatica-related disability.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found problems with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rating system to evaluate spine-related neurological conditions like sciatica.
For example, one veteran may be judged as having moderate sciatica. In contrast, another veteran with the same symptoms may only be categorized as having mild sciatica. The GAO recommended that VA develop more concrete criteria for assessing these conditions to ensure fair and consistent decision-making.
To make an accurate diagnosis of sciatica, a healthcare professional needs to perform a comprehensive assessment that includes a detailed history of the individual’s symptoms. This includes where the pain is, what movements or activities make it worse, and any pain relief methods that have been tried.
Additionally, a physical exam will be conducted to look for any signs of nerve irritation, such as muscle tension and sensation changes. X-rays or MRI scans may also be used to identify any underlying structural issues contributing to the sciatica pain.
It’s important to remember that these tests are done to rule out other conditions or diseases with similar symptoms and to learn more about what’s causing your particular case of sciatica. Call the VA nearest you to allow them to help you set up an appointment and begin your diagnosis.
Speak with an attorney such as one at Tuley Law Firm who specializes in disability claims, so they can help determine which disability would provide you with the best rating.
In some cases, it may be possible to apply for both disabilities to combine your benefits and increase your financial support. When submitting your application, be sure to provide as much detailed information on your medical condition as possible, including any medical evidence or statements from other medical professionals who have previously treated you.
It is also important to note that some conditions may require additional documentation, such as diagnostic tests or functional capacity evaluations. Ultimately, the combination of both disabilities can give you more compensation but requires more time and effort on your part to ensure your claims’ accuracy.
Eligibility for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability due to sciatica can be granted under 38 CFR § 4.16. However, it is necessary to demonstrate that a service-connected disability has left the veteran unable to obtain or maintain substantially gainful employment.
To determine eligibility, veterans must provide valid medical evidence that documents the severity of their service-connected disabilities and proves they cannot work because of those disabilities. They can also apply for the 100 percent rate, even if the combined rating from all their disabilities doesn’t equal 100%. For example, if their sciatica rating is 30% and another disability is 60%, they could still be eligible for TDIU.
An individual must meet specific criteria to be eligible for TDIU. This includes having at least one service-connected disability rated 60 percent or higher or having two or more service-connected disabilities, with one rated 40 percent or higher and a combined total of 70 percent or higher.
If you have questions about your disability rating for sciatica or need assistance with gaining the benefits you deserve, find professional legal help at Tuley Law Office.
Our team has years of experience helping veterans like you get the ratings they need. We will work hard to document and present your claim to the VA to maximize its chances of success.
We understand how challenging it can be to deal with the complexities of a VA disability application. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping you every step of the way. We’ll guide you through the entire process, from filing initial paperwork to appealing a denied claim, making sure that all necessary documents are provided accurately and on time—that way, you can rest assured knowing that your case is in capable hands.
If you are a United States Veteran seeking benefits or just information for sciatica, Tuley Law Office is here to help.
Sciatica is one of the more complex disabilities, not just in medical terms but when legally pursuing the VA benefits you deserve and need. Tuley Law has decades of combined experience specializing in helping veterans.
Our firm is based in Evansville, Indiana, but serves veterans across the United States. For a no-cost case evaluation, call (812) 434-1936 or fill out a contact form