The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that nearly two million Americans each year are treated for rotator cuff injuries. While degeneration is the primary cause of most rotator cuff tears, trauma and repetitive overhead arm movement are also common causes of this type of injury. A traumatic event such as falling from a ladder on your arm or trying to break the fall with your hand can injure your rotator cuff, as can repetitive activities such as playing tennis, swimming, or painting.
However, shoulder injuries, particularly rotator cuff tears, are especially common among members of the U.S. military. Due to the demands of their physical training and the risks of combat duty, military personnel suffer shoulder injuries and often need disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The occurrence of shoulder injuries is considerably higher in military service members than in the civilian population. Of those service members medically separated from active duty, shoulder injuries are the second most common cause of disability.
Understanding a Rotator Cuff Tear and Its Symptoms
A group of muscles and tendons surround the ball-and-socket shoulder joint with one primary job: to stabilize your shoulder when you move your arm.
The rotator cuff muscles are relatively small and can be injured by extreme physical stress. Military service personnel often perform jobs that require a significant degree of exertion, and they are at an increased risk of injury for the following two types of tears:
- A partial-thickness tear. This is an incomplete tear that causes the tendon tissue to “fray” but not completely tear or rupture.
- Full-thickness tear. This type of tear causes the tendon tissue to be torn completely through and makes a hole in the tendon.
When you tear your rotator cuff, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Cracking, clicking, or snapping sounds or sensations when you move your shoulder
- Weakness in your shoulder that makes it difficult to perform routine, daily tasks
- Shoulder pain that can be mild to severe when you raise or lower your arm
- Pain when your arm is at rest, especially if you lie on that shoulder when you sleep
- Tenderness or a dull ache in your shoulder
- Inflammation of the bursa—called bursitis
- Decreased range of motion
Service-Connecting Your Torn Rotator Cuff
If you’re a veteran seeking disability benefits for your torn rotator cuff, the VA allows you to file a claim if your shoulder injury occurred while you were on active duty. You may have suffered a tear during a traumatic event or from the repetitive movements required by your job—such as repeatedly carrying heavy supplies. What’s important to note is that you still qualify for disability benefits if the tear occurred while you were off duty. For example, if the tear occurred because someone ran into you by accident or you were exercising on your own time, you can still service-connect your injury.
To prove your torn rotator cuff is service-connected, you need to present the following documents:
- A doctor’s diagnosis of your injury
- A medical nexus—a doctor’s statement—that the tear occurred during your time in service
- A description of what occurred that caused the shoulder pain
The VA wants as much detail and specificity as possible. They must be able to verify and corroborate the events that occurred before making a determination about your claim. Additionally, they want to know how the injury impacts your day-to-day routine and how it disrupts and interferes with your daily life.
The Impact of a Torn Rotator Cuff
A tear in a rotator cuff can have a significant impact on your life and the daily routine you take for granted. The muscle weakness you experience may make it difficult to reach up or forward, pull objects from a shelf, or open doors. Also, you may be unable to:
- Lift heavy objects
- Comb or brush your hair or bathe without pain
- Perform work tasks at your job
- Change your clothes
- Sleep through the night due to ongoing pain
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you suffer from a service-connected rotator cuff tear, you may qualify for disability benefits. Let our disability attorneys assist you in determining if you’re eligible. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help document your shoulder injury and work with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations.
Our disability attorneys know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. If your shoulder injury is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.