Many Veterans have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as a result of their military service. If you are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome you may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and forearm. In more severe cases it can result in weakness in the hand, and an inability to grasp or hold objects. The syndrome occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist. CTS is associated with repetitive motion of the wrist and hands. For many patients carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time.
The United States Army Public Health Command, reports that everyday military tasks can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. These tasks can include:
- Data entry
- Operating power tools that vibrate, such as drills
- Operating power tools that require the operator to grip the tool with heavy pressure for an extended time.
How does the VA rate carpal tunnel syndrome?
The VA rates Carpal Tunnel Syndrome under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Diagnostic Code (DC) 8515: Paralysis of the Median Nerve.
- Complete paralysis: If the hand is stuck bent away from the body at the wrist, the middle and index fingers are stuck in extension more than normal (cannot move either down or side to side), thumb is straight and stuck right up next to the index finger (the hand is completely flat) and the muscles at the base of thumb are atrophied (wasting away), and the palm of the hand cannot be turned to face downward, it is rated 70% for the Dominant arm and 60% for the Non-dominant arm.
- Severe Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 50% for the dominant arm and 40% for the non-dominant.
- Moderate Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 30% for the dominant and 20% for the non-dominant.
- Mild Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 10% for either arm.
Your final VA disability rating for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend upon the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms to include, painful motion, limitation of range of motion, and functional loss or impairment.
What does the VA require to be eligible for disability benefits for CTS?
Like for most VA disability claims, as required by law, you must meet three criteria—medical diagnosis, service connection, and persistent symptoms:
- You must have a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome in your medical records (service treatment records, VA medical records, or private medical records).
- You must provide proof that your carpal tunnel syndrome was caused or made worse by your active-duty military service—this is often referred to as the “nexus”—or is a secondary condition caused another service-connected disability. (The nexus between your primary condition and secondary condition must be clearly established to be granted service connection on a secondary basis.)
- You must be able to show that you have persistent and recurring symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and demonstrate how these symptoms affect your everyday life and your ability to work.
Can I get an increased VA Rating for carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you’re trying to increase your VA rating for Carpal Tunnel, you need to prove (with objective medical evidence) to the VA that your symptoms are now worse and warrant the higher rating criteria. (For tips on how to increase your VA rating read our blog article “How Can I Increase My VA Disability Rating?”)
Can I get Special Monthly Compensation for my CTS?
If your carpal tunnel syndrome is severe, meaning you have no effective remaining function of one or both hands, you can qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC-K) for Loss of Use of a Hand. Veterans can receive up to three SMC-K awards in addition to basic disability pay and other SMC.
If you have been turned down by V-A for benefits related to your carpal tunnel syndrome and you believe the denial was unfair, you have the right to appeal and you have the right to have an attorney represent you. Contact us by phone or email for a free evaluation of your case. At Cuddigan Law you have a dedicated team of professionals in your corner who understand the system and who will fight for your rights.