veteran in physical therapy for sciaticaIt’s very common for veterans to experience back injuries that eventually lead to a nerve condition known as sciatica. Nearly 500,000 veterans receive disability benefits for nerve conditions, and paralysis of the sciatic nerve is the seventh most common disability claim. Additionally, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), veterans were “more likely than nonveterans to have back pain (32.8%) with sciatica (12.2%).” Additionally, the report cited that “the prevalence of severe pain was significantly higher in veterans who experienced back pain.”

Understanding Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It stretches from the lower back down through each leg. Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is a nerve condition that occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated in some way, and pain radiates down the nerve. This pain may be due to an injury to the spine, a herniated disk, a bone spur, or pressure on the nerve.

Veterans who suffer from sciatica often experience debilitating pain in their lower back along with weakness, burning, or tingling that usually extends down one leg or the other. Some patients describe this pain as a feeling of electric shocks in the back, buttocks, or legs; sharp or shooting pain; and/or a stabbing jolt of pain. This pain can:

  • Come and go or be felt continuously
  • Be less severe in your lower back than in your leg
  • Feel worse after you stand or sit for a long time, as well as when you stand up and twist your body
  • Feel worse after a sudden body movement such as sneezing or coughing
  • Cause a feeling of “pins and needles” in your legs, feet, and/or toes

Service-Connecting Your Sciatica

It’s very common for sciatica to be caused by some other back condition or problem. You might, for example, have a herniated disc, a tumor, or spinal stenosis. If you have been able to service-connect another back problem, it’s possible that you can service-connect your sciatica as a secondary condition

However, if you don’t have service-connected back pain, you still may still be able to service-connect your sciatica. If you hurt your back during your military service by falling, in training sessions, by carrying heavy machinery, or because of some other physical activity, you may be able to make that connection through your military records. If your records can prove that you had no back pain until you were in the military, and your physician will write an opinion letter stating that your sciatica “at least as likely as not” was caused by your military service, you may qualify for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

VA Ratings for Sciatica

The VA rates sciatica and other nerve problems that affect the back using three categories based on how severe your symptoms are:

  • Paralysis. This is the highest level of severity. You’ll likely receive an 80% rating for complete paralysis if the muscles in your leg below the knee barely work and you have severe problems bending your knee. You may receive 60% for incomplete paralysis, with severe muscle atrophy, limited functionality, and poor circulation. A rating of 20 - 40% is given for moderate to moderately severe paralysis. And 10% is given for mild paralysis.
  • Neuritis. In this category, you can receive a 60% rating for loss of reflexes and sensation, muscle atrophy, and severe limitation of body part functionality. A 10% rating is given for mild neuritis.
  • Neuralgia. In this category, you may receive a 10 - 20% rating depending on the severity of the numbness, pain, tingling, and limitation of body part functionality.

Call Cuddigan Law for Service-Connected Sciatica

If you suffer from service-connected sciatica or other back problems, you may qualify for VA disability benefits. Let Cuddigan Law assist you in determining if you’re eligible. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will work with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We 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 sciatica or back pain is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.