The body’s nervous system has two parts: the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the spinal cord and brain, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is a network of nerves that extend from the brain and spinal cord into other parts of the body. When the peripheral nerves are damaged, peripheral neuropathy can occur. Approximately two million veterans have a service connection for nerve damage conditions.
If you’re a veteran, you may have experienced nerve damage in a number of ways. About ten percent of living veterans sustained a severe injury during their time in service—the majority during combat—and a military accident and/or physical trauma can cause damage to the nerves. Additionally, if you were exposed to Agent Orange or developed diabetes because of your time in service, you may have some type of nerve damage.
Signs You May Have Nerve Damage
Your body’s broad network of nerves sends signals and messages to and from the brain to other parts of your body and receives information from your environment. Your nervous system directs and controls your bodily functions such as movement, memory, and thought, as well as behaviors you don’t think about, such as blinking and breathing.
You can think of your nervous system as a control center for your body. Other aspects of your health are affected and regulated by your nervous system, including:
- Hunger and thirst
- Emotional responses
When your nerves don’t function properly, and they don’t carry the correct messages, you can experience symptoms of nerve damage, including:
- Muscle weakness in your legs or arms
- Decreased coordination
- Sharp throbbing or burning pain
- Sensitivity to touch
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and/or hands
How the VA Rates Nerve Damage
If you’re a veteran with nerve damage and believe it occurred during or because of your time in service, and you can service-connect your condition, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
There are three classifications under which nerve conditions are rated by the VA—paralysis, neuritis, and neuralgia—and these are broken into categories that define the loss of function of the affected body part.
In this classification, the nerve is unable to function in any way. Types of paralysis include:
- Complete. Complete paralysis occurs when a nerve is totally paralyzed, and its associated body part is not functioning at all.
- Incomplete, severe. In this category, the nerve is not totally paralyzed, and the patient suffers various symptoms, such as muscle atrophy or decreased blood circulation, that limit the functioning of the associated body part.
- Incomplete, moderate. In a moderate injury, the nerve is not entirely paralyzed, and the patient experiences moderate pain, tingling, and numbness that impede the functioning of the associated body part.
- Incomplete, mild. Mild nerve damage means the nerve isn’t entirely paralyzed, and the patient experiences mild tingling or pain.
In this classification, the nerve is still partially functional, but it’s irritated, inflamed, and painful. Neuritis involves decreased sensibility, muscle atrophy, and/or loss of reflexes, as follows:
- Severe. Loss of reflexes, muscle atrophy, and loss of sensation are all present and severely limit the functioning of the associated body part.
- Moderate. One or more of the three symptoms are present, and they interfere with the functioning of the associated body part in a significant way.
- Mild. One or more of the primary symptoms may occur, but they’re mild and do not cause major interference with the functioning of the associated body part.
In this classification, the nerve creates intermittent or continual pain, and the patient may feel numbness and tingling.
- Moderate. Tingling, moderate to severe pain, and numbness may interfere with the functioning of the associated body part.
- Mild. Tingling and mild pain may occur. The patient may also experience slight movement limitations of the associated body part.
Service-Connecting Your Nerve Damage Conditions
Veterans are eligible for VA disability benefits if they can service-connect their nerve damage to their time in the military. They can make this connection as a direct connection or through a secondary condition.
To make the connection on a direct basis, a veteran needs to provide evidence that they’ve received a diagnosis of nerve damage. With this proof, they also need to provide evidence of an in-service incident, illness, or event that caused the nerve damage and include a medical nexus opinion that links the nerve damage to the military incident.
To make a secondary service-connection, the veteran needs to be service-connected for some other condition such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or another illness and later developed nerve damage.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you are seeking VA disability benefits for nerve damage, or your benefits claim has been denied, contact the legal team at Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help document your symptoms 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 of the necessary steps to help you get them. If your condition is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.