Suppose you are a veteran who has developed disabling carpal tunnel syndrome due to your military service. In that case, you may qualify for disability benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a structure located inside the wrist. The median nerve, one of the hand’s primary nerves, travels through the carpal tunnel from your forearm into your hand. Constant, repetitive hand, wrist, and forearm motion can place undue stress on the median nerve. Eventually, this repeated squeezing and compression damages the nerve, causing a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome.
One of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive hand, wrist, and finger flexing motions over long periods; however, you can also develop the condition through trauma, thyroid disorders, arthritis, and diabetes.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome — pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and forearm (which can make it difficult to hold objects or make a fist) — develop over time and can severely affect a person’s ability to lift, carry, reach, or grasp. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes medications, physical therapy, medical devices such as splints, and surgery.
You May Qualify for VA Disability Benefits Due to Service-Related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If the symptoms of your service-related carpal tunnel syndrome are so severe that you are unable to secure or maintain gainful employment, you may qualify for total disability benefits based on individual unemployability (TDIU).
The VA will evaluate your symptoms against the criteria stated in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. These ratings are determined by assessing the extent to which a service-connected disability negatively affects your ability to function under normal daily life conditions, including your ability to work. *Evaluations for carpal tunnel syndrome factor in many range of motion ratings, such as the impaired ability to execute skilled movements, disturbance of locomotion, and others.
The particular criteria are listed under section 38 CFR § 4.124a, Schedule of Ratings – neurological conditions and convulsive disorders, Diseases of the Peripheral Nerves, Diagnostic Code 8515:
- Complete paralysis: the hand inclined to the ulnar side, the index and middle fingers more extended than usually, considerable atrophy of the muscles of the thenar eminence, the thumb in the plane of the hand (ape hand); pronation incomplete and defective, absence of flexion of the index finger and feeble flexion of the middle finger, cannot make a fist, index, and middle fingers remain extended; cannot flex distal phalanx of the thumb, defective opposition, and abduction of the thumb, at right angles to palm; flexion of wrist weakened; pain with trophic disturbances – 70%/60%
- Incomplete paralysis, severe – 50%/40%
- Incomplete paralysis, moderate – 30%/20%
- Incomplete paralysis, mild – 10%/10%
(Note: the higher percentage is applied to the effects of carpal tunnel on your dominant hand; the lower rate is applied to the impact on your non-dominant hand.)
Demonstrating Your Carpal Tunnel is Service-Related
Of course, you’ll need to establish that your carpal tunnel syndrome was service-related. This includes documents such as your discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent), a letter from your doctor stating that your carpal tunnel was caused by your time in the service, a current diagnosis of your carpal tunnel from your doctor, and a full description of the events that caused your carpal tunnel syndrome. The more documentation you have to support your disability (such as buddy statements), the stronger your case.
Marc Whitehead & Associates Want You to Get the VA Disability Benefits You Need
Marc Whitehead & Associates have helped disabled veterans all over the U.S. obtain the disability benefits they deserve. Marc Whitehead is an Accredited Veterans Claim attorney who has successfully represented clients at all military service levels.
It may take months for the VA to make a decision, and the last thing you want after all that time is to find out your claim was rejected simply because you failed to provide the VA with all the information they needed. If you’ve filed a claim and it was denied, you have a right to appeal. Let us put our years of legal experience to work for you.
We’re familiar with every step of the VA’s application and appeals process. Our team of VA disability benefits attorneys can help you prepare a claim that tells the VA everything they need to know to decide in your favor; if your claim has been rejected, we can help with your appeal.