Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a Service-Connected Disability for Veterans?
You can receive VA disability compensation for your carpal tunnel syndrome if there’s a service-connected link
The carpal tunnel is a passageway near the palm of your hand that is surrounded by ligaments and bones. There’s a nerve inside this tube, and when it’s compressed, often by the tunnel’s swelling, you could experience weakness, numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand or even up your arm.
These symptoms could mean that you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition with many known causes, including wrist fractures, repetitive motions, rheumatoid arthritis, nerve-damaging conditions, certain medications, and working with vibrating tools.
The good news for veterans is that the VA provides disability compensation for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. The amount you receive depends on which hand is affected and the severity of the condition.
Here’s what you should know about receiving VA benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Proving that your carpal tunnel is service-related
Before you can file a VA claim for carpal tunnel syndrome, you’ll need a diagnosis from a doctor, and will also have to create a service connection.
The process starts with an examination where your doctor can provide a current diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. It also helps if you receive the diagnosis while still in the military, but this isn’t mandatory.
Next, you’ll need to establish a link between your service time and your condition through an in-service event. This event could include an injury that you sustained while in the military, which you can then link to your current disability. Using specific tools or engaging in repetitive motions could also help verify a link.
Linking an in-service event to a current condition might require a letter from a VA doctor. Keep in mind that you don’t have to prove 100% that your time in the military caused your disability, just that it’s at least as likely as not that this is the case.
Schedule of ratings for carpal tunnel syndrome
Veteran’s Affairs lists carpal tunnel syndrome under section 4.124a – Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders on its schedule of ratings.
The disability rating you receive, and therefore your compensation, depends on which hand is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and its severity.
The maximum disability rating for carpal tunnel syndrome is 70%, which occurs when you have a complete paralysis where you can’t flex your index finger and have minimal flexion in your middle finger in your dominant hand. You might also find it challenging to make a fist, as your index and middle fingers will remain straightened.
Having the same condition in your non-dominant hand puts you at a 60% disability rating.
For a severe, yet incomplete, paralysis of your index and middle fingers, you can receive a 50% VA disability rating for your dominant hand and 40% for your non-dominant. Moderate paralysis leads to a 30% or 20% rating, while a mild paralysis is 10% in either hand.
You could be eligible for a higher disability rating if your carpal tunnel features symptoms of a related condition called trigger finger.
In short, trigger finger is an affliction associated with carpal tunnel syndrome that causes stiffness and pain in your fingers. You might also find your fingers locking when you try to bend or straighten them. Trigger finger generally affects your ring finger or thumb but can be present in other fingers, too.
Make sure you speak with a doctor about a trigger finger diagnosis because it could help your case with the VA.
Carpal tunnel and TDIU
Even if your VA disability rating is only 70%, you could be eligible for more compensation if your carpal tunnel prevents you from working. Since the condition can make it harder to carry, lift, or grasp items, you could find it challenging to gain meaningful employment.
For example, working in an office is next to impossible if you can’t grasp a pen with your dominant hand, much like working construction is hard if you can lift or carry objects.
If your condition is preventing you from keeping a job, you can apply for a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating. This provision could potentially give you a 100% disability rating for carpal tunnel syndrome if the condition stops you from working, and you have the evidence to back it up.
Filing a VA claim for carpal tunnel syndrome
Before filing any claim with the VA, you’ll want to ensure that all your documentation is in order and that you have the necessary medical proof to back up your claims. The positive news is that if you’re suffering from carpal tunnel and can link it to your service time, there’s a good chance you’re due for some compensation.
Veterans Guardian VA Claim Consulting can help as you move through the VA claims process. We have an entire team of experts available to assist you, ensuring you provide the VA with the necessary information to receive the maximum compensation. Contact us for a free consultation.