VA Benefits for Back Pain: What Veterans Must Know to Receive VA Disability for Chronic Back Pain

Back pain affects many military veterans and can leave a lasting impact on day-to-day life. For disabled veterans applying for VA benefits for back pain, having a good understanding of the claim and appeals process is key. Below you’ll find a brief breakdown of how the VA determines disability ratings, how much VA disability for back pain you can get, and other eligibility requirements from the VA for monthly benefits.

Here’s what you need to know about receiving VA disability benefits for back pain.

VA Disability Benefits for Back Pain: What You Need to Know

  • Chronic back pain affects 8% of Americans but is more prevalent among veterans due to intense physical activity during military service. The VA offers financial benefits for disabled veterans with back pain.
  • Veterans must have a medical issue from active duty and an honorable discharge.
  • Disability ratings range from 0%-100%, indicating occupational limitations due to military duty. VA uses guidelines and tests to assess disabilities, including range of motion.
  • Ratings vary based on specific conditions and severity, such as ankylosis, intervertebral disc syndrome, fibromyalgia, and paralysis. Ratings can range from 10% to 100%.
  • Monthly payments depend on the disability rating and number of dependents.
  • Appealing a denial can be complex, requiring proper documentation and representation. Many applicants seek assistance from a VA-accredited attorney for appeals.

Veterans and Back Pain

Chronic debilitating back pain is a condition affecting 8% of Americans, but it disproportionately affects veterans. By comparison, people with military service are 32.8% more likely to have back pain than non-veterans.

The intense physical activity in military service is to blame for the increased risk of back pain among veterans. High-impact physical movements, repetitive training drills, and jarring, impact-heavy movement all contribute to the wear and tear to your spine.

Because of this, the VA offers complementary care for veterans disabled due to back pain to help support those who have served.

VA Benefits for Back Pain: Who’s Eligible to Apply?

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans looking to file a disability benefits claim must suffer from a medical issue sustained during active military duty. In addition, eligible veterans must have an honorable discharge from service.

When filing your claim for VA benefits due to back pain, your doctor’s medical support can be vital. Showing private medical records in addition to your service treatment records can help prove that your condition exists and limits your ability to work. This can increase your chances of getting a higher VA disability rating.

Depending on the severity of your service connected disability, you may receive more support. You may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefits available for disabled veterans who need in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care.

How VA Disability Ratings Determine Your Benefits

Every veteran applying for VA benefits for back pain gets a disability rating for each service-connected condition. This rating ranges from 0%-100%, which also determines your benefit payments. These ratings indicate the occupational limitations a soldier may have due to active military duty. The higher your VA disability rating, the more you may potentially receive in monthly compensation. The VA lists all spinal conditions under section 4.71 Schedule of ratings–musculoskeletal system. Here you can find information on which criteria the VA looks for when determining a disability rating for various back issues.

For spinal conditions that cause back pain, the VA uses certain guidelines to determine a disability rating. First, the VA conducts a variety of back tests to determine your overall range of motion. Those results help determine your overall VA disability rating and final benefit amount when you apply for VA benefits for back pain.

VA Disability Rating Criteria for Back Pain and Spinal Conditions

Types of Back Pain for VA Disability Claims

Filing a VA benefits for back pain claim? Here are some standard VA disability ratings for different types of back issues and what they mean:

  • 100% VA disability rating for unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine. This means your back’s unusually stiff and you can’t stand up straight, touch your toes, or turn from side to side.
  • 50% VA disability rating for unfavorable ankylosis of your middle and lower back. This is about the same as bullet #1, but your shoulders and upper back are mostly unaffected.
  • 40% VA disability rating for unfavorable ankylosis of your upper back. This means you have the same issues as bullet #1, but only in your upper back and shoulders.
  • 40% VA disability rating for favorable ankylosis of your middle and lower back. This means you have the same issues as bullet #1, but only in your upper back and shoulders
  • 60% VA disability rating for Intervertebral Disc Syndrome (IVDS) episodes lasting 6+ weeks. IVDS means you have loose disc fragments lodged in different back areas, causing chronic pain. If these issues last 4-6 weeks every year, you’ll get a 40% VA disability rating. For IVDS episodes of 2-4 weeks per year, it’s 20%; for 1-2 weeks per year, your VA disability rating’s 10%.
  • 100% VA disability rating for total paralysis in your legs, arms or both due to spinal injury or degenerative arthritis.
  • 20% VA disability rating for scoliosis, reversed lordosis, or abnormal kyphosis.
  • 40% VA disability rating if you have constant fibromyalgia pain, or 3+ annual arthritis flare-ups.
  • 100% VA disability rating for spinal cancer.

Most issues that cause temporary (not chronic) back pain receive a VA disability rating between 10%-40%. However, you may get a 100% VA disability rating for up to one year after serious back surgery, such as a spinal fusion.

These ratings, as well as your VA medical records, dependent children, and other factors, heavily influence the VA benefits and monthly payment amount for your condition.

VA Disability Pay: How Much VA Disability Compensation Can I Get for My Back Pain?

The payout for VA disability due to back pain is dependent upon the rating your condition receives during the evaluation process. The magnitude of the disability (or the combined VA disability rating you receive for multiple disabilities) plays a factor in in your monthly payment amount, as the VA disability compensation rates scale based on the severity rating.

Here’s a look at the monthly payment VA disability payments you can get if you have no dependents. If you experience a 40% disability rating or higher, you can receive additional payments based on your dependent status. This number can increase if you have more than one child, and also applies to dependent parents.

2024 VA Disability Compensation Rates

Here’s a look at the 2024 VA disability pay based on your disability rating:

  • 0% disability rating: $0.00 per month
  • 10% disability rating: $171.23 per month
  • 20% disability rating: $338.49 per month
  • 30% disability rating: $524.31 per month
  • 40% disability rating: $755.28 per month
  • 50% disability rating: $1,075.16 per month
  • 60% disability rating: $1,361.88 per month
  • 70% disability rating: $1,716.28 per month
  • 80% disability rating: $1,995.01 per month
  • 90% disability rating: $2,241.91 per month
  • 100% disability rating: $3,737.85 per month

The Veterans Affairs office website can provide more information on your monthly payment amount. This number may be influenced by each additional child, parent, or spouse you can claim as a dependent during your application.

How to Appeal a Denied Back Pain Claim for VA Disability

Appealing a veterans disability denial can be tough, especially if you face a complicated claim. For this reason, many applicants will turn to a VA-accredited attorney for assistance. Legal representatives know the process and can help you collect proper documentation, connect with the VA, and represent your appeal.

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Shay Fleming is the SEO Content Manager at LeadingResponse. A proud graduate of Texas State University, she has been based in Austin since 2016, where she lives with her dog. Shay has contributed extensively to various domains, writing and publishing articles about real estate, investing, disability, and urban living.