published bybaga's lawon October 3, 2022 inDisability Ratings
Veterans may receive disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they have an illness or disability caused by their time in service.
Some veterans are unaware of what VA covers, which can cause them to miss out on the benefits they deserve. And many veterans may not know that VA can cover arthritis that develops from their time in the service.
- You will learn that the two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- You'll understand why the VA tends to ignore arthritis claims in veterans.
- You will learn that some risk factors can lead to the development of arthritis.
What is arthritis?
ArthritisIt is a painful inflammation of one or more joints. It can occur in many areas of the body, such as the hands, knees, or back, and can worsen as the veteran ages.
While there are many types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between the joints to break down, resulting in severe pain in a person's joints. People who work in strenuous conditions for a long time, such as veterans, may be prone to developing osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a disease in which the immune system directly attacks the joints.
Veterans are at particular risk of developing osteoarthritis. Because much of your service work requires active movement, there can be a significant amount of stress on your joints over time.
Certain conditions can also put veterans at higher risk of developing arthritis, including age, family history, gender, obesity, and any previous joint injury. Symptoms may include:
- limited range of motion
If arthritis symptoms are not controlled, veterans can experience pain and not know exactly what is causing it. As a result, your quality of life can drop significantly.
How is arthritis diagnosed?
To better understand what type of arthritis you have, your VA doctor will first check your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. They will also want to see how much mobility and flexibility you have in the affected joints and listen to your list of symptoms.
Laboratory tests can help identify the specific type of arthritis a veteran may have. For example, the blood test can help reveal markers of inflammation characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.
Alternatively, arthrocentesis (obtaining a sample of joint fluid by inserting a needle into the affected joint) can help doctors diagnose inflammation and even bacterial causes of arthritis.
Imaging can detect joint problems that other diagnostic methods cannot. To track the progression of your arthritis, your VA doctor may recommend periodic X-rays to show cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs.
Your healthcare professional may also suggest a CT scan (computerized tomography), which combines X-rays taken from several different angles to create cross-sectional views of both your bones and surrounding soft tissue.
They may also recommend magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain more detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissues, such as cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Finally, your VA doctor may recommend an ultrasound. This fast, non-invasive technology uses high-frequency sound waves to image soft tissue and cartilage near arthritic joints.
What are the treatments for arthritis?
When a veteran seeks treatment for his arthritis, he may be surprised by some of the different forms of treatment.
In general, the hope is that treatment for osteoarthritis will result in increased range of motion, decreased pain, and increased strength in the affected joint(s).
Pharmacological Treatments for Arthritismay include:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).This common category of drugs includes ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox). NSAIDs can have side effects at higher doses, so they may be prescribed as a rub or topical cream instead of an oral medication.
- Corticosteroids.Steroid medicines like prednisone help reduce inflammation and pain. They can also help slow joint damage and can be given as a pill or injection.
- DMARDs (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs).These drugs can slow the progression of the autoimmune type of arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) and help prevent permanent damage.
- Creams, ointments, patches, gels and salves.Topical medications can be obtained over the counter or by prescription. These medications are applied directly to the skin and may include ingredients such as capsaicin (a pain reliever derived from chili peppers), salicylates (aspirin-based pain relievers), menthol (a cooling agent), and lidocaine (a topical anesthetic).
Other treatment optionsmay include:
- Hot and cold compresses
- joint protection
It is not uncommon for a veteran suffering from arthritis to be prescribed a combination of specific treatments. The combination of treatments will help maximize the chance of cure and improvement.
How does arthritis form in the knee?
One of the most common joint areas to develop arthritis in veterans is theknee. Knee arthritis can make everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and running extremely painful.
Many different knee conditions and injuries can cause knee pain, but here are some of the common symptoms of knee osteoarthritis:
- Weakness that can cause the knee to give out
- A snapping knee with movement.
Unfortunately, knee arthritis tends to get worse over time. In veterans, it usually occurs when strenuous activities at work put stress on the knee over time or when they sustain an injury that damages the knee.
Veterans with knee arthritis
you knew about thatmore than 1 in 3 veteranswill be diagnosed with arthritis? How about the fact thatsecond most frequent service-connected disability in 2020Was limited knee flexion a common symptom of arthritis?
If a veteran is injured during his time in service and later develops knee arthritis, he may be eligible for VA benefits. For this reason, it is important for veterans to report any injury, including repetitive stress damage to a joint, to authorities so they can be recorded.
A veteran with arthritis may receive a rating of 10 or 20 percent, depending on the details of his condition.
Unfortunately, it is common for the VA to overlook information or make mistakes in arthritis claims.
To complicate matters, some veterans may not report an injury at the time it occurs. Also, the full extent of an injury may not be known until years after it occurs.
Service records and medical records are valuable pieces of evidence when making a claim. If the proper claim is not filed, the VA claim may be denied or a Veteran may be assigned a low disability rating.
Veterans should do aservice connectionbetween arthritis and length of service. In order to have a service connection, there are three necessary components that a veteran's claim must prove:
- A current diagnosis of a veteran's arthritis
- Evidence of an event that caused the arthritis.
- A medical nexus connecting the current diagnosis to the stressor at work
When a veteran seeks a medical professional to make the connection between the current diagnosis and the stressor on duty, the physician must use clear and concise language in writing his statement. Typically, this will be a statement that the veteran's arthritis was "at least as likely as not" caused by his time in the service.
If a doctor does not use these types of phrases and language on the application, the VA may deny the application or award a low disability rating.
Appeal of a VA Decision
The VA makes many mistakes each year when reviewing veterans' claims. These errors can cause them to assign a low disability rating, resulting in low veteran benefits or a blanket claim denial.
When either of these two scenarios occurs, veterans can feel stressed and defeated. After all the hard work of collecting evidence and writing a complaint, it may seem like it was for nothing.
Fortunately, veterans canappealany decision made by VA in filing a supplemental claim or in presenting your case in the Veterans Claims Court of Appeals. Appealing may cause the VA to change its mind about a veteran's current disability or illness status, and may even cause the VA to assign more benefits and a higher disability rating.
Veterans who have decided to file a supplemental claim must act quickly. If they do not start the process within one year of receiving the initial decision, they will have to start the entire complaint process over again.
When a veteran appeals a VA decision, they should contact an experienced attorney like those at Berry Law. Our experience in helping veterans obtain the benefits they deserve allows us to be effective when working with veterans with arthritis.
As veteran claims professionals, we see many service members who don't know what the VA is looking for in their claims. This leads to simple and preventable mistakes by veterans and veterans alike.
All of this can be avoided by working with a qualified attorney. Berry Law helps ensure that a veteran has all the necessary components of their claims so they have the best chance of getting the benefits they deserve.
While arthritis can be a difficult condition to manage, whether it's in the knee or elsewhere, veterans don't have to go through it alone. Veterans can receive VA benefits for their arthritis, and the right law firm can help. For more information on veterans benefits and the VA, visit Berry Law'swebsite.
Arthritis: symptoms and causes | mayonnaise clinic
Arthritis – Diagnosis and Treatment | mayonnaise clinic
Understanding Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment | WebMD
Arthritis and the Armed Forces | arthritis.org
Annual Benefits Report: Fiscal Year 2020 | Veterans Benefits Administration
Knee Arthritis: What You Need to Know | medical news today