Carpal tunnel syndrome does not just affect fast typers. Any activity that has high-force, long-term, and repetitive wrist motions can put people at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Veterans are often susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome from their military tenure because of the physical demands of their service specialties.
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In this article about carpal tunnel
- What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
- Symptoms of carpal tunnel
- Can carpal tunnel be claimed as a VA disability?
- VA disability rating for carpal tunnel
- Working with Woods and Woods to file a claim for carpal tunnel
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel can cause symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the hands and wrists.
The “tunnel” in the name comes from the narrow tube in the wrist where the median nerve (a specific nerve within the wrist) and tendons help connect the hand and forearm. When the carpal tunnel narrows from repetitive motion and inflammation, it presses on the nearby nerve and tendons which causes swelling and loss of sensation in the fingers and hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is different than cubital tunnel syndrome.
Common occupational and service jobs where the labor can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome are not just limited to office work and manufacturing jobs. In fact, anyone who is using his or her wrists and hands in a tedious and vigorous manner is at higher risk. These include sewing, finishing, cleaning, meatpacking, and others. In fact, it is more common among those performing assembly line work than it is for desk jobs.
However, it is not just daily motions that contribute to carpal tunnel development. Here are a few other factors that may make someone more susceptible:
- Women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome
- Small carpal tunnels can be hereditary
- Wrist fracture and dislocation
- Deformity of the hand or wrist
- Thyroid disorders
- Mass/tumor in the area
- Age (more common in older people)
- Abnormal protein deposits
Symptoms of carpal tunnel
The severity of carpal tunnel syndrome is often gradual and, most of the time, without a specific injury to attribute the pain to. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the syndrome patients may see inconsistent symptoms.
- Hand and wrist weakness (this can lead to making it difficult to perform fine motor skills and dropping things due to weakness)
- Pain and tingling can travel up the arm
- Shock sensations that can radiate up through the fingers
- Numbness and pain in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers
For many patients, these symptoms will be worse at night.
Related disorder: Trigger finger
Trigger finger is when one or more fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Straightening it often happens in a snap motion (hence, the term “trigger”).
The cause of trigger finger is when tendon sheaths (the protective layer that protects tendons) become inflamed and affect the normal motion of the tendon itself.
It is normally most evident in the mornings, and repeated motions or gripping can activate it.
Can carpal tunnel be claimed as a VA disability?
As mentioned above, veterans may have an increased susceptibility to carpal tunnel syndrome depending on their occupational specialties during their service. If a veteran believes that their carpal tunnel can be attributed to their military tenure, they can apply for compensation as a service-connected disability.
Here is an example of a successful VA appeal for bilateral (present in both hands) carpal tunnel syndrome. A Navy veteran who was diagnosed with carpal tunnel in 1994 while in service said it was a result of his military duties. In 2013, the VA examiner concluded that his carpal tunnel was not related to service and denied him VA disability benefits. He appealed, and the Board of Veterans Appeals found in his favor in 2021 and granted him service connection and his benefits.
Direct and secondary service connection
To establish a direct service connection for carpal tunnel, the condition must have occurred while in service or have been aggravated in service.
Service connection for carpal tunnel can also be on a secondary basis. If the veteran has a primary service-connected disability and can prove that it caused or worsened their carpal tunnel, he or she may qualify for benefits for carpal tunnel as a secondary condition
VA disability rating for carpal tunnel
The VA rates carpal tunnel depending on the severity of the paralysis of the median nerve and whether or not the injury is unilateral or bilateral (affecting both hands and wrists).
The criteria for carpal tunnel disability ratings can be found under the neurological conditions and convulsive disorders section of the Schedule of Ratings.
The ratings are broken down into whether or not if affects the dominant hand (the schedule labels it “major”) or non-dominant hand (minor).
|Paralysis level of the
median nerve (8515)
If a veteran is experiencing trigger finger in addition to carpal tunnel, it could increase the VA rating.
Bilateral carpal tunnel
If a veteran’s carpal tunnel syndrome is in both wrists or hands, the VA would use what is called the bilateral factor when calculating the rating. Figuring a VA rating on your own – with or without the bilateral factor – can be complicated, which is why we recommend using our rating calculator.
Working with Woods and Woods to file a claim for carpal tunnel
If you believe you have carpal tunnel syndrome with a direct or secondary service connection, you may qualify for disability benefits.
Whether you have already filed for your initial service-connected illness, or if you’ve never filed before, a VA disability lawyer can help. At Woods and Woods, we do not collect any fees unless we win the case.
We are a family-owned law firm that represents veterans all around the country with their VA disability benefits claims and appeals.
Contact our team to get started.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes. If you believe that you have carpal tunnel syndrome that can be shown to have either a direct or secondary service connection, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation for carpal tunnel syndrome.
The VA ratings for carpal tunnel syndrome can be found under the neurological conditions and convulsive disorders section of the Schedule of Ratings in diagnostic code 8515. The ratings are affected by the severity of the paralysis of the median nerve and whether or not the condition is bilateral (affecting both hands).