Medical conditions like costochondritis and Tietze syndrome can be severe enough to qualify a veteran for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are two similar conditions with some differences. These conditions refer to the inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage that connects the ribs to the sternum. Often, costochondritis and Tietze syndrome affect the left side of the rib cage, so you might think you are having a heart attack. The swelling and redness of the chest area over the rib cage differentiates Tietze syndrome from Costochondritis.
This article will go over each condition, the condition’s potential impact on a veteran’s life, the range of VA disability benefits available, and how to obtain those benefits.
In This Article About Costochondritis and VA Disability:
- The Impact Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome Can Have on Your Life
- Understanding the Medical Aspects of Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
- Potential Causes of Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
- Healing Process and Related Treatment for Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
- How to Obtain VA Disability Benefits for Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
- Medical Conditions Related to Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
- Service Connections to Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
- Getting the Compensation You Deserve for Service-Connected Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
The Impact Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome Can Have on Your Life
The pain from costochondritis or Tietze syndrome – also known as chondrocostal junction syndrome – can vary in severity depending on the individual. For some, the pain can be mild and temporary. For others, the pain can be disabling and continue for a long time. Body movement and heavy breathing can aggravate pain in the chest area, making it difficult to move and carry out daily functions. The pain can also radiate to other areas of the body, such as the back or abdomen.
The impact either condition can have on your life will depend upon the severity of the pain and your lifestyle. For example, you may be forced to limit your participation in most physical activities ranging from common house chores to exercises that require increased breathing and movement. Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome can also limit your ability to perform certain aspects of your job or prevent you from working altogether. You can see how someone would confuse this condition with coronary heart disease or other heart problems.
Considering the impact of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome, it will be unique to your medical condition, lifestyle, and work. The VA disability benefits available to you will vary depending on your VA rating.
Understanding the Medical Aspects of Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are known as musculoskeletal conditions because they affect a part of the skeletal system, specifically, the area where the cartilage meets your rib bones. Both conditions predominately affect the left side of the rib cage, but they can also affect both sides of your body.
A doctor may diagnose you with either condition after complaints of chest pain or after other possible conditions have been ruled out. Chest pain from Tietze syndrome or costochondritis can be sharp or dull in nature. Your doctor may perform a physical exam checking for tenderness in the chest along with other tests such as electrocardiograms, x-rays, and biopsies. An MRI may also be used to look for inflammation in the rib cartilage.
Any kind of chest pain can be scary, so be sure to seek medical attention quickly if you have chest pains. A doctor is only going to diagnose you with costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome after any heart condition has been ruled out.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
The Difference Between Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
A medical professional will likely diagnose Tietze syndrome instead of costochondritis if the chest area is swollen and red. Sometimes, the swelling is described as a lump over the chest. Additionally, Tietze syndrome tends to occur in one of the four upper ribs, in particular the second or third rib. The population most at risk for Tietze syndrome are those under the age of 40.
Costochondritis, on the other hand, is most common in those over the age of 40 and affects women more than men. Another defining feature of costochondritis is that the pain often spreads throughout the rib cage area instead of focusing on just one rib.
Potential Causes of Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
Many events can contribute to or cause the onset of either costochondritis or Tietze syndrome. These include trauma to the chest area, physical strain from heavy lifting or other exercises, arthritis, infection, tumors, or surgery.
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are common among veterans because a lot of the potential causes have ties to military service. As service members, veterans participated in constant strenuous physical activity through their training and active duty. Exposure to difficult environments could have also increased the risk of infection, especially if you suffered any injuries.
Veterans whose service involved operating heavy equipment or those who were involved in combat could have suffered trauma to the chest. Surgery to or near the chest can also cause costochondritis or Tietze syndrome.
In this video from one of our VA disability lawyers, we explain how to service connect your disability that was caused by your military service.
Healing Process and Related Treatment for Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
The healing process for either condition is unique to the veteran’s situation. Healing will depend on your pain levels and the underlying conditions contributing to inflammation. If your costochondritis or Tietze syndrome is connected to a chronic condition, then related treatment may be ongoing as flare-ups arise.
Treatments recommended by a doctor might include rest, the use of anti-inflammatory medication, or physical therapy. Stretch therapy and exercise can aid in the management or recovery of costochondritis or Tietze syndrome as demonstrated in this video:
You’ll also want to pay attention to your heart health. If you do have a medical history of coronary heart disease or other heart conditions, don’t blow off a heart attack thinking it’s your costochondritis acting up again.
How to Obtain VA Disability Benefits for Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
You may already know about disability benefits for veterans through your involvement in other organizations like Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Veteran Services Organizations (VSO), or the American Legion. Generally, the process for obtaining VA disability benefits involves submitting a claim explaining your medical condition, along with supporting evidence showing how it qualifies for disability benefits.
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The Application Process for VA Disability Benefits
The entire application process can take a few months to a few years and vary in complexity based on the nature of your disability. Working with a VA-certified disability attorney can help you identify the medical conditions you have that qualify as a disability and gather evidence to show that your disability makes you eligible to receive disability benefits from the VA. Obtaining supporting evidence can involve a lot of coordination with third parties. This includes doctor’s offices, military offices in the locations you served, and vocational experts who can explain how your disability limits your employment prospects. As part of the application, you may also need to provide personal statements about your disability and obtain statements from relevant witnesses.
VA Disability Ratings for Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determines the amount of compensation for any qualifying disability based on a list of diagnostic codes and a rating table. Neither costochondritis nor Tietze syndrome has a specific diagnostic code, which means qualification happens using the analogous rating for unlisted conditions.
The analogous rating method simply means a comparable diagnostic code is used to determine the compensation for conditions that do not have their own code. For example, the VA, in a prior case, used the Diagnostic Code 5321 – a code for thoracic muscle group respiratory function injuries – to rate costochondritis. In that case, the VA approved the veteran for a 10% rating for costochondritis. The compensation rating schedule for Diagnostic Code 5321 ranges from zero to 20% depending on the severity.
Proving Your Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome Qualifies You for VA Disability
The difficulty in qualifying for disability benefits related to either costochondritis or Tietze syndrome is obtaining a rating high enough to warrant compensation. The difficulty exists because the disabling effects of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are not as obvious as other disabilities like terminal cancer or the loss of a body part. The only way to show the severity of your costochondritis or Tietze syndrome is through the pain that causes tenderness, breathing difficulty, or limits your movement.
The key is providing the right information in your claim to prove that your costochondritis or Tietze syndrome is disabling. Additionally, a VA disability claim for Tietze syndrome or costochondritis will often include other conditions that contribute to your overall disability. Our disability calculator can help you determine the maximum benefits you may be eligible to receive based on all of your conditions and their ratings. Simply input all your disability ratings and other data, such as your number of dependents and marital status, to see your VA disability rating and estimated monthly compensation.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
Medical Conditions Related to Costochondritis and Tietze Syndrome
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are related to several other medical conditions that may also qualify for veteran disability benefits. As explained above, the cause of these conditions is often linked to others that cause inflammation of the rib cartilage. There may be instances where your disability comes from a combination of conditions, including costochondritis or Tietze syndrome.
Arthritis VA Ratings
It is a musculoskeletal condition that also involves inflammation of the bones, particularly the joints. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both qualify for veteran disability benefits with a disability rating based on the veteran’s level of pain. However, osteoarthritis is more common for veterans because it usually arises from wear and tears on the body due to vigorous physical activity. This is similar to physical activity that can place strain on the ribs and cause either costochondritis or Tietze syndrome.
A veteran’s disability for arthritis can be specific to a particular part of the body, such as the knees or back. This is similar to how costochondritis is related to the ribs. Alternatively, arthritis can also be rated as an overall disability when it occurs in multiple locations. Other musculoskeletal conditions that cause extensive pain are often involved in cases of disability benefits for costochondritis or Tietze syndrome.
Tietze syndrome can sometimes be mistaken for an autoimmune disease. This confusion happens because autoimmune diseases create greater risks for contracting infections that can cause Tietze syndrome. However, Tietze syndrome is not an autoimmune disease in and of itself. Infections that cause frequent or heavy vomiting and acid reflux can also contribute to these conditions. In making a case for veteran disability benefits, it is important to review your entire medical history for related conditions that could qualify you for VA disability.
Service Connections to Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
Showing that you have a serious medical condition that reaches the level of disability through the rating system is not the only requirement to receive disability benefits. You must also prove that your disability is service-connected. In other words, you must show a connection exists between your disability and your time in service. You can make service connections in several ways.
- Direct service connections: These are when there is a specific event during your service that caused your costochondritis or Tietze syndrome. An example might be a fall where you landed on your chest or if you were struck by a heavy object while serving. Usually, direct service connections occur when you are diagnosed with a condition while actively serving. However, direct service connections can exist even if your diagnosis came after your service ended.
- Secondary service connections: Your costochondritis can also be linked to service through a secondary connection. A secondary connection exists when your condition is related to another disability already connected to your military service. For instance, your costochondritis may be caused by arthritis or a respiratory infection from your time in service.
- Presumptions of service connections: Certain presumptions also exist that can automatically connect your disability to your service under unique circumstances, such as exposure to radiation.
Supporting Documentation Showing Service Connections
Connecting your disability to your service will require supporting documentation. This can come in many forms, including doctor reports explaining how your military service caused your costochondritis with a nexus letter. Other relevant information can include service records and witness statements evidencing any relevant events.
Getting the Compensation You Deserve for Service-Connected Costochondritis or Tietze Syndrome
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome can be severe enough to qualify for veteran disability benefits and should be included in your application to maximize your VA benefits. If you need help with your application, Woods & Woods is a family-owned law firm that has been helping veterans since 1985. We have a large staff of attorneys, doctors, and other professionals experienced in navigating claims for veterans with costochondritis, Tietze syndrome, and other service-related conditions. If you were recently denied a claim for VA benefits, we also have the knowledge to assist in the appeals process.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Many veterans that call us find out during the application process that they have multiple service-connected disabilities in addition to whatever they called about. If you were in the service and you have medical problems, call us to help figure out if you’re eligible for compensation. The call is free. We won’t charge you a dime until we win your case.
No. The job of the VA and specifically your C&P Exam is to diagnose your disability, not correct you if you picked the wrong one. We’ll just change the application and the doctor will give you an arthritis rating. Hopefully we’ll go over your medical records enough to avoid a surprise like that, but we’ll work with you as your symptoms and conditions change.