Veterans with peripheral neuropathy experience numbness and pain due to damaged nerves. Peripheral neuropathy is commonly found in people with diabetes with nerve damage caused by high blood sugar.
The VA rates peripheral neuropathy by combining the ratings of each affected nerve. Early onset peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes are also presumptive conditions for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans can often claim diabetic neuropathy as a secondary connection to diabetes.
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In this article about peripheral neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy:
- What is peripheral neuropathy?
- Why do veterans get peripheral neuropathy?
- Diabetic neuropathy
- VA disability rating for diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
- C&P exam for peripheral neuropathy
- Service connecting diabetic neuropathy
- How Woods and Woods helps veterans
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Nerves located outside the brain or spinal cord are called peripheral nerves. These nerves carry information between the body, brain, and central nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy is the condition that occurs when these nerves are damaged.
Damage to nerves disrupts the signals they send throughout the body. The result can be numbness, weakness, tingling, or pain. Many diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy first report feeling these symptoms in their fingers or toes. After that, the symptoms often move up the arms or legs as the damage spreads to more nerves. People with peripheral neuropathy may also experience symptoms affecting digestion, urination, and blood circulation.
Each nerve in the body has a specific job, so the symptoms a veteran experiences ultimately depend on which nerves are affected. Different types of nerves include sensory, motor, and autonomic. Autonomic nerves control body systems and functions such as blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, and urination. Sensory nerves control sensation and motor nerves control muscle movement.
Veterans with mononeuropathy or polyneuropathy
The terms mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy explain how many nerves have been damaged. If peripheral neuropathy affects only one nerve, it is called mononeuropathy. A common type of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Peripheral neuropathy affecting two or more nerves in different areas is called multiple mononeuropathy. If many nerves are damaged, it is called polyneuropathy. Most people diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy have polyneuropathy.
Why do veterans get peripheral neuropathy?
Traumatic injuries, infections, and exposures to toxins – situations that veterans may experience during active duty – can all be causes of peripheral neuropathy.
One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, another health condition that has been tied to aspects of military service. Early onset peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes are both presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure.
Nearly half of all people with diabetes are diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. High glucose levels in the blood damage both the nerves and the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. When blood sugar is the cause of nerve damage, the condition is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. While diabetic neuropathy may affect other areas of the body, it most commonly presents as peripheral neuropathy.
The chances of developing diabetic neuropathy increase with age and time spent living with diabetes. The likelihood also increases for those who are overweight, those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and frequent smokers or drinkers.
You may have heard that people with diabetes are prone to infections in their feet. That is a result of diabetic neuropathy. Without accurate feeling in parts of your body, like your foot, you may overlook injuries, leading to more frequent infections or fractures.
Peripheral neuropathy VA rating
The VA rates peripheral neuropathy based on which nerves and parts of the body are affected. Section § 4.124a in the Schedule of Ratings outlines the scale for rating neurological conditions. When a veteran is diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, each damaged nerve is assigned a diagnostic code and a rating. Then, the ratings are combined using VA math, providing one final combined rating to determine the amount of money the veteran will receive.
VA disability rating for diabetes and diabetic neuropathy
The VA rates diabetes under the diagnostic code 7913 for diabetes mellitus. The VA should assign a rating of 100% for veterans who require more than one daily insulin injection, have restrictions on diet and activities, have seen a loss of weight or strength, and are hospitalized three times per year or require weekly visits to a diabetic care provider due to ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia. Ratings decrease down to 10% for those who can manage their diabetes solely with a restricted diet.
Like overall peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy will also be rated based on which nerves and parts of the body are affected. When a veteran is diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, each damaged nerve is assigned a diagnostic code and a rating. These ratings are then added together using the combined ratings table. That means there is no specific VA rating for neuropathy, but the rating is based on which nerves are affected.
C&P exam for peripheral neuropathy
The VA will often ask veterans filing a disability claim for peripheral neuropathy to complete a compensation and pension exam, also known as a C&P exam or VA claim exam. The C&P exam will allow the VA to determine the severity of the neuropathy and whether it can be connected to the veteran’s service. The exam may include a complete physical exam, health history, blood tests, imaging, or special nerve tests.
Service connecting diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is a common secondary condition for veterans with diabetes. Veterans with service-connected diabetes can claim diabetic neuropathy as a secondary connection, as the high blood sugar associated with diabetes damages the nerves, causing neuropathy.
Additionally, veterans do not always have to prove the connection between their disability and military service. Instead, the VA automatically presumes that some of the unique situations during military service – often regarding the location or exposure to specific toxins – caused certain health conditions. These connections are called presumptive service connections.
Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange have a presumptive service connection for type 2 diabetes and early onset peripheral neuropathy.
The VA will presume that a veteran’s early onset peripheral neuropathy is related to their exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides used during service if they qualify for a presumption.
Veterans exposed to Agent Orange can also receive a presumptive service connection for type 2 diabetes, a condition that often leads to diabetic neuropathy.
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How Woods and Woods helps veterans
If you are a veteran with peripheral neuropathy and were exposed to Agent Orange or believe your condition might be related to other circumstances of your service, contact our team today for a free legal consultation. We’ve helped thousands of veterans navigate the VA disability system, and you won’t pay unless we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Traumatic injuries, infections, and exposures to toxins can all be causes of peripheral neuropathy. One of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, another health condition that has been tied to aspects of military service. Early onset peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes are also both presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure.
The VA rates peripheral neuropathy based on which nerves are affected. Section § 4.124a in the Schedule of Ratings outlines the scale for rating nerve conditions.