Veterans suffering from wrist pain might be eligible for disability for tendonitis, De Quervains Tenosynovitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or other wrist injuries. If you have any documented events that affected your hands, wrists, or arms while you were in the service — even if it wasn’t during combat — you might have a strong enough case to apply.
In this article about VA disability for wrist injuries:
- Conditions Affecting the Wrist
- About VA Benefits for Wrist Pain
- How We Can Help You Apply for VA Disability
- The VA Disability Rating System
- The VA Disability Calculator
- We Help Veterans!
The wrists are small in comparison to other areas of the body. However, they are among the most complex. The wrist and hand together comprise 27 small bones, with eight being in the wrist specifically. When they’re healthy, our wrists offer us a remarkable degree of flexibility!
We use our wrists all the time, so any wrist disease or injury can be quite noticeable and often is debilitating to some extent. Sometimes, these conditions can be treated by medication, physical therapy, or surgery. However, these treatments don’t always offer a complete cure.
Instead, they become disabilities, and disabilities are life-changing occurrences.
If you’re a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces and need disability compensation, but haven’t applied for disability benefits through the Veteran’s Administration (VA) yet, you should do so.
Conditions Affecting the Wrist
On this page, we look at some of the wrist conditions that might be affecting you and then discuss how the VA handles these when a related disability claim is filed. The filing process can get a little complicated, but we can help you if you need it.
Most of the conditions that follow have resulted from either repetitive motion or repetitive stress — for example, gripping, pinching, throwing, writing, or using a computer over long periods. They can be caused by other conditions as well, such as tendon injury or diabetes.
For VA benefits, these conditions are referred to as “loss of range of motion,” which means difficulty moving parts of your body to the full extent. Anyone who has had a wrist injury can readily attest to this!
Tendonitis of the Wrist
Tendons are thick, fibrous cords that connect muscle to bone, thereby enabling joints to move. When a sudden injury causes a sprain, or repetitive motion causes a tendon to rub against bone, inflammation can be the result.
Tendonitis (or tendinitis), a very prevalent condition, is tendon inflammation, which most often is caused by degeneration of the collagen protein that forms the tendon (a condition known as tendinopathy).
Healthy tendons are covered by a slippery, thin soft-tissue layer called the synovium. This layer allows a tendon to slide easily through a fibrous tunnel called a sheath. However, any swelling of the tendons or thickening of the sheath results in increased friction and pain — especially with certain thumb and wrist movements.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is somewhat more complicated. It is tendonitis accompanied by inflammation of the tendon sheath lining. Symptoms of DeQuervain’s, as with tendonitis alone, generally include pain and tenderness, especially when a tendon moves through the wrist.
De Quervain’s does to the thumb and wrist essentially the same thing that trigger finger does to a finger and the corresponding hand joint — if you’re familiar with that condition. Both cause a joint to lock in place and then “snap” unlocked, which is quite painful.
The joint swells more and more, and grows more painful with each lock and unlock sequence — until it eventually becomes immobilized (and is still painful).
Initially, treatments for wrist tendonitis include immobilization (typically with a splint or brace), ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medications. If these aren’t effective, doctors will recommend hand therapy, a cortisone injection, or surgery. Treatments for de Quervain’s tenosynovitis are similar.
Sometimes, these treatments are not lasting, though, and the problem turns into a long-term disability. If it has resulted from military service, the person suffering from it might be eligible for a VA disability determination — as discussed below.
Kienbock’s disease (also known as avascular necrosis of the lunate) is a condition in which the lunate bone, one of eight small bones in the wrist, loses its blood supply, leading to bone death.
The lunate is a central bone in the wrist and is essential for proper movement and support of the joint, so its loss can be incapacitating to a certain degree.
There are four stages of this rare disease, ending with the bone’s complete deterioration. Early intervention in the form of immobilization and anti-inflammatory medications can sometimes restore the bone — not in every case, though.
A handful of very complex surgical procedures also might help in the disease’s early stages. These surgeries represent several different ways of attempting to save or replace the diseased bone.
Since any of the treatments for Kienbock’s disease can be at least temporarily disabling, a veteran with this condition should — depending on the severity of the condition and the treatment chosen — receive one (possibly more) of the VA’s disability ratings.
Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that can develop along the tendons or joints of the wrists or hands (they can also occur in the ankles and feet). These typically harmless cysts are round or oval-shaped and filled with jelly-like synovial fluid from the affected tendon’s sheath.
While most ganglion cysts go away on their own without causing problems, some cause pain, difficulty with joint movement, or other issues. In these cases, a doctor can aspirate the cyst using a syringe. If there are further complications, though, surgery might be necessary.
This surgery, if needed, would involve removing the cyst along with part of the involved joint capsule or tendon sheath, which is considered the root of the ganglion. Still, even after excision, there is a slight possibility that the cyst will come back.
Ganglion cysts are not a listed disability in the VA’s disability rating system. Nonetheless, some exceptions have been made over the years by referencing sections of the VA rating code, other than those for wrists specifically.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that has become very widespread due to our society’s extensive use of computers and other new technologies. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. It can inhibit everyday activities as the damage becomes more severe.
The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is pressure on the median nerve, which is one of the primary nerves of the hand. It passes through the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of the hand, where it meets the wrist.
Early treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome involves mitigation efforts such as more frequent breaks from repetitive work involving the hands and wrists. Wrist-splinting is also a typical early-stage treatment.
There are alternative healing therapies for carpal tunnel syndrome too. These include hand therapy and ultrasound therapy, as well as some yoga techniques.
If the condition worsens, though, other measures might be needed, such as the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections. Carpal tunnel release surgery (typically an outpatient procedure) is a routine option in advanced cases.
Here’s a helpful article about how we handle carpal tunnel benefit applications. It explains carpal tunnel syndrome itself, how the VA sees the condition when rating for benefits, and how to apply for those benefits.
About VA Benefits for Wrist Pain
The Veteran’s Administration offers a broad array of benefits to those who have served our country through military service. These include disability compensation, medical care, and pension programs.
VA benefits also include:
- Housing and mortgage guarantees
- Job training
- Loans and other small business support (through the Small Business Administration)
- Burials and memorial services
These are all parts of a broader picture of what bears on a VA disability claim. These are important to understand, even though our focus here, though, is a particular one: how the VA determines disability compensation for diseases and injuries of the wrist.
How We Can Help You Apply for VA Disability
Here, we’re referring to both original disability compensation and additional filing for increased disability compensation. We’re eager to help you with this lengthy process, including the necessary research and fact-finding. When you call us, we interview you and let you know all of the paperwork you’ll need to send us. We even send you the forms to sign and send back, so you don’t have to track them all down.
The VA Disability Rating System
The VA assigns disability ratings to veterans with military service-related conditions. A disability rating is based on how severe the condition is and how the disability impairs the veteran’s earning capacity.
This rating is a percentage measure of how much a disability decreases a veteran’s overall health and ability to function. It’s based on factors including a medical diagnosis or test results, the results of a VA claim exam, and other information (e.g., from other federal agencies).
Your VA disability rating is not based on your income or your Social Security Disability income. Unlike pension or SSD, VA disability is solely based on the measure of your disability and it’s total impact on your life.
VA disability ratings range from 0 to 100 percent based on the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), a rather complicated document that we would be happy to help you interpret.
The VA Disability Calculator
The VA determines a veteran’s disability benefit based on criteria other than just the disability ratings discussed above. In other words, it isn’t only the disability or the person who has it, but also mitigating factors such as others who might be affected by it or one or more additional disabilities.
Our VA disability calculator can help you estimate how much your monthly check will be based on the combination of your ratings. Note that with VA math, 80%+10%+10% does not add up to 100%.
One of our VA disability lawyers explains VA math using our free calculator.
Whether and How the Disability Affects Others
One determining factor is whether you have a spouse and child(ren) or dependent parent(s). If you have a severely disabled spouse, this is another factor the VA will consider.
Whether There Are Combined Disabilities
It’s not uncommon to see a veteran who suffers from more than one disability. In fact, one disability often can lead to one or more other disabilities. If the VA finds that a veteran has multiple disabilities, it uses a Combined Ratings Table to come up with a combined disability rating.
Disability ratings are not additive. That is, if a Veteran has one disability rated 60% and a second disability 20%, the combined rating is not 80% — as might seem intuitive. As the linked video above explains, though, the VA doesn’t add up disabilities. Instead, it compensates veterans for the efficiency they lost when they became disabled.
A disability represents the economic impact of your inability to work because of a service-connected condition or injury. When you make a disability claim, you are, in effect, demonstrating what you can no longer do by providing convincing evidence to support that claim.
Subsequent disability ratings are applied to existing ratings in the case of an already disabled veteran. The disabilities are first arranged in the exact order of their severity, beginning with the most significant disability and then combined using the Combined Ratings Table.
We Help Veterans!
If you’re a veteran, you are not alone or without support. At Woods and Woods, we work with injured and disabled veterans to ensure they receive the justice and benefits they deserve.
As we’ve discussed here, we serve veterans who are making and appealing VA disability claims. However, we provide counseling and help them with other, related concerns, such as defective medical devices and changing your effective date for your disability.
If you need our services, call us at (866) 232-5777 or use our online form to set up a free legal consultation.
When it comes to getting your VA disability approved, you only have to prove that it was caused “as likely as not” by your military service. That means if there is a 50% chance that your repetitive work in the Army caused or intensified your carpal tunnel, you have a valid claim.
If you have anything in you C-File that refers to a doctor’s visit for your wrist or a report of an accient, that will be a good start. Call us and we can also help you get a buddy statement or lay statements from your co-workers.