An April 3rd, 2018 court ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims may have a significant impact for the better on the lives of many United States veterans who have filed for disability but were not awarded compensation as they lacked a “diagnosed injury.”
The court issued its potentially groundbreaking ruling by stating that chronic pain that exists on its own, even without an accompanying injury labeled as a disability, is enough to make a veteran potentially eligible to receive compensation benefits.
According to the law, the VA is required to give compensation not for an injury but rather for the disability caused by the injury. It is the disability which hampers a veteran’s ability to enjoy life or earn a living after leaving the military.
“Military veterans deserve the highest degree of honor and respect for the sacrifices they made for our country. They also deserve fair disability benefits for their physical, mental and emotional injuries during service,” explains disability attorney Russell D. Hedges of Moore, Hedges & Proffitt. The new ruling has the potential to make life better and more “fair” for those who have served the country.
A VA disability hearing to determine a veteran’s eligibility to receive compensation can be a very slow process, sometimes taking the government upwards of two to two and half years to work through and resolve a claim. While the hearing continues, the veterans meanwhile wait in limbo to see if they will receive disability compensation. Many struggle with physical and psychological pain as well as steep medical bills.
The April 3rd ruling came about as a result of a disability claim which was filed by a Gulf War veteran named Melba Saunders. During active duty, Saunders sustained an injury to the knee, diagnosed by military physicians as patellofemoral pain syndrome, or knee pain in layman’s terms.
After leaving the military, Saunders continued to feel pain and filed a claim for disability which the VA rejected because it did not classify pain as a disability. The new ruling, however, states that “pain is a form of functional impairment.” As such, the pain can be considered as a disability of and by itself as it can have a significant negative impact on the quality of one’s life.
This new ruling brings hope to the many veterans who suffer pain but lack a diagnosed injury.