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New Ruling: Chronic Pain Now a VA Disability


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"A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims may have a major effect on the outcome of many veteran's disability claims.

On April 3, the court ruled that pain, without any underlying disability, may be a valid reason for awarding VA compensation benefits.


Injury Occurred While On Active Duty

The ruling is a result of Gulf war veteran Melba Saunders, who served in the Army from Nov. 1987 until Oct. 1994.  Saunders suffered a knee injury while in service and was treated by military doctors and diagnosed with "patellofemoral pain syndrome, " according to Web-MD that is also known as "knee-pain."

She filed a disability claim after leaving the military and was denied, the story is long, but the VA eventually denied her claim, saying "patellofemoral pain syndrome...is productive of no ascertainable impairment." In English that means that her injury, while it was painful, was not an impairment, and therefore not a disability.

All this means is that the VA said she had no real disability, there was no injury that qualified her for compensation. To the VA pain, in and of itself, was not a disability.

Court Says A Disability Doesn't Necessarily Have To Be A Diagnosed Injury

The law (38 U.S.C. § 1110) says that VA shall award compensation benefits "for disability resulting from personal injury suffered...in line of duty."

The law doesn't tell the VA to award compensation for an injury, but for the disability caused by the injury. That is why if you have a greater disability, you normally have a lesser potential earning ability, or lesser enjoyment of life than someone with a lesser disability; therefore you are awarded a greater compensation for that disability, to make up for your reduced earning ability, etc."


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Retired AF 1971-1998

When you see a worthy man, endeavor to emulate him. When you see an unworthy man, look inside yourself. - Confucius


“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ... Voltaire

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Having suffered with plenty of pain. It can ruin your whole day, make working a unbearable task. It shot up my PTSD to close to max i could stand. Having to go to work in pain only to be more in pain was like being tortured daily.  During the weekend my pain would subside to a degree of little comfort only to re ignite come monday.  As it took many yrs to get the VA Rating that would allow me to stay home an support my family. Pain pills were not a great option for me as it always made me sick.  Which was a good thing as i prob would of become an addict. 

2000 Itasca Horizon DP (Got Total During Irma). 

Vice President of Charlotte County Defenders LE MC


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  • 2 years later...

About time they did.  I left the service with crippling back pain caused by my job.  I was able to prove it and have been on disability because of it (took me 10 yrs) but many are not and should be.  My pain is always there making my days tolerable to some-days extremely painful to get up.  I have learned to live with it and work around it but will have it the rest of my life.

2022 Coachman Leprechaun, traveling around to dark sky areas and chasing the stars.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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