Establishing Service Connection Back and Neck Injuries
To establish service connection for back and neck injuries, there must be an instigating incident of injury or a complaint of pain while in service or within a year after leaving service. Medical records must indicate a continuing condition and a physician must indicate that the condition is at least as likely as not (50%) likely to have been caused by the veteran’s time in service.
How are Back and Neck Injuries rated?
Back and Neck disabilities ratings are commonly based upon the veteran’s range of motion (ROM) or length of incapacitating episodes of pain. The ROM measurements should be measured with a goniometer in every direction, there should be 6 total measurements taken for both the cervical and thoracolumbar spines. For example, a veteran whose combined ROM is 120 degrees or less is entitled to a 20% rating. A sixty (60) percent disability rating is warranted if the claimant suffers from incapacitating episodes having a total duration of at least 6 weeks during the past 12 months. An incapacitating episode is “a period of acute signs and symptoms due to intervertebral disc syndrome that requires bed rest prescribed by a physician and treatment by a physician.
Injuries to the neck and spine can also cause nerve conditions such as radiculopathy. Secondary conditions are rated separately.