The Cranial Nerves
The Cranial Nerves Overview
The VA awards disability compensation for each condition of the Cranial Nerves that is service-connected. The DoD will also rate service-connected conditions as long as they also make the service member Unfit for Duty. For Reservists, the condition must have occurred in or resulted from an injury in the Line of Duty to qualify.
The nervous system connects the brain to the rest of the body. Impulses travel up the nerves and spinal cord to the brain, and the brain then turns these impulses into ideas like pain, heat, etc. Similarly, the brain can send signals through the nerves to various parts of the body, telling it to raise the arm, point the toes, expand the lungs to breath, etc.
The nervous system is divided into two parts: the central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the cranial nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of all the nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
The cranial nerves protrude directly from the brain, not the spinal cord. There are twelve cranial nerves, but not all are included in the VASRD. If a cranial nerve not included in the VASRD is affected, then its symptoms can be rated under the closest cranial nerve code that best covers its symptoms.
The majority of conditions of the cranial nerves are rated on the functioning of the affected body part and the symptoms that they cause. Because the cranial nerves help control everything from chewing and facial expressions to communication with the internal organs, these symptoms could be vast and include numbness, pain, muscle atrophy, paralysis, loss of taste, high blood pressure, etc.
To honor the Pyramiding Principle, only a single rating can usually be given for multiple conditions of the cranial nerves unless it is possible to clearly and distinctly separate the symptoms. In situations where multiple cranial nerves are affected, separate ratings can be given as long as no symptom is rated twice and no single code can sufficiently cover the overall level of disability (see The Cranial Nerve Condition Ratings page).
Cranial Nerve Ratings
The VASRD offers ratings for the following cranial nerves:
- The Trigeminal Nerve
- The Facial Nerve
- The Glossopharyngeal Nerve
- The Vagus Nerve
- The Spinal Accessory Nerve
- The Hypoglossal Nerve
The ratings for each of these cranial nerves are split between three codes: Paralysis, Neuritis, and Neuralgia. The ratings are assigned based on the type of nerve damage and the symptoms present or on limited motion of an affected joint if that would provide for a higher rating. In cases where the cause of the limited motion is the peripheral nerve condition, then only a rating for the nerve or limited motion can be given, not both. However, if the limited motion is caused by another condition, then both the limited motion and the peripheral nerve can be rated separately.
In addition to or instead of the standard disability compensation for cranial nerve conditions, complete paralysis resulting in the inability to speak may also qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.