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.
How will the VA rate my Cranial Nerve condition?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate Cranial Nerve conditions based on the symptoms that they cause. Check out our Cranial Nerve Ratings page for the exact codes and ratings.
My condition wasn't diagnosed until after I was discharged. Can it qualify for VA disability?
The VA can only rate conditions that meet some type of service-connection requirement. For conditions diagnosed after service, the condition must either be a secondary condition caused by another service-connected condition, or it must be on the VA's Presumptive List.
Are my conditions eligible for a rating?
Your conditions are eligible to be rated by the VA if they are the result of your military service. You must be able to show proof of service-connection for each condition. For the DoD, they will rate your service-connected conditions as long as they also make you Unfit for Duty.
How do I apply to receive my ratings for my thigh muscles?
If you are still in the military, then you can request your military physician to refer you to the MEB and start the IDES process. If you are already a veteran, you can submit a VA Disability Claim along with evidence of service-connection and all medical records regarding the conditions on the claim.
If my claim is approved, what benefits will I receive?
If you are rated 20% or less from the DoD, then you will receive a single separation payment. If you are rated 30% or more, you will receive full retirement benefits. From the VA, you will receive a monthly payment as well as full medical care from the VA for the qualifying conditions.
How long does it take to receive my disability benefits?
Brand new claims usually take 3-6 months to process. Once processed, you will start receiving payments in 1-3 months.
How are the rating percentages assigned to my conditions?
The rules of the VA's Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) are used to assign rating percentages to conditions. The VASRD gives rating rules for conditions based on their symptoms, treatment options, and the resulting level of disability they cause.
My Cranial Nerve conditions have worsened. How do I increase my rating percentages?
If your Cranial Nerve conditions have worsened since you last applied and now qualify for a higher rating, you can submit a new claim, checking the box for an increased evaluation.