Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms
The Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms Overview
The VA awards disability for conditions of the Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms that are 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 consists of all the nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
The Peripheral Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms extend from the spinal cord in the neck and upper back and travel down the arms, controlling the movements of the shoulders, arms, and hands.
The majority of conditions of the Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms are rated on the functioning of the affected body part and the symptoms that they cause. These symptoms could include numbness, pain, muscle atrophy, the inability to properly move the arms, paralysis of the arms, etc.
When rating peripheral nerve conditions, each side of the body can be rated separately, so if the right arm and the left arm are affected, both can receive their own rating.
However, to honor the Pyramiding Principle, only a single rating can usually be given for multiple nerve conditions affecting the same limb since it is often impossible to separate the symptoms. In situations where multiple Peripheral Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms are affected on one side of the body, a single rating is given for the group of nerves affected or under the code that best covers the symptoms (see Ratings of the Peripheral Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms page).
Rating the Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms
The VASRD offers ratings for the following Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms:
- The Radial Nerve
- The Median Nerve
- The Ulnar Nerve
- The Musculocutaneous Nerve
- The Axillary Nerve
- The Long Thoracic Nerve
- The Upper Radicular Group (nerves from the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae)
- The Middle Radicular Group (nerves from the seventh cervical vertebrae)
- The Lower Radicular Group (nerves from the eighth cervical and first thoracic vertebrae)
- All Three Radicular Groups
The ratings for the Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms are split between three codes: Paralysis, Neuritis, and Neuralgia. The ratings are assigned based either 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 nerve can be rated separately.
In addition, a nerve condition resulting in the loss of use of the hand or arm can also qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
How will the VA rate my peripheral nerve conditions?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate nerve conditions based on the main symptoms that they cause, like numbness, pain, muscle atrophy, etc. Check out our Ratings of the Peripheral Nerves of the Upper Back and Arms page for the exact codes and ratings.
My nerve 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?
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 nerve conditions have worsened. How do I increase my rating percentages?
If your 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.