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.
This seems like a momentous change, yet I’ve only seen this one announcement buried on a site for military members.
Such a ruling by this huge government agency could affect many other healthcare organizations and be the beginning of a return to reason.
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 court cited the definition of a disability as “an impairment in the enjoyment of life or earning ability”.
The court said that “pain is a form of functional impairment.”
Finally, a voice of reason! (and from an unlikely source)
This reignites my hope for a change in the trajectory of opioid policies, which has been to incrementally, but steady, increase the restrictions on our pain relief medications.
So the pain can be considered a disability by itself, without any diagnosed injury.
This is incredibly reasonable in today’s climate of unreasonable and callous cruelty to pain patients.
Court Referenced Gulf War Veterans
The court also cited the VA’s awarding of compensation benefits to Gulf War veterans who suffer from “undiagnosed illnesses.”
If the VA can pay compensation to Gulf War veterans who have no specified medical condition and suffer from medical issues affecting their life; veterans who have no specified conditions and suffer from chronic pain should likewise be awarded compensation.
Original article: Court Rules Chronic Pain Is A VA Disability