Pain Can Be a Disability

By: Susan Paczak

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has made an important decision about how a veteran can prove they are entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability. In Saunders v. Wilkie, the Court decided that pain itself can be a disability.

To get VA compensation the Veteran must show:

  1. they had an injury or disease in service;
  2. they have a current disability; or
  3. a connection between the injury or disease in service.

In Saunders, the veteran was diagnosed with a knee condition in service. She showed that she had knee pain after service. A VA examiner said the knee pain after service was related to the knee condition diagnosed in service, and it caused her problems with daily activities and caused her to miss work. However, the VA examiner did not find a disease or injury to the knee, just the pain. The VA denied the claim.

The veteran appealed. The VA argued that since she had knee pain after service, but no diagnosed condition, she did not have a current disability for VA purposes. The Court overruled that finding ruling that pain by itself was a disability for VA purposes.

This decision does not mean that just because you have pain from an injury or disease in service, you will automatically receive benefits. You must show that you had a disease or injury diagnosed in service, that you now have pain, and that this pain affects your daily life, including your ability to work. In other words, you still need a medical provider to verify that the pain comes from the problem you had in service and how it affects you.

If you have any questions about how this decision may affect your claim, or any other claim related issues, please call and speak to one of our veteran’s benefits attorneys.

Please note the VA may decide to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.



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