Obtaining VA Disability Benefits for Arthritis in the Hands
According to the VA and CDC, arthritis affects one in five Americans and is the nation’s leading cause of disability. Over 100 conditions fall under the umbrella of arthritis, including arthritis in the hands, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint diseases. The percentage of Americans with arthritis is expected to increase to one in four or around 25% by 2040.
Not surprisingly, the prevalence of arthritis is higher among veterans than the general population: one in 3 veterans has arthritis. Military service takes a significant toll on a veteran’s body. Many veterans begin to settle back into civilian life when their hand arthritis becomes too painful and debilitating to ignore.
Lost hand function can be devastating for anyone. Arthritis may be incurable, but it is manageable in some cases. Therefore, some people with arthritis may work on a limited basis.
VA disability benefits fill the financial gap between veterans’ income and what they need. Perhaps more importantly, VA disability benefits give these veterans free access to the latest medical treatments. Advanced treatments range from steroid injections to hand braces. Only a VA disability lawyer can efficiently guide a claim through the complex system and obtain maximum benefits.
Common Types of Arthritis Among Veterans
There are many types of arthritis with different causes and symptoms. Understanding which type of arthritis you have will affect the level of difficulty in establishing a service-related connection.
- Most arthritis victims — veterans, in particular — have osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis. This condition usually affects the range of motion in the joint closest to the fingertip, the base of the thumb, and the middle joint of a finger. Lingering effects of a previous injury, mostly prior fractures and dislocations, usually lead to degenerative arthritis. Other joint injuries caused by overuse, infection, or loose ligaments could also cause osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, another common condition among veterans, is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the immune system does not function properly and attacks the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Usually, this disease affects the same joint on both sides of the body. In addition to the loss of function and pain in the hands, RA symptoms include low red blood cell count, skin lumps, fever, and fatigue.
Because injuries are common in military service, it is a little easier for a VA disability lawyer to establish a service-related connection in degenerative arthritis cases.
Treatments for Arthritis
It is up to veterans and their doctors to devise a treatment plan for arthritis. Pain medication, hot and cold therapy, and braces can help with pain in hand movement.
Veterans who do not wish to take medication or for whom drug treatment is not especially effective can join self-management classes and physical activity classes to help with their symptoms.
There are many free resources on how to connect with other disabled veterans suffering from arthritis, specifically through the Arthritis Foundation. Sometimes sharing experiences can alleviate some of the psychological stress veterans can face from living with chronic pain.
The VA has researched new treatments for arthritis, including anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic drugs, which are less expensive than established biological treatments. The VA is also looking into complementary treatments like nutritional supplements, massage treatments, and activity pacing.
Service-Related Connection for Arthritis In The Hands
Service connection for arthritis can be direct, secondary, or presumptive.
As mentioned, overuse during military service or an injury that happened during military service could directly cause arthritis. The overuse or injury does not need to be traumatic. Even mild overuse or injury could cause arthritis in some cases. Usually, in a direct connection claim, the veteran must show an in-service stressor or event, a current arthritis diagnosis, and a nexus between the two.
Some veterans have service-related disabilities that could cause arthritis, even rheumatoid arthritis. That is the essence of a “secondary” service connection claim. Importantly, arthritis can be a source of secondary conditions as well. For example, arthritis in the hands may cause depression if the condition affects participation in the same physical activities or completing the same tasks that you used to do. If the VA determines that your service-connected arthritis is just as likely as not to have caused your depression, then secondary service benefits are available for both arthritis and depression.
Arthritis is considered a chronic disease and subject to presumptive service connection if symptoms appear within one year of discharge from military service and are at least 10% disabling. In these cases, veterans do not need to establish service-related connections, even if they do not have medical evidence linking their currently diagnosed arthritis to a particular incident or injury during service.
Rely on Compassionate Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.