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December 9, 2021

VA Rating for Carpal Tunnel Explained (The Ultimate Guide)

In this guide, we’ll explore how to get a VA Rating for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) as well as how to potentially qualify for Special Monthly Compensation for loss of use of a hand.

Your final VA Disability Rating for Carpal Tunnel depends upon the Frequency, Severity, and Duration of symptoms to include, Painful Motion, Limitation of Range of Motion (ROM), and Functional Loss or Impairment.

VA Disability for Carpal Tunnel has ratings that range from 10% to 70%, with breaks at 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, and 60%, with lower or higher ratings for non-dominant (Minor) versus dominant (Major) hand.

However, the most common Carpal Tunnel Syndrome VA Rating is 10%, which is “mild incomplete paralysis of the median nerve.”

Alright, let’s jump into this Ultimate Guide for getting service connected disability for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Veterans?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Veterans

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS, is a painful condition that results from pressure on the median nerve in the hand.

The “Carpal Tunnel” is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand.

The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel and provides feeling and movement to parts of the hand, including the thumb and first three fingers.

When the median nerve becomes compressed, veterans may experience painful symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm.

In some cases, veterans with Carpal Tunnel may also have trouble gripping objects or performing other tasks that require manual dexterity.

Common signs and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include:

  • Burning, itching, numbness, or pain in your palm and thumb or your index and middle fingers
  • Weakness in your hand and trouble holding things
  • Shock-like feelings that move into your fingers
  • Tingling that moves up into your arm

VA Disability Rating for Carpal Tunnel: Basic Eligibility Criteria

VA Disability Rating for Carpal Tunnel

To be eligible for a Carpal Tunnel VA Rating, a veteran must meet three (3) criteria by law:

  • #1. Medical diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in a medical record (Service Treatment Records, VA medical records, or private medical records)
  • #2. Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was caused or made worse by your active-duty military service OR by another service connected disability for secondary service connection (“Nexus” for service connection)
  • #3. Persistent and recurring symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (“Severity of Symptoms”) to include how it affects your work, life, and social functioning

If you think you have a painful hand condition such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but don’t have a medical diagnosis, pick-up the phone and call the VA mental health facility nearest you to make an appointment right away!

If you’re trying to increase your VA rating for Carpal Tunnel, you need to prove to the VA that your symptoms are now worse and warrant the higher rating criteria by law.

The #1 best way to increase your VA rating for Carpal Tunnel is to have objective medical evidence to show the degradation of your hand movement over time.

(1) Limitation of Range of Motion and (2) Pain are the two most common factors that determine your final VA rating for hand conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How Does the VA Rate Carpal Tunnel?

How Does the VA Rate Carpal Tunnel

The VA rates Carpal Tunnel under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Diagnostic Code (DC) 8515: Paralysis of the Median Nerve. 

  • Complete paralysis: If the hand is stuck bent away from the body at the wrist, the middle and index fingers are stuck in extension more than normal (cannot move either down or side to side), thumb is straight and stuck right up next to the index finger (the hand is completely flat) and the muscles at the base of thumb are atrophied (wasting away), and the palm of the hand cannot be turned to face downward, it is rated 70% for the Dominant arm and 60% for the Non-dominant arm. 
  • Severe Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 50% for the dominant arm and 40% for the non-dominant. 
  • Moderate Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 30% for the dominant and 20% for the non-dominant. 
  • Mild Incomplete paralysis: Rated at 10% for either arm.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome VA Rating Scale

DC 8515, The Median Nerve, Paralysis Of:*Major*Minor
Complete: The hand inclined to the ulnar side, the index and middle fingers more extended than normally, considerable atrophy of the muscles of the thenar eminence, the thumb in the plane of the hand (ape hand); pronation incomplete and defective, absence of flexion of index finger and feeble flexion of middle finger, cannot make a fist, index and middle fingers remain extended; cannot flex distal phalanx of thumb, defective opposition and abduction of the thumb, at right angles to palm; flexion of wrist weakened; pain with trophic disturbances70%60%
Incomplete:
Severe50%40%
Moderate30%20%
Mild10%10%

*Major and *Minor refer to the Dominant and Non-Dominant Hand. For example, if you’re right-handed and have carpal tunnel syndrome in your right hand (dominant), you’d receive the Major rating. If you’re right-handed and have carpal tunnel syndrome in your left-hand, you’d receive the Minor rating.

Is Carpal Tunnel a VA Disability?

Is Carpal Tunnel a VA Disability

Yes, Carpal Tunnel is a VA disability and can be rated at 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, or 70% depending upon the non-dominant (Minor) versus dominant (Major) hand as well as the Frequency, Severity, and Duration of your symptoms.

Your final rating for Carpal Tunnel also depends on Painful Motion, Limitation of Range of Motion (ROM), and Functional Loss or Impairment.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a disorder of the median nerve most often rated under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Diagnostic Code 8515, The Median Nerve, Complete or Incomplete Paralysis.

What are Some Secondary Conditions to Carpal Tunnel?

Secondary Conditions to Carpal Tunnel

The following conditions have been medically linked to cause or make Carpal Tunnel worse:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also be caused or made worse if your wrist is frequently overextended. 

This repetitive motion of your wrist can lead to swelling and compression of the median nerve.

The following workplace factors can contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

  • Straining your wrists while using a keyboard or mouse
  • Vibrations from using hand tools or power tools, especially in cold environments
  • Any repeated movement that overextends your wrist

Can I get Special Monthly Compensation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Special Monthly Compensation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Yes, if your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is severe, meaning you have no effective remaining function of one or both hands, you can qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC-K) for Loss of Use of a Hand.

If you qualify for SMC-K, the VA automatically adds $118.33 per month to your basic disability compensation pay rate.

Veterans can receive up to three SMC-K awards in addition to basic disability pay and other SMC rates.

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About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Founder & CEO

Brian Reese is VA benefits expert, author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned, and founder of VA Claims Insider – “The Most Trusted Name in Education-Based Resources for Veterans.”

His frustration with the 8-step VA disability claims process led him to create “VA Claims Insider,” which provides U.S. military veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned for successfully submitting or re-submitting a winning VA disability compensation claim.

Brian is also the CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, which is the world’s largest free searchable database for all things related to DoD disability and VA disability claims and has served more than 4,600,000 military members and veterans since its founding in 2013.

His eBook, the “9 Secrets Strategies for Winning Your VA Disability Claim” has been downloaded more than 300,000 times in the past three years and is the #1 rated free VA disability claims guide for veterans.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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