Our A to Z guide on veterans’ health and medical topics continues here with the letter B. Read on for more information about back pain, blindness, and other medical issues that begin with “B”.
Editor’s note: Veteran.com does not provide medical advice or diagnoses. This page contains general information related to common conditions affecting veterans. No information in this guide should replace advice from your health care provider.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Back pain is a broad term for a condition with various causes. Pinched nerves, herniated discs, pulled muscles and other conditions can cause back pain. Some back pain may be symptomatic of another condition, such as arthritis.
Not all back pain is service-connected, nor is all back pain justification for VA compensation. Some conditions are not necessarily the result of injury or disease.
In processing VA claims for back pain, the Department of Veterans Affairs considers the cause of back pain and whether or not the condition existed in any form before military service.
Does Back Pain Qualify as a VA Disability?
Conditions that cause back pain can qualify for VA disability benefit, according to the VA.
However, back pain on its own is a symptom, not a diagnosis. The VA must know the cause of your back pain to consider your claim. You must be able to point to a service-connected medical diagnosis, such as degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc or facet joint pathology.
If the VA determines your service caused or aggravated your condition, resulting in back pain, you may qualify for benefits.
Can I Receive Benefits for Chronic Back Pain and a Service-Connected Back Injury?
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) does not always differentiate between chronic back pain as a separate condition and chronic back pain as a symptom of a service-connected back injury, according to the disability rating schedule.
For example, if you were injured in the service and now suffer from chronic back pain, you may only receive benefits for your service-connected back pain.
If you’d like to appeal the VA’s decision on your disability rating, you can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals within a year of the VA’s decision. Or, if you have new evidence to support your claim, you can file a supplemental review or request a higher-level review from a senior reviewer.
If you have questions about this process, consult a veterans disability attorney or a veterans service organization, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion.
Does a Nondisabling Back Injury Qualify for Benefits?
A disability, according to the VA, is a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working. If your back injury has not affected your daily life, work or activities, you may not qualify for benefits.
However, even if the VA does not give you a disability rating, you may still be eligible to receive VA health care to treat your back pain – whether or not it’s a disabling condition. A VA physician may recommend treatments like physical therapy, medication, massage, dry needle therapy or medication.
How the VA Measures Back Pain for VA Disability Ratings
The VA uses a disability rating percentage system to rate how a condition impacts veterans’ lives, work and activities.
The higher your rating, the higher your monthly benefits, including disability compensation.
What Benefits Can I Receive for Back Pain?
The VA benefits you receive for your back pain will depend on the severity of your condition.
If your back pain prevents you from working at all, you may receive a 100% “permanent and total” (P&T) disability rating, or an Individual Unemployability (IU) rating that amounts to a 100% disability rate, according to the disability rating schedule.
What Is the Average Monthly Benefit for Back Pain?
The severity of your condition determines your VA rating, which ultimately determines your monthly benefit. Here are the current VA disability compensation rates.
If you have a P&T rating or qualify for IU, you’ll receive the highest possible monthly benefit, which is $3,332 fior 2022, according to the VA.
How Can I File a Claim for Back Pain?
To file a back pain claim, you need a doctor’s diagnosis that describes the medical condition causing your back pain.
When you’re ready to file for benefits, fill out VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC. You don’t need to do this if you plan to file your claim online. Beginning an online application for disability benefits notifies the VA of your intent to file.
Next, consider speaking with a Veteran Service Organization or Officer. VSOs like AMVETS, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are experienced in navigating the VA claims process and can work on your behalf. You can find a list of accredited Veteran Service Organizations on the VA to find help with your claim.
Gather supporting documentation, including medical records and statements from loved ones, colleagues or supervisors who can attest to how your condition may have impacted your daily routine, work or hobbies.
Once you’ve gathered everything you need, you can file your claim online or deliver your completed VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, by mail or in person at your closest VA regional office.
Address mail-in forms to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by intense emotional highs and lows, according to the VA.
Symptoms include “highs” or “up periods” that may resemble agitation or restlessness in milder cases. The symptoms may resemble more extreme manifestations.
The VA said that a bipolar person might lose sleep, engage in increased activity, be more talkative, or exhibit other erratic behavioral patterns during emotional highs. During lows, bipolar disorder can cause loss of appetite, feelings of hopelessness and depression that impacts a person’s ability to maintain jobs or relationships.
While bipolar disorder may not be directly attributable to military service, studies published in Military Medicine and the International Journal for Bipolar Disorders have correlated traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with bipolar diagnoses.
It’s unclear if PTSD and TBI symptoms cause or correlate with bipolar disorder diagnoses. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that people with a TBI were 28 times more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The Healthcare for the Homeless Clinicians Network, which includes many clinicians who work with homeless veterans, said bipolar disorder and PTSD can present similar symptoms.
If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder or another mental health condition after military service, contact the VA for an evaluation. You may be entitled to benefits, including mental or behavioral health care.
Birth Defects in the Children of Vietnam Veterans
After exposure to hazardous chemicals like Agent Orange, Vietnam War veterans have experienced medical issues – which may have taken years to develop, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Congenital disabilities (or “birth defects”) have affected children of women who were exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange.
The VA presumes congenital disabilities “in biological children of women Vietnam Veterans were caused by military service when the birth mother served in Vietnam between Feb. 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975.”
Children born to women who served in Vietnam during the listed period are eligible for compensation for service-connected congenital disabilities they might experience.
The VA describes these instances as “abnormalities present at birth that result in mental or physical disabilities.”
Eligible conditions include:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
- Imperforate anus
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- Pyloric stenosis
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
- Undescended testicle
- Williams syndrome
However, the VA said it does not cover hereditary medical conditions, birth-related injuries or neonatal conditions with “well-established causes.”
Illness, injury, nerve damage, retinal detachment, genetics and other factors can cause or contribute to blindness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some forms of blindness, like cataracts and detached retinas, may be correctable. Other types of blindness resulting from injury, disease or age may be permanent.
If your military service caused your blindness or aggravated another condition that caused blindness, you may be eligible for disability compensation.
If you’re not sure your blindness is service-connected, reach out to the VA for a medical evaluation. You may be eligible for advanced vision care services like vision-enhancing technology, sensory training, mobility and orientation training and family-centered care. The VA can also connect you with agencies that may provide you with a service dog.
High or low blood pressure related to another service-connected medical condition may be eligible for VA benefits.
High blood pressure, or hypertensio
n, is “a co
ndition in which the force of blood against artery walls is too strong,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Untreated high blood pressure can damage your arteries, heart and kidneys and may lead to heart disease or stroke over time.
According to the VA, high blood pressure occurs when systolic blood pressure (the top number on your reading) is at least 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number on your reading) is at least 90 mm Hg.
Other medical issues, diet, lack of exercise, stress and alcohol consumption may cause high blood pressure. In cases where another service-connected medical issue has caused high blood pressure, VA will determine if compensation is applicable.
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be life-threatening in some cases.
According to the VA, low blood pressure occurs when systolic blood pressure (the top number on your reading) is lower than 90 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number on your reading) is lower than 60 mm Hg.
Dehydration, surgery and certain medical conditions can cause low blood pressure.
If you’re experiencing either high or low blood pressure, get evaluated by your medical provider to determine the cause and how to correct it.
Burn Pit Related Medical Issues
Military members, civilian contractors, and others who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been exposed to burn pits, which “were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the VA official site.
Burn pit smoke may irritate your eyes, throat or lungs or cause rashes, coughing or other breathing difficulties.
The VA presumes service connection if you developed severe asthma, rhinitis, or sinusitis within a year of living or working around a burn pit.
Presumed service connection makes it easier for veterans experiencing these symptoms to file for disability benefits. If you lived or worked around burn pits, you can report your exposure by signing up for the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
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