Posted by Gregory M. Rada | September 8, 2023 | Disability Compensation
One of the recent transformations in disability law for veterans, concerns pain-based claims for disability compensation. Traditionally, if a veteran’s pain could not be tied to a diagnosed or identified condition, the veteran would be ineligible for disability compensation. However, this standard has been challenged and reshaped over time.
In the early 2000s, the case of Sanchez-Benitez v. West concluded that pain in the absence of an identifiable underlying condition did not qualify for disability compensation. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dubbed the topic a “perplexing question,” underscoring the complexity of recognizing pain alone as a disability. However, in 2018, a significant shift in precedent occurred with Saunders v. Wilkie.
In Saunders v. Wilkie, the Federal Circuit concluded that pain, even without an accompanying diagnosis, could constitute a disability for VA disability compensation purposes. The ruling highlighted that “disability” refers to the functional impairment of earning capacity, not the cause of that impairment. This revolutionary decision demonstrated that a veteran’s claim cannot be denied solely because it is based on pain without an accompanying diagnosis, as long as there is evidence that the pain impacts functional ability or earning capacity.
The Saunders v. Wilkie ruling offers a ray of hope for veterans suffering from pain without an identifiable underlying condition. By focusing on the functional impairment caused by the pain, rather than its cause, this ruling paves the way for a more comprehensive understanding of disability compensation.
Gregory Rada is an Air Force veteran that helps veterans nationwide receive the benefits to which they are entitled. He works with all his clients one-on-one from the start of their case to the end and never hands them off to case managers or paralegals. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.