Osteomyelitis, a severe bone infection that can affect any bone in the body, is mostly found in the long bones of the arms and legs. Various culprits, including bacteria, fungi, or other organisms, may cause it. Veterans grappling with osteomyelitis may qualify for VA disability benefits under §4.43 osteomyelitis. In this section, we will delve into how the VA assesses disabilities related to osteomyelitis to assign VA disability ratings.
Risks Associated With Untreated Osteomyelitis
When osteomyelitis goes untreated, it poses the risk of causing substantial complications. These may encompass severe bone damage, the development of sepsis—a life-threatening condition triggered by infection—and, in the most severe instances, the necessity for amputation to contain the infection's spread and save the affected limb.
Effective Treatment For Osteomyelitis
The standard approach to treating osteomyelitis involves antibiotics, sometimes coupled with surgical intervention. The foremost goal of this treatment regimen is twofold:
- Effectively eliminate the underlying infection; and
- Concurrently prevent the emergence of complications that could exacerbate the condition
Osteomyelitis And Military Service
Osteomyelitis may have multiple connections to military service. It's often associated with a history of trauma, such as fractures, open wounds, or surgical procedures. Additionally, osteomyelitis can be a secondary condition to other service-connected ailments like diabetes mellitus or sickle cell anemia. In cases with no history of trauma, if osteomyelitis arises within one year following discharge from service, it might be possible to establish a service connection based on the "in-service event."
Proving Service Connection For Osteomyelitis
VA disability ratings for osteomyelitis are determined based on the condition's severity. The VA's rating schedules offer a range of 0% to 100% for varying degrees of disability. To establish service connection for osteomyelitis, veterans need to provide evidence that includes:
- A current diagnosis of osteomyelitis
- Documentation of active duty or military service exposure to an event or injury leading to osteomyelitis
- Establishing a nexus between the current osteomyelitis diagnosis and the event or injury during military service
VA Disability Ratings For Osteomyelitis
VA disability ratings for osteomyelitis vary from 0% to 100%, contingent on the condition's severity as assessed under VA Diagnostic Code 5000.
100% VA Rating: A 100% rating is granted if osteomyelitis affects the pelvis, vertebrae, or major joints. This highest rating may also apply if the condition manifests in multiple locations or has persisted for an extended period, significantly weakening and debilitating the individual.
60% VA Rating: A 60% rating is given for frequent episodes of osteomyelitis accompanied by constitutional symptoms.
30% VA Rating: If osteomyelitis is present along with sequestrum or involucrum, regardless of sinus discharge, it qualifies for a 30% rating.
20% VA Rating: A 20% rating is assigned when there is evidence of discharging sinus or any other indication of active infection within the preceding five years.
10% VA Rating: This rating is applicable when the individual has not experienced active infections in the past five years.
Osteomyelitis C&P Exam
A Compensation and Pension exam is often a prerequisite for the VA to establish a diagnosis of medical conditions like osteomyelitis. These examinations typically involve a comprehensive review of your medical history and a physical exam. Moreover, the examining physician may request laboratory tests and X-rays to aid the diagnostic process.
TDIU For Osteomyelitis
In cases where osteomyelitis renders individuals incapable of working, they may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits. To qualify, one must hold a VA disability rating of at least 60% or higher and be unable to perform meaningful work duties. TDIU enables veterans to receive compensation at the 100% rating level, even if their official rating falls below 100%. This additional support aims to provide financial relief to those whose employability has been severely compromised by osteomyelitis.