Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly known as TMJ, is a painful condition that affects the jaw joint and the muscles controlling jaw movement. Veterans who have developed TMJ as a result of their military service may be eligible for compensation and support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This article will delve into the VA rating system for TMJ, helping veterans better understand their rights and entitlements.
Defining TMJ and its Causes
Before we explore VA ratings, it’s essential to understand what TMJ is and what causes it. TMJ can be triggered by various factors, such as trauma, stress, or grinding teeth. Symptoms can include jaw pain, difficulty in opening or closing the mouth, clicking or popping noises, headaches, and even hearing problems. For veterans, the condition may result from injury, stress, or dental issues that occurred during their military service.
VA Disability Compensation for TMJ
To receive VA disability compensation for TMJ, veterans must prove that their TMJ is service-connected, meaning it occurred or was aggravated due to their military service. This involves providing medical evidence that links the condition to their service, such as records from military healthcare providers or civilian medical professionals.
VA Rating Criteria for TMJ
The VA uses the Disability Evaluation System to assess the severity of TMJ and determine the appropriate disability rating. The rating process takes into account the functional impairment and limitations caused by TMJ. Veterans are evaluated on a scale from 0% to 100%, with higher ratings indicating more severe disability.
VA Disability Ratings for TMJ
- 0% Rating: Veterans with a 0% rating are considered to have TMJ, but it doesn’t significantly impact their daily life or ability to work.
- 10% Rating: A 10% rating is assigned when TMJ causes occasional pain or limited jaw function, but it doesn’t interfere with most activities.
- 30% Rating: A 30% rating is given for moderate TMJ that causes frequent pain, significant functional limitations, and some difficulty eating.
- 50% Rating: Veterans receive a 50% rating if they experience severe TMJ symptoms, which may include chronic pain, limited mouth opening, and difficulty with eating.
- 100% Rating: A 100% rating is reserved for the most severe cases where TMJ renders the veteran unable to work, eat solid foods, or open their mouth.
Providing Evidence for TMJ VA Claims
When applying for a VA rating for TMJ, it’s vital to gather strong supporting evidence. This includes:
- Medical records: Detailed records of your diagnosis, treatments, and how TMJ has impacted your life.
- Buddy statements: Statements from friends, family members, or colleagues who can attest to the effects of your TMJ.
- Specialist opinions: Reports from medical professionals who specialize in TMJ can carry significant weight in your claim.
- Service records: Any documentation that links your TMJ to your time in the military, including any accidents or injuries.
It’s crucial to be thorough and comprehensive in gathering evidence. Seek assistance from a veterans’ service organization (VSO) or a veterans’ law attorney to navigate the claims process successfully.
Understanding the Appeal Process
In some cases, veterans may not receive the desired rating on their initial claim. If you believe you deserve a higher rating for your TMJ, you can appeal the VA’s decision. The appeal process involves submitting additional evidence, attending hearings, and, if necessary, pursuing legal action.
Access to VA Healthcare
Apart from disability compensation, veterans with service-connected TMJ may also be eligible for VA healthcare services. This can include treatments, therapy, and medications to help manage their condition and alleviate pain and discomfort.
Legal Help for a VA TMJ Application or Appeal
Veterans living with TMJ resulting from their military service should be aware of their rights and entitlements through the VA. By understanding the VA rating criteria, gathering strong evidence, and seeking assistance when needed, veterans can ensure they receive the compensation and support they deserve.
If you believe you have service-connected TMJ or have already been denied VA benefits for a TMJ claim, an experienced veterans benefits attorney can often improve your chances of ultimately being approved. Get in touch with us today to see if there is an attorney match available for your particular case.