Federal Circuit Rules That Pain Alone Can Constitute a Disability

In Saunders v. Wilkie, 886 F.3d 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2018), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned prior precedent holding that pain alone (without an identifiable condition) does not constitute a disability upon which service connection may be granted. 

In Saunders, the Federal Circuit found that “disability,” as defined by 38 U.S.C. § 1110, refers to the functional impairment of earning capacity, not the underlying cause of said disability.  The Court further concluded that pain constitutes a functional impairment because it diminishes the body’s ability to function; thus, pain need not be diagnosed as connected to a current underlying condition to function as an impairment.

Veterans applying for service connection should note that the Court made clear that Veterans asserting only subjective pain still would not qualify; as a Veteran’s pain must amount to a functional impairment.  To establish such, a Veteran needs to demonstrate that her pain reaches the level of a functional impairment of earning capacity.  In addition, as with all VA claims, in order to qualify as a disability, the current pain must be traceable to an injury or disease that manifested itself during service.

If you need to appeal a claim that has been denied, or a favorable decision that denies years of back benefits you are owed,  call (504) 235 4075 to speak to an attorney today.