Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone caused by bacteria or fungi. It’s often more prevalent in children under five, though it may affect people at any age. Due to how it is contracted, osteomyelitis is of considerable concern to veterans, especially those who have been wounded in combat or otherwise injured during active duty. Osteomyelitis can have far-reaching consequences for your health, up to and including complete disability of the case is severe enough, which is why VA offers compensation in a number of tiers based on your level of disability.
Causes of Osteomyelitis
Most cases of osteomyelitis happen when a bone is infected with staphylococcus bacteria, which must have entered the body one way or another. It may have been from an open wound or injury—a result of anything from combat to stepping on broken glass—or from other infected parts of the body, for instance from lungs affected by pneumonia or a bladder affected by a urinary tract infection.
On top of that, diseases that decrease blood flow, like diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or sickle cell disease, could create conditions in which smaller infections get out of control, and thus cause osteomyelitis or exacerbate an existing case of it.
Other risk factors include any condition that weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight infection, regular use of intravenous lines or catheters, and illicit drug use.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of osteomyelitis include fever, fatigue, and redness, swelling, warmth, or pain around the infected area. Other symptoms are based on where the infection lies. You may experience immobility in nearby joints, an inability to lift or bear weight, or a stiff back if your vertebrae are affected.
Treatment varies case by case, and common methods include intense intravenous antibiotics, X-ray monitoring and blood tests, pain management and bed rest if necessary. Surgery may be required to drain excess fluid or remove damaged tissue or bone, and in extreme cases amputation may be an option.
VA Disability Benefits
VA rates chronic, or recurring, suppurative osteomyelitis under Diagnostic Code § 4.43 and considers the condition a “continuously disabling process,” which entitles afflicted veterans to a permanent rating if it is not resolved via complete amputation, and thus eradication, of the infection.
You will first need to prove service connection for your condition, meaning that you have an active diagnosis of osteomyelitis, an in-service event or trauma that it can be traced back to, and the statement of a medical professional proving a nexus between the event and your condition. You claim will likely prompt VA to schedule a Compensations and Pensions Exam (C&P Exam) to go through your medical history, run tests, and check on your condition.
The ratings awarded for osteomyelitis are as follows, according to the VA Schedule of Ratings:
- 100% rating: Of the pelvis, vertebrae, or extending into major joints, or with multiple localization or with long history of intractability and debility, anemia, amyloid liver changes, or other continuous constitutional symptoms
- 60% rating: Frequent episodes, with constitutional symptoms
- 30% rating: With definite involucrum or sequestrum, with or without discharging sinus
- 20% rating: With discharging sinus or other evidence of active infection within the past 5 years 10% rating: Inactive, following repeated episodes, without evidence of active infection in past 5 years
Assistance with your claim
Chronic suppurative osteomyelitis may be a great source of discomfort and a greater risk to your health and life if it goes unchecked. Take advantage of the disability benefits and medical services offered by VA to help you manage your condition. For help with your claim or appeal, contact VA Disability Group PLLC online or at 844-VET-LAWS now.