Service Connection, TDIU Rating Granted for Somatic Symptom Disorder, Toxic Hip Replacement

S.J. hired Friedman Disability to represent him in 2015 after a VA rating decision assigned him only a 10 percent schedular disability rating for the painful radiculopathy he experienced in both of his legs, a 20 percent schedular disability rating for the degenerative disk disease in his lumbar spine, and a 30 percent schedular disability rating for his left hip avascular necrosis with left femoral head deformity and subchondral fracture. This rating decision followed a previous decision that had awarded him a total disability rating of 80 percent.

The VA denied him any rating for his other physical ailments including heavy metal poisoning stemming from a faulty hip replacement resurfacing, and likewise for the depression resulting from his chronic pain. The VA also refused to award him a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU), even though he had clearly raised an informal claim for a TDIU rating and had been unable to work for several years.

All of the above conditions were a result of S.J.’s service in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, when S.J. fell in a motor pool while working as a generator mechanic with the United States Army and injured his hips and lower back. S.J. was honorably discharged in 1992 and pursued a successful career as an insurance salesman, but this came to a halt in 2010 when S.J. began to experience severe headaches, nausea, exhaustion, and a persistent skin rash.

Unbeknownst to S.J., when he had his service-connected hip replacement resurfaced, cobalt and other heavy metals began to leak from the prosthesis into his bloodstream, slowly poisoning him. As a result of his worsening symptoms, S.J. had to abandon his dream of running a new insurance agency alongside his wife and stopped working altogether.

By obtaining sworn declarations from S.J. and his treating psychiatrist and obtaining a psychiatric evaluation report from an examining psychiatrist, Friedman Disability was able to establish service connection for S.J.’s somatic symptom disorder with predominant pain, persistent, moderate, depressive disorder, and insomnia disorder, recurrent. Based on the 70 percent schedular disability rating assigned for this condition, and S.J.’s physical ailments, our office then successfully established S.J.’s inability to follow a substantially gainful occupation (SGO) and entitlement to a TDIU rating, resulting in an award by the VA of more than $75,000 in past-due benefits.