DQ - Weak or painful back


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Feb 22, 2007
A year or so before submitting my dodmerb, I was on a car trip for several hours. During this trip, both of my legs went numb from the waist down to the toes (no pain or loss of motor control, just lack of sensation...pins and needles). The numbness went away after about a day. This happened a few other times, since then.

I wrote this down on my dodmerb, which came back with a non-clinical remedial, which basically revealed that my spinal cord was being pinched very slightly by a disk. Then, a DQ (D227.90 "Weak or painful back.").

However, here's the thing, I haven't experienced the numbness for nearly a year now. Before considering the military I had poor posture and did absolutely zero physical activity. But, now that I'm doing physical training and have corrected most of my posture, I haven't experienced any problems.

I'm going to see my doctor to get a letter stating that the back problem no longer exists. What do you think my chances of getting cleared are?

From what you have described it sounds as if you have a very mild herniated disk. The standards that DoDMERB uses states "Current herniated nucleus pulposus or history of surgery to correct is disqualifying". More often than not, if you have a herniated disk, it is only going to get worse as time goes on, and can cause numbness/tingling or excruciating pain that will require surgery. The surgical correction most used now for herniated disks is a removal of the disk and fuse the 2 vertebrae, which is a separate disqualification.

If you can show that this does not interfere with your daily activities, and your physician can show that this is not going to get worse with time, then a waiver might be possible. The best thing to do is to provide DoDMERB and the waiver authorities with as much information as possible regarding this.

If you have any other questions please feel free to ask away.
I had an MRI. The radiologist's impression was, "Protrusion is seen central at L4-L5 and lateralized to the left-side at L5-S1." However, two doctors have told me that this condition is unrelated to any symptoms of leg numbness. Essentially, the MRI was intended to find the cause to the numbness, found nothing, but instead found the protrusion (which itself has no symptoms).

If I DQed for the disk protrusion, wouldn't the DQ code be "D227.60 - Herniation of intervertebral disk or surgery for this condition", instead of "weak back"?

That was my thought as well, but the physician at DoDMERB most likely took that as well as the fact that you have had issues (the numbness/tingling) and combined them together into the weak or painful back DQ.

You have a couple of options, just leave the DQ the way it is, and submit a personal statement to DoDMERB requesting that it get forwarded to the waiver authorities, stating your physical activities in the past 2 years, and how your back has limited you, if at all.

Or, you can write a letter to DoDMERB requesting that your disqualification be looked at again, as you feel that they have applied the wrong disqualification code.

My thoughts, leave it the way it is, and write a letter to the waiver authority.
I found out some more information regarding my case:

I talked to DoDMERB and they said that there is nothing in DoD Instruction 6130.4 that disqualified me. I do not have herniation of the nucleus pulposus. However, the reviewing physician felt that "pain associated with abnormal MRI findings" was disqualifying, so they used a "catch-all" DQ code.

However, there was never any pain (only numbness, which no longer exists) and the doctors I've talked to don't seem to think that the disc protrusion is a problem. So, with this information and the fact that there is no specific disqualifier, I'm thinking that a rebuttal may be successful.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

You just found one of the difficulties I have by trying to "guess" what’s going on with limited information. I'm glad you called DoDMERB and got an explanation straight from the horse’s mouth. I will never tell anyone not to request a rebuttal, its part of the process that is available to you, and I've worked on cases where I never thought a rebuttal would be successful, but the physician decided differently.

If you have any additional information that DoDMERB does not have, make sure that you get it to them. If the rebuttal is unsuccessful, and information that you submit to DoDMERB will be forwarded to the wavier authority for their review. Make sure that you do send a personal statement as I described before, the DoDMERB physicians and the wavier authority physicians can look at medical records all day, but sometimes they don't tell the whole story so the personal statement could be the deciding factor.

If you have any other questions please feel free to ask away.