VA Disability Rating for Bone Spurs
Bone spurs are bony projections on bone edges. They can cause loss of motion and pain in your joints. If you are a veteran who developed this condition due to military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. Veterans Guide can help you determine your VA disability and obtain maximum compensation for your condition.
Also known as osteophytes, bone spurs are bone projections that grow along bone edges. They usually form where bones meet, such as in your joints, but they can also develop on your spine. Although most bone spurs cause no symptoms, they can cause motion loss and joint pain.
If you are a veteran and your bone spurs developed due to your military service, you may be eligible for VA disability. Veterans Guide’s compassionate and knowledgeable advocates can determine your VA disability rating, assist with the appeal and application processes, and help you obtain the disability benefits you deserve.
Veterans and Bone Spurs
Bone spurs can cause various symptoms depending on their location.
- Bone spurs in the spine can pinch the spinal cord, causing numbness and weakness in your legs and arms.
- Bone spurs in the hip can cause hip pain and make it hard to move your hip. You may also feel pain in your knee and radiating pain in the thighs and buttocks.
- Bone spurs in the knee can cause knee pain and make bending and extending your leg painful.
Veterans usually develop bone spurs from osteoarthritis, a common type of arthritis that happens when the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones wears down. As osteoarthritis destroys the cartilage, your body tries to fix the loss by creating bone spurs.
Osteoarthritis typically develops from trauma or overuse injuries. Active military personnel often perform physically taxing work that puts their bodies under extreme stress. They must walk, stand, and march for long periods, usually carrying heavy loads and wearing cumbersome equipment. This makes them prone to the trauma and repetitive stress that causes osteoarthritis and resulting bone spurs.
Medical professionals diagnose bone spurs by feeling around your joints to identify the source of your pain. They may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays and computed tomography scans, to view your bones and joints. If your bone spurs cause pain, your medical team may prescribe:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as naproxen sodium, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen
- Steroid shots and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce joint pain and swelling
- Physical therapy of joints to restore strength and flexibility and reduce pressure on nerves
- Surgery, such as laminectomy, to remove bone spurs
Service Connection for Bone Spurs
If you have a service-connected condition that causes bone spurs, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. A service connection means that your medical condition was directly caused by your service, whether it happened during active duty, was caused by other service-connected conditions, or was aggravated by military service.
You can establish a service connection for bone spurs by completing and submitting VA Form 21-526EZ and including the following:
- A current bone spur diagnosis
- Evidence of an in-service stressor or event that aggravated or caused the bone spurs
- A nexus linking your condition to your service
Bone Spurs as a Secondary Disability
You may be eligible for secondary service connection compensation if your bone spurs are a secondary service disability. A secondary service disability is caused or aggravated by a direct service-connected condition, such as osteoarthritis.
To establish this, you must first prove a service connection for the condition that caused or aggravated the bone spurs. The next step is completing VA Form 21-526EZ and submitting the following to the VA:
- A current diagnosis of bone spurs
- Medical reports showing the nexus between the direct service-connected condition and the bone spurs
How Does the VA Rate Bone Spurs?
The VA uses diagnostic ratings and codes to identify disability severities and types and determine how much compensation veterans can receive for their conditions.
Determining the VA disability rating for bone spurs can be difficult because the VA does not have a specific diagnostic code for rating bone spurs under 38 CFR § 4.71a – Schedule of Ratings – Musculoskeletal System. Instead, it rates bone spurs analogously, which means it rates them based on the condition that most closely matches the overall symptoms.
Depending on your symptoms and the location of your bone spurs, the VA may rate bone spurs under the following diagnostic codes.
Diagnostic Code 5279: Metatarsalgia or Morton's Disease
If you have a bone spur and metatarsalgia or Morton’s disease, the VA may rate your bone spurs under diagnostic code 5279. Metatarsalgia is characterized by inflammation and soreness in the bones connecting your toes to the rest of your foot. Morton’s disease is a condition affecting the ball of your foot. It may feel as if you are standing on a fold in your sock or a pebble in your shoe.
The VA rates metatarsalgia and Morton’s disease with a 10 percent rating. This is the highest rating regardless of whether bone spurs affect one or both feet or other parts of the musculoskeletal system.
Diagnostic Code 5002: Multi-joint arthritis
If you have bone spurs and arthritis in multiple joints, the VA may rate your condition under diagnostic code 5002. The VA rates several conditions under diagnostic code 5002, including rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, and psoriatic arthritis.
The VA uses the following ratings for diagnostic code 5002:
- 20 percent: You may receive a 20 percent rating if you have one or two yearly flare-ups and a well-established diagnosis.
- 40 percent: You may receive a 40 percent rating if your combined symptoms significantly impact your health or you experience incapacitating flare-ups at least three times a year.
- 60 percent: You may receive a 60 percent rating if you experience weight loss and anemia that severely impact your health. You may also receive this rating if you experience severely incapacitating flare-ups at least four times a year over long periods.
- 100 percent: You may receive a 100 percent rating if you have total incapacitation associated with active joint involvement.
Diagnostic Code 5003: Degenerative Arthritis, Other Than Post-Traumatic
If your bone spurs result from non-post-traumatic degenerative arthritis, the VA may rate your condition under diagnostic code 5003. The VA uses the following ratings for code 5003:
- 10 percent: You may receive a 10 percent rating if you have X-ray evidence showing your degenerative arthritis involves at least two major or minor joints.
- 20 percent: You may receive a 20 percent rating if you have X-ray evidence that your degenerative arthritis involves at least two major or minor joint groups with occasional incapacitating exacerbations.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Bone Spurs
If your condition prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, a monthly benefit for veterans who cannot work due to their service-connected disabilities.
You must meet the following requirements to receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits for bone spurs:
- You have a minimum of one service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or more or multiple service-connected disabilities, with one rated at a minimum of 40 percent and a combined rating of 70 percent or more
- You cannot support yourself financially with a steady job due to your service-connected disability. Marginal employment and odd jobs do not count.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Bone Spurs
If you are a veteran with bone spurs caused by a service-connected condition, you may be eligible for VA compensation under various diagnostic codes, including codes 5279 and 5002. You may also be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability if your injury prevents you from maintaining a substantially gainful job.
When filing your claim, you must submit as much evidence as possible. For example, you must include medical reports showing your bone spur diagnosis and treatment. If you are claiming a secondary disability, you may need to include a doctor’s nexus letter showing that your bone spurs were caused or aggravated by a direct service-connected condition.
If you do not submit enough documentation, the VA may require you to submit additional evidence or undergo a VA Compensation and Pension exam. The VA will use this exam to determine whether you have a service-connected disability and rate your disability if you have one.
Need help navigating the VA claims system? Contact Veterans Guide today. Our advocates can help you determine your VA disability rating and obtain maximum benefits.