VA Disability Rating for Hallux Valgus
is also known as a bunion. Veterans can develop hallux valgus, or bunions, during military service from their physical duties and the required rigid footwear. The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes severe hallux valgus as a disability. Veterans with the condition can apply for a VA disability rating to become eligible for compensation. Foot injuries and related conditions, such as hallux rigidus, a form of arthritis in the big toe, can also support a disability claim. Veterans Guide can help you learn more about bunions VA disability ratings.
Active-duty military members must wear uniforms with required footwear and perform strenuous physical activities, both in combat and during training. Over time, ill-fitting or rigid footwear and physical activity can take a toll on the feet, leading to severe hallux valgus, also known as bunions. The VA recognizes that severe bunions can be disabling. Thus, some veterans are entitled to a hallux valgus VA disability rating. Veterans Guide can help you understand how a bunions VA disability rating is determined and what benefits you may be eligible to receive.
Veterans and Hallux Valgus
Hallux valgus, or bunions, is a common foot problem, typically involving the joint of the big toe. Over time, the big toe bends towards the other toes, and a bony bump forms at the joint at the base of the big toe. Bones, ligaments, and tendons change shape, and the bump becomes permanent. Many people with bunions experience pain while walking.
Hallux valgus can worsen from wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes over long periods. Veterans may develop bunions during service because of the physical demands of their roles, such as repetitive stress from marching and running. Also, they must wear military-issued combat boots as part of the uniform, which may be tight and restrict foot movement, leading to bunions. In addition, veterans often have to spend many hours on their feet, putting pressure on the feet.
In most cases, you must have severe bunions to receive a VA disability rating. A medical evaluation allows you to connect your bunion to the effects on your daily life and establish a qualifying disability.
How Does the VA Rate Hallux Valgus?
The hallux valgus VA disability rating falls under Code 5280, listed on the rating schedule under 38 CFR § 4.71a – musculoskeletal system. There are two categories under Code 5280, both of which are rated at 10 percent. They are:
- 10 percent: You have had an operation on the bunion to resect the metatarsal head. Typically, this means the bones and tissues have been operated on to straighten the toe and lessen the appearance of the bump.
- 10 percent: Your bunion is so severe that it has the same effect as if you had the toe amputated. Therefore, if your hallux valgus prevents you from using the toe, you may qualify under this section.
Some veterans may also experience arthritis in the big toe joint. Known as hallux rigidus, or stiff big toe, this condition is found under Code 5281 of the VA disability schedule. Severe hallux rigidus is rated the same as severe hallux valgus, with the sole rating of 10 percent available.
There are other several other foot disabilities the VA recognizes in its rating schedule. Among those are:
- Hammer toe – Code 5282
- Malunion or nonunion of metatarsal bones – Code 5283
- Foot injuries, other – Code 5284
A doctor can help identify which foot conditions you have and help assess whether you have more than a single foot disability.
TDIU and Hallux Valgus
The VA recognizes that some veterans with less than a 100-percent disability rating may still have trouble keeping a job due to that condition. If you can show you cannot perform steady work because of a disability, you may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits. In that case, you would receive the same benefits as a veteran with a 100 percent disability rating.
There are two ways to qualify for TDIU benefits:
- You have one disability rated at 60 percent or more.
- You have more than one disability with a combined rating of 70 percent or more, with at least one rated at 40 percent or more.
In addition, you must give the VA evidence that your disability or combined disabilities prevent you from holding down a job.
Since hallux valgus rates at maximum of 10 percent, it is not enough to support eligibility for TDIU on its own.
However, the VA does acknowledge there are rare circumstances when applying the standard rating requirements is unreasonable, such as where the condition causes a major interference with employment or frequent hospitalizations.Thus, the VA may award benefits if the veteran provides evidence that the requirements are unreasonable.
Hallux Valgus as a Secondary Disability
The VA also considers conditions secondary to a service-connected disability when determining a veteran’s overall disability rating. These secondary conditions are also service-connected if they result from the primary disability.
The VA can combine several disabilities to calculate an overall disability rating. However, the VA doesn’t simply add the ratings together. Instead, it uses a chart to calculate the overall rating that is used to determine how much compensation a veteran receives.
Hallux valgus can lead to other connected conditions. For instance, the condition is linked to gout and rheumatoid arthritis.
Your hallux valgus may also be secondary to another service-connected disability. For example, suppose you have a VA disability rating for a musculoskeletal condition that requires you to wear special orthopedic shoes or affects your gait. The shoes or gait differences might cause you to develop a severe bunion. In that case, the VA may deem the bunion to be service-connected. This may entitle you to a change in your overall disability rating and the benefits you receive.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Hallux Valgus?
In order to obtain bunion VA disability benefits, you must file a claim with the VA.
You can apply for disability benefits in one of four ways. Start by visiting the VA website for forms and contact information. From there, you can apply the following ways:
- By mail
- In person at a VA regional office
- Through an accredited representative
Typically you must offer the following evidence:
- DD214 or separation documents
- Medical records from time in service
- Private medical records, such as doctors’ reports, X-rays, and surgical records
The VA sometimes asks veterans to undergo a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam. Not everyone has to go through this process. According to the VA, they will only ask for a C&P exam if they need more information about your VA disability benefits claim.
If you are submitting a claim for TDIU benefits, you have to provide medical evidence that your hallux valgus is a barrier to steady employment. The VA also asks that you submit these additional forms:
- Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability – VA Form 21-8940
- Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits – VA Form 21-4192
Your last employer should fill out VA Form 21-4192.
Service Connection for Hallux Valgus
As part of your claim for hallux valgus VA disability benefits, you must show a link between your bunions and your active-duty military service. A doctor can help determine what events in your service led to this foot disability and write a nexus letter describing how your disability is connected to your time in service. You can submit this letter with the rest of your evidence to support your claim.
Though you can complete the claims process alone, support is always available if you’re struggling to file an initial claim, supplemental claim, or appeal. Veterans Guide is here to answer all of your questions and help you navigate the VA disability claims process.
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