VA Disability Rating for Knee Pain
If you’ve been diagnosed with knee pain stemming from your military service, you may be eligible to receive a VA disability rating for it. Your diagnosis might stem from other service-connected disabilities. In that case, you can apply for a secondary rating for knee pain and receive monthly compensation. For more information on qualifying for a VA disability rating for knee pain, contact Veterans Guide.
Knee pain is one of the most frequent health complaints among all groups of people, including veterans. Leg trauma, traversing rough terrain, and carrying and lifting heavy equipment during service take a toll. Damage to the knees sometimes develops over time, leading to debilitating conditions. Some common knee ailments experienced by veterans include the following:
- Dislocation or subluxation of the knee
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Tuberculosis of the knee
- Water on the knee, known as effusion
- Hyperextended knee
Veterans are eligible to apply to the Department of Veteran Affairs for a VA disability rating for knee pain and receive service-connected disability pay if they demonstrate that their knee pain is related to military service.
How Does the VA Rate Knee Conditions?
Knee pain is rated under the VA’s musculoskeletal rating system. You must obtain a doctor’s diagnosis for your knee pain to be eligible for compensation. Your diagnosis, along with a VA measurement of functional loss, will determine the monthly compensation you can receive for knee pain.
The VA uses functional loss to measure limitations of excursion, strength, speed, coordination, and endurance for musculoskeletal conditions and to determine the extent of your knee injury.
What Rating Can the VA Give Knee Pain?
Knee pain can receive a disability rating from zero to 60 percent, with a few exceptions. The rating assigned to you is based on the amount of pain and your level of mobility. The more pain and less mobility you have, the higher your rating will be.
For many knee conditions, the VA rating criteria are determined by your knee’s range of motion, including the degree of flexion—a joint movement that decreases the angle between two bones—and extension. These measurements assess how far the knee can bend and straighten. A knee’s normal flexion is between 135 and 140 degrees, while normal extension ranges from zero to -10 degrees. Ratings based on knee range of motion are assigned in the following ways:
Knee Ankylosis or Stiffness:
- 60 percent: 45 degrees or more in flexion
- 50 percent: 20 to 45 degrees flexion
- 40 percent: 10 to 20 degrees flexion
- 30 percent: 0 to 10 degrees flexion
Limitation of Flexion:
- 30 percent: Flexion limited to 15 degrees
- 20 percent: Flexion limited to 30 degrees
- 10 percent: Flexion limited to 45 degrees
- 0 percent: Flexion limited to 60 degrees
Limitation of Extension:
- 50 percent: Extension limited to 45 degrees
- 40 percent: Extension limited to 30 degrees
- 30 percent: Extension limited to 20 degrees
- 20 percent: Extension limited to 15 degrees
- 10 percent: Extension limited to 10 degrees
- 0 percent: Extension limited to 5 degrees
The VA evaluates muscular injuries affecting flexion and extension of the knees using descriptions of slight, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. Muscular injuries can receive ratings of zero, 10, 20, 30, and 40 percent.
Arthritis is generally assigned VA disability ratings of 20, 40, or 60 percent. However, depending on the severity of your condition, you could be eligible to receive 100 percent disability in some cases.
The meniscus is the cartilage that cushions the joint between your femur and tibia. It’s prone to tearing—a common cause of pain and disability in veterans. An injured meniscus can cause the knees to lock up or lead to fluid on the knee. Recurring knee pain, a knee that locks, and signs of water on the knee might make you eligible for a 20 percent VA disability rating.
Surgical Knee Repair or Replacement
If you require surgery to repair or replace your knee, the VA may assign a temporary disability rating of 100 percent while you recover. Your temporary rating is good for up to four months following your surgery.
What if Both Knees Are Affected?
When you experience pain, injury, or a disease process that is bilateral, or present in both knees, your disability rating will increase. For bilateral knee disabilities, the VA combines the rating you receive for each knee and adds 10 percent when both limbs are affected. For example, if you’re assigned a disability rating of 10 percent for each knee, your total combined disability rating would be 30 percent.
TDIU and Knee Pain
The VA offers Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits to veterans who do not have a combined VA disability rating of 100 percent but cannot work because of a service-connected disability. These benefits add additional compensation to qualified veterans’ monthly payments. Eligible veterans must show they cannot find or maintain employment because of their disability.
To qualify for TDIU for knee pain, you must have a VA disability rating of 60 percent or higher and provide documented evidence that you are unemployable because of your disability.
Knee Pain as a Secondary Disability
Knee pain can be linked to other medical conditions, such as arthritis and trauma or pain in the back, hip, ankle, and feet. If you suffer from a previously diagnosed service-connected injury and can show it is causing your knee pain, you can apply for a secondary disability rating for knee pain. A secondary disability may increase your overall VA rating and provide additional monthly compensation.
Service-Connected Aggravation of Knee Pain
If you already had pre-duty knee pain that worsened due to your military service, you may be eligible to claim a service connection based on aggravation. To qualify, you need to prove the following:
- You had a pre-existing condition affecting your knee before military service
- Your military service worsened your underlying knee pain
- You experienced an increase in disability unconnected to the natural progression of the condition
The VA assigns ratings for disabilities aggravated by service based on how much the condition changed.
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Knee Injuries?
To receive VA disability compensation for knee injuries, you must prove that your condition is connected to or was worsened by your military service and not simply the natural consequences of age or genetic predisposition. Before you file a VA disability claim, it’s helpful to document knee injury symptoms, the diagnosis date, and any treatment you undergo as evidence of your disability. This will better ensure your claim is rated correctly. You will also need to provide the following information to the VA:
- A copy of your diagnosis and the date a physician diagnosed you
- Evidence of military-connected trauma that caused the injury resulting in knee pain
- A medical nexus letter from your doctor that states your military service caused or worsened your knee injury and pain
The VA may request additional information to make a rating decision on your knee pain claim. In that case, the VA will require you to undergo a compensation and pension (C&P) exam by a VA physician. The exam will include a range of motion testing to illustrate how much pain you’re experiencing and demonstrate the level at which your knee condition is impeding your ability to function.
It’s important to be honest about the amount of pain you have. Your VA rating for knee pain is based on functional loss, and pain is a part of that measurement. It may be helpful to record how often you experience pain and complications in the weeks leading up to the exam and share it with the doctor.
You can file a VA disability compensation claim online. Increasing your VA disability rating might seem difficult or overwhelming, but the effort can be well worth it if you qualify for more compensation.
If you have questions about how to file for a VA disability rating for knee pain, reach out to Veterans Guide for more information.
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