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VA Disability Rating for Musculoskeletal Injuries

Military service-related musculoskeletal injuries impact the lives of a significant number of U.S. veterans. The Veterans Affairs (VA) musculoskeletal ratings help veterans predict how much support they can expect from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. You may qualify for a VA disability claim if you meet specific requirements.

Signing up for military service is no small investment. You put your life, body, and mental well-being on the line for your nation’s interests, and you accept the risks that come with military service. One of those risks is musculoskeletal injuries. 

Unfortunately, sometimes the risks associated with service, such as musculoskeletal injuries, can stay with you long after your military service is over. However, this doesn’t mean you should deal with your injuries alone. The U.S. Veterans Affairs supports injured veterans and provides monthly payments to offset musculoskeletal conditions and injuries received or aggravated in service.

What Are Service-Related Musculoskeletal Conditions?

The World Health Organization notes that musculoskeletal conditions are characterized as persistent pain in the bones, joints, muscles, or connective tissues throughout the body. These conditions can lead to momentary or lifelong limitations.

Musculoskeletal conditions affect billions of people worldwide. They are the leading cause of disability and the most common reason veterans seek treatment at VA. Musculoskeletal conditions can reduce mobility and dexterity, which may prohibit sufferers from working and participating in society.

Examples of Musculoskeletal Conditions

There are many types of musculoskeletal disorders. Examples of common service-related musculoskeletal conditions include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Trigger finger
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Muscle strains
  • Lower back injuries

There are over 150 different musculoskeletal conditions with varying degrees of short- and long-term health impacts. The pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions is categorized as chronic if it persists for over three months.

How Are Musculoskeletal Conditions Treated?

Before your health care provider treats your musculoskeletal condition, they may order the following tests to pinpoint the cause of your pain:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays

Once your doctor has identified the source of your pain, they can customize your treatments to more effectively target the root cause of the issues. Depending on the underlying source, your doctor may recommend the following treatments:

  • Therapeutic massage
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain relievers
  • Occupational therapy
  • Chiropractic adjustment
  • Acupuncture

Your doctor may also suggest you try to manage your pain at home using the following methods:

  • Stretching
  • Strengthening and conditioning
  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers 

You can use these at-home treatments either in conjunction with or as a replacement for treatments offered at a health care facility. If these treatments aren’t working or your pain worsens or spreads, speak to your medical team about adjusting your treatment.

Why Do Veterans Experience Musculoskeletal Problems?

Overuse and incremental microtraumas from military training are associated with 70 percent of military musculoskeletal injuries. These include non-battle injuries such as shin splints, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and back pain.

Causes of Musculoskeletal Disorders

Veterans may experience musculoskeletal problems for any of the following reasons:

  • Carrying heavy gear
  • Strenuous physical training
  • Repetitive motions
  • Overuse
  • Accident

These issues occur regularly in the military and can lead to long-term health conditions requiring VA musculoskeletal disability benefits.

man with body pain

Do Musculoskeletal Conditions Make You Eligible for VA Disability?

Veterans with musculoskeletal conditions are eligible for VA disability benefits. However, not every veteran who suffers from musculoskeletal conditions will qualify for these monthly payments.

You must apply for VA benefits and prove that your injury or condition qualifies. If your condition qualifies, you may receive monthly VA benefit payments to help offset your disability.

How to Qualify for Musculoskeletal Disability Benefits

To be eligible for VA disability payments, you must meet two requirements. First, your injury must affect your mind or body, and you must have served on inactive duty training, active duty training, or active duty. Second, at least one of the following must be true:

  • Inservice disability claim: You became injured or sick during military service, and you can link your current condition to the prior injury or illness
  • Preservice disability claim: Your injury or illness existed before joining the military, and your service made it worse
  • Postservice disability claim: Your disability is related to active-duty service, but it didn’t become apparent until after your service

If your musculoskeletal conditions fit these requirements, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation.

Required Proof for VA Benefits

You must submit the following documents to prove your claim for disability benefits:

  • Your service treatment records
  • Your DD214 or other separation documents
  • Any medical evidence that will support your condition, such as X-rays, doctor’s reports, and medical test results

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will use the documents to determine your VA benefits eligibility status.

VA Musculoskeletal Condition Disability Rating

You can use the following VA musculoskeletal ratings to estimate the level of disability benefits you will receive.

  • Diagnostic code 5001: Active or inactive tuberculosis of the bones and joints 
    • Rating: 100 percent
  • Diagnostic code 5002: Multi-joint arthritis in two or more joints
    • Rating: 20 to 100 percent, depending upon severity; chronic residuals are rated under diagnostic code 5003
  • Diagnostic code 5003: Degenerative arthritis, with exceptions for post-traumatic variations
    • Rating: Unlisted
  • Diagnostic code 5009: Other forms of arthropathy, except gout
    • Rating: Unlisted; arthropathy’s acute phase is rated under diagnostic code 5002, and residuals are under 5003
  • Diagnostic code 5010: Post-traumatic arthritis
    • Rating: Based on the limitation of motion or other specified instability; if multiple joints are affected, each rating shall be combined
  • Diagnostic code 5011: Decompression illness
    • Rating: Based on the manifestations within the body under the appropriate diagnostic code, such as arthritis for musculoskeletal residuals
  • Diagnostic code 5012: Primary or secondary issues with malignant bone neoplasms, i.e., cancerous bone cell tumors
    • Rating: 100 percent until one-year post-treatment, then based on residuals
  • Diagnostic code 5013: Residuals of osteoporosis
    • Rating: Unlisted*
  • Diagnostic code 5014: Residuals of osteomalacia
    • Rating: Unlisted*
  • Diagnostic code 5015: Benign bone neoplasms
    • Rating: Unlisted*
  • Diagnostic code 5023: Heterotopic ossification
    • Rating: Unlisted*
  • Diagnostic code 5024: Tendinitis, tenosynovitis, tendinopathy, or tendinosis
    • Rating: Unlisted*

*You will evaluate diagnostic codes 5013 through 5024 as degenerative arthritis based on your affected areas’ limitation of motion.

Determining Your Maximum Compensation

Your maximum compensation depends on several factors, including your VA musculoskeletal rating and dependents. Your disability rating can range from 10 to 100 percent. A 100 percent rating indicates total disability. If your disability rating is less than 100 percent, your monthly payment will be less.

For example, if you have a disability rating of 100 percent and a dependent spouse, one child, and two parents, your basic monthly disability payment would total $4,295.92 in 2023.

For a veteran with a similar situation but a disability rating of 10 percent, the basic monthly disability payment would total $165.92. Additional benefits are not given to veterans with dependents if their disability rating falls below 30 percent.

Each additional child under 18 adds an extra $100.34 to the monthly payment, while children over 18 in a qualifying educational program each garner an additional $324.12 in monthly payments.

VA Benefits: Amputation Rule

The amputation rule caps the disability benefits you can receive. The law states that the combined ratings for disabilities of an extremity may not exceed the rating for an elective amputation.

For example, the total of your disability evaluation rating for an amputation below the knee cannot be more than the 40 percent associated with amputation under diagnostic code 5165. Essentially, your VA musculoskeletal ratings cannot exceed this 40 percent limit.

However, you may be eligible for special monthly compensation if you have suffered the loss of use of a limb.

File a VA Disability Claim

If you suffer from a lingering illness or disease leftover from your time in the military, you may qualify for VA disability based on your musculoskeletal ratings. You deserve compensation for the damages you suffered while serving your country. Once you have checked your VA disability rating musculoskeletal requirements, file your VA claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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