VA Disability Rating for Shin Splints
Shin splints are typically considered a lower-rated disability for monthly benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, they can stem from, worsen, or cause serious mobility issues, joint conditions, or injuries. Find out how to calculate your shin splints VA rating and which related conditions to consider for benefits. Contact Veterans Guide for more information.
Though shin splints are a relatively harmless problem everyone can experience when over-exercising, veterans are particularly susceptible to developing lasting, painful shin splints that can lead to more serious medical issues. The strenuous activity required during military service can continuously weaken the tissues around the shins, causing worsening pain and mobility problems.
If shin splints in one or both legs are getting in the way of your daily life, you may be due monthly compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Applying for a shin splints VA rating involves collecting medical evidence from your doctor that links the condition to your service and considers any other related medical problems.
Generally, the VA rates shin splints from zero to 30 percent in increments of 10, considering whether one or both legs are affected and if they respond to treatment.
Veterans and Shin Splints
What Are Shin Splints?
Pain on the inner edge of the shinbone, or tibia, is known as shin splints. This is medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome and usually results from repetitive heavy exercise such as running.
The main symptoms of shin splints are the following:
- Sharp or dull, throbbing pain in the shins
- Slight swelling of the lower legs
- Intensified pain when touching the shins
- Difficulty exercising due to pain
What Causes Shin Splints?
The condition often develops in those who are just starting or are accelerating their efforts in a specific type of physical activity. As a result, runners, dancers, and military members are all at high risk of developing shin splints after exercise.
Repetitive activity is the main culprit for shin splints, as it causes the muscles and bone tissue near the tibia to become overworked as your feet repeatedly impact the ground. Suddenly changing the amount of exercise you do or the intensity of it can cause shin splints, especially if you are flat-footed or do not have properly supportive exercise footwear.
How Can You Treat Shin Splints?
Doctors recommend icing, resting, and stretching your shins to alleviate the pain from shin splints. Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen can help dull the effects, especially if you plan to exercise again within a couple of days of shin splints first developing.
Following a program that slowly ramps up your exercise level versus jumping into vigorous exercise immediately may prevent the problem in the future. Specific footwear, such as arch-supported running shoes if you’re just starting to run outdoors, can also help.
How Can Military Service Cause Shin Splints?
Since shin splints result from repetitive movement during training or in combat can easily cause shin splints in soldiers, airmen, and marines. Running, marching, and rucking over difficult terrain can give rise to the condition.
Though shin pain usually gets better after rest and ceases with conditioning over time, it can become a more serious issue if the shins are repeatedly irritated over a longer period. Active military members are often put into strenuous physical situations without getting the chance to rest between moments of extreme exercise. Because of this, they may be at higher risk of developing long-term mobility problems related to shin splints that recur over time or never properly heal.
If the tissues around the tibia become weak from long-term overuse, it can lead to more significant medical issues such as:
- Stress fractures
- Worsening degenerative arthritis
- Loss of function in the lower legs
- In the worst-case scenario, lower leg amputation
How Does the VA Rate Shin Splints?
The VA rates disabilities on a scale from 0 to 100 percent in increments of 10, correlating to the severity of each service-related condition. For shin splints, the rating scale ranges from 0 to 30 percent.
The schedule for rating shin splints for VA benefits uses the following guidelines:
- 30 percent: Shin splints in both legs require treatment for at least 12 consecutive months and are unresponsive to surgery and either shoe orthotics or another conservative treatment.
- 20 percent: Shin splints in one leg require treatment for at least 12 consecutive months and are unresponsive to surgery and either shoe orthotics or another conservative treatment.
- 10 percent: Shin splints in one or both legs require treatment for at least 12 consecutive months and are unresponsive to either shoe orthotics or another conservative treatment.
For those suffering from nonunion of the tibia and fibula with loose motion requiring a brace, the VA rating is 40 percent. Other lower leg issues, such as genu recurvatum, or knee hyperextension, are rated at 10 percent.
TDIU and Shin Splints
The VA offers a total disability individual unemployability, or TDIU, rating for those who cannot work due to their condition’s worsening symptoms. This can allow a veteran to receive monthly benefits equivalent to a 100 percent rating, regardless of the actual rating for their condition.
Since the rating for shin splints only goes up to 30 percent, veterans suffering from shin splints alone are not eligible for TDIU. However, shin splints may be claimed as a secondary disability. In that case, you must prove you have two or more service-linked disabilities, with one ranked at least 40 percent and a combined rating of at least 70 percent. If you want to explore your eligibility, your local VA branch can help.
Shin Splints as a Secondary Disability
Although shin splints are typically a lower-rated VA disability, the medical problems that lead to or result from this condition can be serious. If you are suffering from service-connected problems linked to shin splints, you can claim multiple disabilities to receive a higher rating and more monthly compensation.
Conditions that can cause or worsen shin splints include:
- Flat feet or high arches, if severe and proven to have been caused by the hours on your feet in the military versus being present genetically from birth
- Plantar fasciitis, which involves heel pain and swelling along the bottom of the foot
- Joint problems such as long-term knee, ankle, or hip injuries
- Obesity linked to your time in service—for example, if an injury affected your mobility and you cannot properly move or exercise
- Conditions that make leg movement more strenuous, such as arthritis in the knees, if they can be causally linked to service
Shin splints can also cause more significant secondary problems if severe enough. You may file for shin splints first and then file for related problems such as stress fractures or other lower leg medical issues secondarily to increase your overall disability rating.
How to Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Shin Splints?
To receive a shin splints VA rating, you must first submit an intent to file form. Then you can create your own online portal and submit medical evidence supporting a service link to your condition, such as diagnoses and official notes from your doctor.
Submit your official claim online or by mail and wait for a response. The VA updates its average processing times each month on its website to give you a better idea of how long you may have to wait, though the average time is usually 100 days or more.
The VA may request additional information to make a rating decision on your shin splints claim. In that case, you may need to see a VA physician for a compensation and pension (C&P) exam.
If you have any questions about filing a VA disability claim, consult your local VA branch or reach out to our team. We are more than happy to help those who have sacrificed for our country to receive the help they need and deserve.