VA Disability Rating for Tendonitis

Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendons that causes ongoing pain, tenderness, and stiffness. It can lead to torn tendons and ongoing mobility limitations. Some veterans suffer chronic pain and tenderness in the areas around their joints, causing them to pursue a VA disability rating for tendonitis. Veterans Guide offers a closer look at how the VA defines disability related to tendonitis and how the condition can impact former service members.

Long-term tendonitis results from overuse and damage to the tendons that connect muscles and bones. Unfortunately, former service members face many challenges as part of their daily job responsibilities that can increase the risk of chronic overuse during their service. Veterans who suffer from chronic tendonitis can apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs and pursue a VA disability rating for tendonitis.

Veterans and Tendonitis

Due to the muscle and joint stress associated with their service, veterans have an increased risk of developing tendonitis.

What Is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis involves symptoms of pain, swelling, and tenderness in the area where a tendon attaches muscle to bone. Chronic tendonitis, or chronic tendinopathy, occurs when long-term inflammation and damage cause chronic symptoms. Tendonitis occurs most often in the shoulders, wrists, elbows, knees, and heels. However, it can occur in any tendon, including those around the ankles, feet, and hands.

What Are the Symptoms of Tendonitis?

The symptoms associated with tendonitis generally occur in a joint or where the tendon attaches to the bone. Among the symptoms are the following:

  • Pain and tenderness at the tendon and surrounding soft tissue
  • Worsening pain with weight-bearing
  • Limited range of motion in a joint
  • Stiffness 
  • Swelling of a joint
  • A grating or cracking sensation when moving the damaged tendon

How is Tendonitis Related to Time in Service?

Risk factors for tendonitis include repeated motions, awkward positions, vibration, and forced movements. The use of poor equipment or shortened recovery time after an injury can also cause tendonitis. Unfortunately, service members face many of the following triggering conditions as part of their daily jobs:

  • Tasks involving high levels of repetition
  • Time spent in awkward, uncomfortable positions
  • Long periods in vehicles, including aircraft and tanks, with exposure to heavy vibrations
  • Intense training to meet stringent physical requirements.
  • Pushing through injuries and fatigue without allowing adequate recovery time

How Does the VA Rate Tendonitis?

The VA rating for tendonitis depends on various factors, including the affected tendons and the range of motion prevented by stiffness or immobility in the affected areas. The VA uses its listings for degenerative arthritis and the associated limitation of motion guidelines for the affected body parts to evaluate disability ratings.

Want to Increase Your VA Rating?

Ankle Tendonitis

Ankle tendonitis usually has a maximum disability rating of 40 percent, assigned when you have ankylosis, or stiffening, of more than 40 degrees in plantar flexion or more than 10 degrees in dorsiflexion. 

A 30 percent rating for ankle tendonitis occurs with between 30 degrees and 40 degrees of plantar flexion or between 0 degrees and 10 degrees of dorsiflexion. Less than 30 degrees of ankylosis in plantar flexion receives a listed disability rating of 20 percent.

Wrist Tendonitis

Wrist tendonitis has a listed disability rating between 10 percent and 50 percent. The VA disability rating for tendonitis in the wrist depends on the level of stiffness and immobility in the affected joint. The VA disability rating notes a difference between major and minor disability based on stiffening in the wrist. 

  • If ankylosis, or immobility, of the wrist due to tendonitis occurs in an unfavorable position or with ulnar or radial deviation, a major disability will receive a 50 percent disability rating and a minor disability rating of 40 percent. 
  • If ankylosis of the wrist is in any position except favorable, it receives a major rating of 40 percent and a minor rating of 30 percent. 
  • If the ankylosis of the wrist is favorable in 20 to 30-degree dorsiflexion, it receives a major rating of 30 percent and a minor rating of 20 percent. 
  • Limitation in wrist motion warrants a 10 percent VA disability rating. 

Shoulder Tendonitis

The VA disability rating for shoulder tendonitis ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent. When limited movement in the shoulder occurs midway between the side and shoulder level, the VA assigns a 20 percent or 30 percent rating. 

Limited movement only at shoulder level receives a 20 percent rating. On the other hand, if you have either flexion or adduction limited to 25 degrees from the side, the VA offers a 30 percent or 40 percent rating. 

Knee Tendonitis

The VA evaluates chronic tendonitis of the knee under 38 CFR § 4.71a based on stiffening, or ankylosis, of the impacted joint. A 10% rating is typically awarded for tendonitis. Extremely unfavorable stiffness, creating flexion at an angle of 45 degrees or more, receives a rating of 60%.

If the knee is in flexion between 20 and 45 degrees, the VA offers a rating of 50%. Flexion limited to between 10 degrees and 20 degrees leads to a disability rating of 40 percent. A favorable angle in full extension, or slight flexion between 0 and 10 degrees, leads to a disability rating of 30 percent. Lower flexion limits receive a rating between 0 percent and 30 percent.

TDIU and Tendonitis

When tendonitis prevents veterans from working, they can file for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits. TDIU is available to veterans who do not have a combined VA disability rating of 100 percent but cannot work due to a service-connected disability. The program provides additional compensation to eligible veterans. 

To qualify for TDIU, you need one condition rated at least 60 percent disabling or multiple conditions with a combined VA disability rating of at least 70 percent, with one rated at least 40 percent. Since the highest rating tendonitis highest rating you can receive for tendonitis is below 60 percent, you would not be eligible for TDIU compensation for this condition alone.

You must also show that you cannot remain employed due to tendonitis developed during your service. Relevant evidence includes the following:

  • Medical records
  • Doctors’ statements about the impact of tendonitis on your ability to perform work
  • Employment records showing your effort to obtain a job

The VA looks at how chronic tendonitis impacts you, including ankylosis, or stiffening, of the impacted joint, how it interferes with your range of motion, and how it prevents you from engaging in work or activities of daily living in determining your disability rating. Those factors can also determine whether you qualify for a TDIU rating for tendonitis.

Tendonitis as a Secondary Disability

Tendonitis can occur in conjunction with other conditions, including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, potentially created or exacerbated by military service. 

If you have tendonitis secondary to another condition, you can apply for a secondary disability with the VA to increase your overall disability rating, which would raise the payments you receive. 

When you have multiple disabling conditions, the VA will not simply add the ratings to get a combined rating. Instead, it will use a table of combined ratings to prevent the total from exceeding 100 percent. If you have more than two disabilities, the VA will combine all your scores to determine a final disability rating.

Tendonitis Aggravated by Service

If you went into the military with a tendonitis injury, your duties in the service may have worsened your symptoms. For example, suppose you already suffered from elbow tendonitis before entering the service. Picking up heavy equipment, setting up camps, or training exercises put additional stress on your body and worsened your chronic tendonitis symptoms, including decreased movement. You can pursue a VA disability rating for tendonitis symptoms aggravated by your time in service.

How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Tendonitis?

The VA recommends that you apply online at the Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation website. Veterans can also choose to mail in their applications. You will need to: 

  • Fill out VA Form 21-526EZ. You need to fill out the form completely and provide all requested information. 
  • Offer supporting documents that help establish your right to a disability claim. You must provide any medical records, statements from your doctor, and evidence of your inability to work. 
  • Plan to undergo a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam. The exam will help the VA determine the extent of your disability. Not all veterans must undergo a C&P exam to claim benefits. Usually, the VA will require an exam when you have not provided adequate evidence about the extent of your disability. 

If you need help with your VA disability claim for tendonitis or need more information about VA claims, contact Veterans Guide.

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