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VA Ratings for Back Pain Infographic

Many Veterans experience chronic back pain as a result of military service and can severely impact a Veteran’s ability to work. Training, deployments, and day-to-day life in the military can be strenuous on the back and may result in a more serious level of disability further down the line.

Veterans must first establish VA service connection before their back condition can be rated. The elements of service connection are:

  • A current diagnosed disability;
  • An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
  • A medical nexus between the current disability and the in-service event, injury, or illness.

Once service connection has been established, VA generally rates back conditions based on the Veteran’s range of motion and functional loss under 38 CFR § 4.71a, Schedule of Ratings, Musculoskeletal System.

To evaluate your back condition, VA will likely schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam where your ability to bend forward, backward, and side to side is measured using a goniometer. Your rating will be based on these measurements.

Veterans can receive a 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent disability rating for back conditions based on the measurements listed below. Even if your rating for a back condition is not 100 percent, you may be eligible to be compensated at the 100 percent rate through Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability if your back condition prevents you from obtaining and maintaining substantially gainful employment.