The VA will rate joint problems based on limitations in range of motion for the affected joint whenever possible. A goniometer will be used to measure the joint’s range of motion, which is compared to a normal or ideal range of motion. A veteran will be assigned a rating based on limitation.
Let’s discuss some of the most common joints disabilities and how they are rated. The shoulder joint has the ability to move in a lot of different ways, but ratings are typically assigned based on the ability to raise the arm. If the arm cannot be raised more than 25 degrees, it will be rated at 40% or 30%for the dominant or non-dominant arm, respectively. Lesser ratings may be assigned if the arm can be raised more than 25 degrees, but less than 90 degrees.
Ratings for spine problems can involve two separate measurements—one for the cervical spine’s range of motion and another for the range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine. Note that various different back problems can be rated based on limited range of motion, and will usually only be rated based on other symptoms if there are no movement limitations.
An entire spine that is frozen in a position other than neutral can receive a rating of 100%. For a thoracolumbar spine that flexes 30 degrees or less, a 40% rating will be given. A cervical spine that flexes 15 degrees or less will be given a 30% rating. Lesser ratings can be given for lesser movement restrictions, including restrictions the combined range of motion for extension, flexion, lateral flexion, and rotation.
A similar rating system is used for hip problems which limit the ability to extend, flex, abduct, adduct, or rotate the hips. Ratings of 10% to 40% can be given for limited movement in the hips.
There are situations where a joint with no movement limitations can still receive a rating, which include if there is painful motion, too much motion, arthritis, or other issues that affect the joint. In these situations, you may have a harder time figuring out the proper rating for your condition, so talk to a veterans attorney if you have questions about your disability rating.
Talk to an experienced veterans law practitioner to learn more about the appeals process. Our veterans lawyers have helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability compensation appeals. Contact us for a no-cost consultation.