From Battle Scars to Benefits: Understanding the Top 11 VA Disability Claims
In 2022, the federal government paid out over $120 billion in VA disability claims to almost 6 million veterans, according to the latest VA Benefits Report.
Now, that benefits report on is one long and wordy beast, but don’t worry. We’ve combed through it, and today we’re breaking down the 11 most common disabilities for which veterans may claim VA benefits. They include things like tinnitus (ringing in the ears), knee and ankle limitations, hearing loss, PTSD, migraines, lumbosacral or cervical strain, paralysis of the sciatic nerve, scars that impair your ability to work, and diabetes mellitus.
If you’ve got any of these issues, it’s important to prove a connection to your military service in order to start receiving monthly disability compensation. For some conditions like diabetes mellitus, it’s automatically considered service-connected if you served in Vietnam or a neighboring region and were exposed to Agent Orange.
The VA rates these disabilities based on their severity, and the ratings can range from 0% to 100%. It all depends on how much the condition affects your daily life and ability to work. For example, if your tinnitus is just mildly bothersome, you might get a 10% rating. But if it’s really severe and prevents you from working, you could qualify for a 100% rating.
It’s essential to stay informed because VA regulations and policies can change, so be sure to bookmark this blog or talk to your local VA office for the latest info.
And remember, don’t be shy to seek help with your VA disability claim. Doing it alone is an uphill battle. There are organizations like The Rep for Vets that are dedicated to supporting veterans in getting the benefits they earned when they signed up to serve.
In this article we cover 10 of the most common VA disability claims across all eras of service, plus diabetes, which affects Vietnam veterans in greater numbers. While all service-connected disabilities are important and worth fighting for, these are just the most common. Stay strong, and if you need any assistance, get in touch below!
Tinnitus is a condition where you hear noise or ringing in your ears when there is no external sound present. It can be like buzzing, hissing, whistling, roaring, or other noises and might happen in one or both ears. Just so you know, tinnitus is not a disease itself, but more like a symptom of something else going on, like hearing loss.
A lot of veterans end up with tinnitus after being around loud noises for a long time, like from jet engines. You might have heard about those 3M earplugs from 2005 to 2012 that turned out to be a dud, causing hearing loss for many service members. We wrote about the class action case against 3M back in 2021.
Now, when it comes to getting VA benefits for tinnitus, any veteran who served in the military and has this ringing in their ears because of their service might be eligible for compensation from the VA.
The VA determines how severe your tinnitus is through a thorough C&P exam. They use two types to figure it out:
- Subjective Tinnitus: That’s when only you can hear the noise or ringing, and they can’t hear it during the VA examination.
- Objective Tinnitus: This one they can actually hear during the VA examination.
So, here’s how they rate it:
- 10%: The tinnitus is annoying, but doesn’t have a big impact on your ability to work.
- 30%: The tinnitus is bothering you and affecting your work.
- 50%: The tinnitus is really bad and impacting your ability to work.
- 100%: In super rare cases where it’s extremely severe and keeps you from working at all, you could get a 100% rating.
It all depends on how much it’s affecting you, so make sure to tell them all about it during the exam. If you have the evidence to back it up, you might just get the compensation you deserve.
2. Limitation of Flexion of the Knee
The limitation of flexion of the knee might sound a bit complicated, but it simply means having difficulty bending your knees. This issue affect many of us, especially as we age.
To qualify for disability benefits, you’ll need to document that the knee limitation is connected to an injury or event that occurred during your active duty military service.
The VA assesses the severity of the limitation during an examination and assigns a rating accordingly. The VA uses the “schedule of ratings for musculoskeletal disabilities” to help determine the appropriate rating. Here’s how it works.
- 10% to 20%: There’s some limitation, but it’s not severe.
- 30% to 40%: The limitation is more significant and causes notable issues.
- 50% or higher: In cases where the knee limitation is severe and greatly impacts your daily life, a higher rating, like 50% or more, might be warranted.
Remember, to win your benefits claim, you’ll need to establish the connection to your military service and demonstrate how the limitation affects your daily activities. Collect all your relevant records and evidence to build a strong case. You’ve got this!
3. Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a disability that can range from having trouble hearing certain sounds to complete deafness in one or both ears. It can be caused by a bunch of things like getting older, being around really loud noises for a long time, infections, injuries, or other medical conditions. And you know what? Hearing loss can have a big impact on your life, making it harder to communicate, work, and do everyday stuff.
The good news is, if your hearing loss is because of your military service, you might be eligible for disability compensation from the VA. In order to win your VA disability claim you have to show that your hearing loss is linked to your time in the military or that it got worse because of your service.
When it comes to rating hearing loss, the VA looks at the severity of the impairment and how it affects your ability to understand speech. They do that through a special test called an audiological evaluation, which includes pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination testing.
Here’s how they rate hearing loss:
- 10%: Your hearing loss is mild but still affects your ability to understand speech a bit.
- 30%: For moderate hearing loss with notable problems in understanding speech.
- 50%: Your hearing loss is severe and it’s really hard for you to understand speech.
- 100%: Your hearing loss is so bad that you’re basically deaf or almost deaf.
If you have hearing loss in just one ear, they might give you a 10% rating for that ear.
So, if your hearing loss is making life harder for you and it’s because of your service, make sure to get that audiological evaluation and tell the VA all about it. For more info, check out our Ear/Hearing Problems page.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
First known as “shell shock” or “operational fatigue,” we’ve come a long way in understanding the real impact of what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that affects the lives of millions of veterans.
PTSD can show up in folks who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It could be something really distressing or life-threatening, like combat, military sexual trauma, natural disasters, accidents, or other situations that bring up intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD can mess with you in various ways, from intrusive memories, nightmares, and flashbacks to avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma, feeling emotionally numb, and being constantly on edge, affecting your daily life and relationships.
If you’re a veteran who served in the military and got diagnosed with PTSD, you might be eligible for disability benefits. To get those benefits, you’ll need to show that there’s a connection between the stressful event or events and your time in the military. Making your claim stick means having some good documentation to back it up. So, gather your service records, buddy statements, and reports from medical professionals, vocational experts, and psychologists.
When it comes to disability ratings for PTSD, the VA’s got a scale from 0% to 100%, but for PTSD claims, they use the standard ratings of 0%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. These ratings are based on how severe your condition is and how much it affects your ability to handle work and everyday stuff. If you want to dig into the nitty-gritty of how the VA determines your PTSD disability rating, you can check out more info here. Keep your head up, and good luck!
5. Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain
Lumbosacral or cervical strain is an injury or condition that affects the lower back (lumbosacral) or the neck (cervical) region of the spine. These issues usually pop up because of overuse, muscle sprain, or strain from doing stuff like lifting heavy objects, making sudden moves, or keeping bad posture. When it’s lumbosacral strain, your lower back feels the brunt, and if it’s cervical strain, your neck’s the one to suffer. Either way, you end up dealing with pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion in the affected area.
You know the drill by now: If these problems cropped up during your time in service, you might be eligible for disability benefits. But to win your VA disability claim, you must show that your lumbosacral or cervical strain is linked to your military days or that your service made it worse.
When the VA checks out your lumbosacral or cervical strain, they’ll be assessing the severity of your condition and how it impacts your daily life. They’ll review your medical records, run some tests, and do a C&P exam to figure out how bad things are.
Once they get a handle on it, they’ll give you a disability rating, and that rating can go from 0% to 100% in 10% steps.
- 0% to 10%: Your lower back or neck is jacked up, but it doesn’t really impact your job functioning.
- 20% to 40%: For moderate impairment and limitations in your ability to perform job activities.
- 50% to 100%: It’s so severe that it impairs your daily and job functioning significantly.
6. Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve
Paralysis of the sciatic nerve, or sciatic nerve palsy as some call it, can be a real pain in the rear, and I mean that literally. It happens when the long and wide sciatic nerve gets damaged or compressed, running from your lower back all the way down to your legs. And let me tell you, it’s no joke – weakness, numbness, and losing control of the muscles in your lower back, hips, thighs, and legs.
If you happen to develop this sciatic nerve paralysis during your service, you might be eligible for some disability benefits.
Now, when the VA’s checking out your sciatic nerve situation, they’ll dig into your medical records, run some tests, and get a report from the VA examiner who conducted your C&P exam. It’s all about figuring out how your condition affects you.
Once they’ve got the full picture, they’ll give you a disability rating, and that rating can range from 0% to 100% in 10% steps.
- 0% to 10%: If your sciatic nerve is acting up but it’s not causing too much trouble, you might land in this range.
- 20% to 40%: If things are getting a bit more serious and it’s impacting your ability to work, you could end up with a rating in this range.
- 50% to 100%: If it’s really putting the brakes on your life and making things super tough, you might get a rating in this range.
Don’t grin and bear it if you’re dealing with paralysis of the sciatic nerve from your service. The VA’s there to help, so reach out and see what’s available to you.
Scars, they tell a story of the battles we’ve fought, a badge of honor for many veterans. But sometimes, those scars can be more than just a reminder; they can cause real physical and emotional discomfort, making it hard to do your job and get through the day. If that’s the case for you, don’t hesitate to file a VA disability claim.
The ratings for scars follow the VA’s schedule of ratings for skin disabilities.
- 0% to 10%: Minor or superficial scarring with minimal functional impact.
- 20% to 40%: Moderate scarring with some functional limitations.
- 50% to 100%: Severe scarring with significant functional impairment.
Over a million veterans are already getting disability benefits for their scars, but most of them are rated at 0 to 10%. So, don’t tough it out alone if your scars are holding you back. Check in with the VA, see what they can do for you, and keep on pushing forward.
8. Limitation of Motion of the Ankle
Having trouble with your ankle motion? Well, you’re not alone. Limitation of motion in the ankle can be a real pain, making it tough to flex, extend, or rotate your foot. That can affect your walking, balance, and overall lower limb function.
If this ankle condition of yours happened during your time in service or got worse because of it, you might just be eligible for some VA benefits. To get those benefits, you’ll need to show the VA that there’s a connection between your ankle woes and your military service.
Now, when it comes to rating the limitation of motion in your ankle, the VA’s got their system. They’ll take a close look at how much your ankle’s acting up and how it’s affecting your ability to function. Here’s the breakdown of those ratings:
- 0% to 10%: If the ankle is giving you mild trouble, you might end up with a rating in this range.
- 20% to 40%: If the ankle is acting up a bit more and putting some limitations on you, you could land a rating in this range.
- 50% to 100%: If the ankle is putting some major restrictions on your life and work, you might just get a rating in this range.
Remember, the specific rating they give you depends on how bad the limitation is, how much pain you’re dealing with, and how it’s affecting your day-to-day activities and work.
So, don’t let that ankle hold you back. If it’s linked to your service, go ahead and file that claim, and let the VA help you get back on your feet.
The Bilateral Factor
The Bilateral Factor is an extra 10% that is added to a veteran’s ratings when they have conditions that impair both arms or both legs. The rating bump recognizes that having limited or no mobility in both arms or both legs is a more significant setback than injuries that only affect one limb.
Try out our 2023 VA Disability Calculator to figure out if you qualify for the bilateral factor, and how it could increase your disability payments.
9. Limitation of Motion of the Arm
Similar to limitation of motion of the ankle, limited arm mobility can be a result of various things, like injuries, fractures, arthritis, and more. Basically, anything that restricts your arm’s ability to raise, extend, or rotate properly.
Now, just like with the ankle, the VA’s got some guidelines for rating arm limitation, and it’s pretty similar. To get those benefits, you’ll need to show that your arm’s condition is related to your military service or got worse because of it.
They’ll take a good look at how bad the limitation is and how it’s affecting your day-to-day life. Then, they’ll give you one of the ratings below:
- 0% to 10%: If the limitation is only mild and not giving you too much trouble, you might end up with a rating in this range.
- 20% to 40%: If the limitation is a bit more serious and causing you some functional limitations, you could land a rating in this range.
- 50% to 100%: If the limitation is causing significant impairment, you might just get a rating in this range.
So, whether it’s your ankle or your arm, if it’s impacting your work and daily life and it’s connected to your service, go ahead and file that VA disability claim.
Migraines are no joke, and if you’re dealing with them because of your service, you might be eligible for disability benefits from the VA. But first things first, you’ve got to establish that service connection – show them that these migraines are linked to your time in the military or got worse because of it.
Now, when it comes to rating these head-splitting episodes, the VA takes into account how often they happen and how intense they are. And trust me, they’ll dig deep into the medical evidence – checking out your records, running some tests, and getting input from the VA examiner.
Here’s how the ratings work:
- 10%: When those migraines start showing up more often and impacting your daily activities, you could get a 10% rating.
- 30%: If they’re coming at you frequently and hitting hard, causing significant issues in your life, you might score a 30% rating.
- 50%: And if these migraines are making your life a living nightmare, showing up regularly and leaving you completely drained, a 50% rating might be in your cards.
Now, to get those benefits, you’ll need to go through a thorough evaluation by a VA healthcare provider. They’ll want to know all the details – how often these migraines are happening, how long they last, and how much they’re affecting your daily grind.
So, get yourself that proper evaluation, file that claim, and make sure to back it up with all the necessary evidence.
11. Diabetes Mellitus
You won’t usually see diabetes mellitus on those “top ten” lists of common VA disability claims. But for Vietnam-era veterans, it’s a frequent visitor, and we’ve got Agent Orange Exposure to thank for that.
You see, diabetes mellitus is an Agent Orange presumptive condition. Now, what does that mean? Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, a number of medical conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, were recognized as being linked to exposure to Agent Orange. So, if you served in Vietnam or in other places where they sprayed the toxic herbicide to clear foliage, and you developed diabetes mellitus, the VA automatically presumes it’s connected to your military service. That means you don’t have to play detective and try to prove a direct link – the VA’s got your back on this one.
To get Agent Orange-related benefits, you need to have your diabetes properly diagnosed and documented in your medical records. The VA’s all about paperwork, you know how it is.
Now, keep in mind that Agent Orange regulations and policies are subject to frequent change. The PACT Act of 2022 brought in some new benefits and extended existing ones to veterans who served outside of the Vietnamese mainland. So, stay in the loop and stay informed about the latest Agent Orange compensation news.
Get Professional Help with Your VA Disability Claim
The Rep for Vets is a national veterans advocacy firm with a local presence in all 50 states and U.S. territories, our job is to fix the VA’s mistakes and make sure you’re getting all the back pay and benefits to which you are entitled. We represent veterans in Clear and Unmistakable Errors claims, Agent Orange claims, PTSD claims, and much more.
If you’re ready to get the benefits you deserve, whether that means appealing a rejected claim or reopening a claim because your conditions have worsened, we’re here to help. Give us a call at (888) 573-7838 for a free consultation, or click the button below to fill out a form and get the ball rolling. We look forward to learning about your unique situation and helping out in any way we can.