VA Disability Rating for Scoliosis in Veterans

VA Disability Rating for Scoliosis in Veterans

Scoliosis is a potentially serious medical condition that millions of people experience each year. However, not everyone is born with scoliosis; some individuals develop it because of their work. Thousands of Veterans have minor to severe scoliosis and related side effects.

If your scoliosis arose because of your work or a specific incident in the military, you could be eligible for disability compensation and other benefits. Today, let’s discuss the VA disability rating for scoliosis in Veterans and related topics. 

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a spinal condition that causes your spine to twist or curve irregularly. Depending on the details of your scoliosis, you may have a curve in your spine so it looks roughly like the letters S or C, although the severity of the curve can vary.

Although many people believe scoliosis is caused or worsened by poor posture or by performing certain activities repeatedly, this is not true. Scoliosis is often diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood and is not necessarily preventable.

There are multiple types of scoliosis:

  • Congenital scoliosis, which is caused by malformation of one or more vertebrae in any part of the spine
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis, which is scoliosis secondary to other muscular or neurological conditions, such as spinal cord trauma, spinal muscular atrophy, or cerebral palsy
  • Idiopathic scoliosis, which usually begins during adolescence

Regardless of the type of scoliosis, sufferers may encounter or experience common symptoms. These include uneven posture, having each side of the rib cage at a different height, changes in the skin, back pain, and a limited range of motion. 

In the worst cases, scoliosis may also make breathing difficult because it limits how much room the chest has to expand during inhalation.

Can You Get Service Connection for Scoliosis?

As detailed above, scoliosis can be caused or worsened due by neurological or muscular diseases or injuries. If you are injured in the military and develop scoliosis as a result, you could receive service connection on a direct or secondary basis.

Direct service connection for scoliosis means a military incident or activity led to scoliosis symptoms. For example, if you are injured in an accident while in the military workplace, and your spine is damaged, then you develop scoliosis, you may receive direct service connection from the VA and appropriate disability benefits.

To expedite your claim, it can help to provide the VA a nexus letter from a licensed medical professional linking your current scoliosis with your in-service injury or event. However, if you cannot provide such a letter, the VA can schedule you for an exam with one of their medical professionals. 

A nexus letter is an official document from a doctor or therapist noting that a patient’s condition or symptoms are directly linked to their military service.

Can You Receive Secondary Service Connection for Scoliosis?

Secondary service connection is only awarded for conditions caused or aggravated by direct service-connected conditions.

For example, if you develop a neurological disorder because of exposure to Agent Orange or other chemicals in the military, you may receive direct service connection. If that neurological disorder leads to scoliosis, you could receive secondary service connection.

That’s because you would never have developed scoliosis had you not developed your direct service-connected condition in the first place. You can receive secondary service connection for a neurological disorder, a muscular disorder, a spine injury, or any other injury that leads to scoliosis symptoms.

Additionally, scoliosis has been linked to arthritis of the spine and spinal stenosis. If you have service connection for either of these disabilities, you can also receive secondary benefits for your scoliosis.

What Is the Scoliosis VA Rating for Disabilities?

The VA does not have a dedicated Diagnostic Code or rating code for scoliosis. However, you may receive a disability rating based on the VA’s rating code for lower back pain or intervertebral disc syndrome (IVDS).

Lower Back Pain Ratings

Depending on the severity of your lower back pain and your range of motion limitations, you could receive a disability rating of 0% to 100%:

  • 100% rating for unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine
  • 50% rating for unfavorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine
  • 40% rating for unfavorable ankylosis of the cervical spine or for certain range of motion limitations OR favorable ankylosis of the thoracolumbar spine
  • 30% and below ratings for flexibility limitations in any section of the spine, depending on severity

IVDS Ratings

Intervertebral disc syndrome (IVDS) is rated under Diagnostic Code 5243. This condition is characterized by the degeneration of the discs separating the vertebrae. It causes pain in the affected area and radiating into the limbs. Because back pain tends to ebb and flow, IVDS often causes incapacitating episodes during bad periods.

The VA defines an incapacitating episode as any period of acute pain and symptoms that require bed rest. 

If you receive a disability rating for IVDS, your rating may be:

  • 60% rating, if you have incapacitating episodes with a total duration of at least six weeks over the last year
  • 40% rating, if your incapacitating episodes last for at least four weeks but less than six weeks over the last year
  • 20% rating, if your incapacitating episodes last for at least two weeks for less than four weeks during the last year
  • 10% rating, if your incapacitating episodes last at least one week but less than two weeks during the last year

For both incapacitating episodes and limitation of motion ratings, the assigned percentage will depend on the evidence you collect and your displayed symptoms. 

When you contact Veterans law attorneys, they can help you gather the appropriate evidence for your claim and make sure you file your claim on time without any errors.

How Do Flare-Ups Affect Your Scoliosis Rating?

The VA also considers “flare-ups” when rating Veterans with scoliosis and other lower back pain conditions. If your flare-ups occur frequently enough, you may qualify for a higher rating than what your “normal” symptoms might suggest.

According to the VA, a flare-up is a temporary, sudden symptom increase. Many Veterans with scoliosis experience recurring flare-ups, which are unpredictable and can often arise without warning. They are characterized by intense pain and mobility loss, which may result in incapacitation.

If you have service connection for scoliosis or another back condition, and you report flare-ups to the VA, you could receive a higher disability rating. For instance, if you have a 10% disability rating normally for your scoliosis, but a flare-up limits your mobility or flexability, your disability rating may be increased based on the condition during flare-ups.

To compensate Veterans, the VA may assign a higher disability rating than the Veteran “should” receive on paper. The idea is to provide the Veteran with the compensation they need consistently since the VA cannot instantly increase the Veteran’s disability benefits each time they experience a flare-up.

Can You Get TDIU With Scoliosis?

Total disability individual unemployability (TDIU) is a unique Veteran disability status only awarded to Veterans whose symptoms prevent them from maintaining substantially gainful employment. If you qualify for TDIU, you could receive disability benefits as if your rating was at 100%, even if your combined rating does not reach 100%.

You can get TDIU with scoliosis. However, you can only do so in one of two ways:

  • You must have one condition at a minimum of 60% disability or two conditions that reach 70% disability combined (one of the two conditions has to be rated at 40% at least)
  • You can seek out an extraschedular rating, which is a rating higher than normal, given your condition’s standard ratings range. Extraschedular ratings are only awarded to Veterans whose conditions or symptoms are notably outside the ordinary – for example, if your scoliosis is so severe that it prevents you from getting up or moving around

You can get TDIU with your scoliosis if you already have a disability rating. But you may need to go through the appeals process. Contact Veterans law attorneys to know what this takes and to gain their assistance in gathering evidence to substantiate your claim.

Contact Berry Law

If you developed scoliosis because of your time in the military, you might qualify for compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. At Berry Law, our experienced attorneys are more than ready to take a look at your case and provide you with a wide range of assistance.

We can help you gather evidence to substantiate your claim, help you navigate through the appeals process, or provide other health depending on your needs. Contact us today to see exactly how we can assist.


Scoliosis | MedlinePlus

Intervertebral disc disorder (Concept Id: C0158252) | NCBI

38 CFR § 4.71a – Schedule of ratings – musculoskeletal system. | Cornell Law

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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