Many factors make up VA disability ratings. These factors include pain and discomfort, limitation of ability, and range of motion. In fact, range of motion is the primary factor the VA uses to rate back, knee, neck, and other injuries.
Learn how range of motion can impact your VA disability claim and how to gather the right evidence to prove your case. Let’s take a closer look at this topic in detail below.
In a nutshell, range of motion means the full range of normal or expected motions that a limb or body part can perform. Range of motion measurements are provided for different types of movement, such as bending forward (flexion) or bending backwards (extension).
Range of motion is important for the VA because it helps determine the full extent of a Veteran’s injuries and just how disabling their injuries may be. Range of motion is one of the easiest types of medical evidence you can show to prove your disability. Doctors can simply measure your range of motion and record that information as needed. Ratings for joints are provided based on range of motion measurements.
Like with many other VA benefits, the VA rates range of motion disabilities on a sliding scale. Generally, the lower your range of motion for an injured body part or limb, the higher your disability rating will be.
For example, a Veteran with a slight impairment to their back’s range of motion will receive a lower disability rating than a Veteran with a major impairment to their back’s range of motion to reflect the increased difficulty impairments impose on Veterans’ lives.
It’s much harder to go about your daily activities or hold down a job if you are unable to bend down, for example. But if your range of motion is only slightly affected, the VA assumes you can do most things yourself without major assistance and compensates you accordingly.
The VA rates range of motion differently for different areas of the body. Specifically, the VA examines ranges of motion for the cervical spine, or the neck and upper back, and the thoracolumbar spine or lower back. VA disability ratings can range from 0% up to 100% total disability depending on the severity of one’s range of motion injury.
Here is a breakdown of the ratings for both the cervical spine and the thoracolumbar spine ranges of motion according to the VA.
The VA rates ranges of motion for knee and leg injuries a little differently. Sometimes, a disability rating depends on the exact injury affecting a knee or leg, which also affects the minimum and maximum disability rating they may receive.
For instance, knee and leg injuries have eight different diagnostic codes in total for injuries such as cartilage removal, knee replacement, and limitation of flexion or extension.
Here’s a specific example of how the VA rates knee injuries that result in limitation of extension, diagnostic code 5261. The VA looks at ranges of motion, in addition to other factors, to determine the disability rating a Veteran may receive:
As you can see, a Veteran may receive a disability rating of 0% to 50% for limitation of extension specifically. Other knee injuries, such as knee replacements or issues with cartilage, could add to this total depending on injury specifics.
In addition to range of motion ratings for back, neck, knee, and leg injuries, the VA examines the ranges of motion for arms, hands, and other joints when assigning disability ratings to Veterans. As with the other injury types above, the exact disability rating one may receive depends on:
If you have suffered an injury impacting your range of motion for one or another body part, have your range of motion tested by a doctor. You’ll need that information when filing your disability claim.
In addition to regular limitations to your range of motion, you may experience injury or pain flareups, characterized as sudden and inconsistent reductions in range of motion or flexibility. Flareups can occur sporadically or for no apparent reason, or they may occur after you perform multiple repetitive motions with one or another disabled or injured body part.
If your range of motion is inconsistent or becomes limited at random times, it’s important to record this information with a doctor’s assistance. For example, you don’t want to visit the VA and get tested for your leg’s range of motion on a “good day,” which may result in you receiving a lower disability rating than you truly deserve.
Recording flareups and the impact of repetitive motions on your limbs/back can:
Speak to a lawyer or doctor about the possibility of variable musculoskeletal injury symptoms. It’s normal for musculoskeletal injuries to become better or worse throughout the day. But that shouldn’t impact the ultimate compensation you receive from the VA for your injuries.
The best way to make sure you get the right disability rating for your injuries is to contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys. Veterans law attorneys:
More than anything else, Veterans law attorneys can provide you with sound legal counsel and help you overturn rejected disability claims. If your first medical examination takes place on a day where you had lots of range of motion, your claim might be denied based on that exam’s results.
Knowledgeable lawyers can ensure that you get a second examination. That way, the VA gets a much clearer picture of your range of motion limitations and the symptoms of your injuries. With attorneys’ help, you’ll be much more likely to receive a fair disability rating for your chronic condition.
As you can see, range of motion impacts the total disability benefits you may receive from the VA. Whether you are filing your first disability benefits claim or need help appealing a VA decision, Berry Law can help.
As experienced Veterans law attorneys, we’re well-equipped and ready to assist with your upcoming disability claim and/or appeals process. We can collect evidence on your behalf, ensure that your range of motion is fully understood by the VA, and help you get the benefits you deserve.
Contact us today for more information and a free consultation.
38 CFR § 4.71a – Schedule of ratings – musculoskeletal system | Cornell.edu
Range of Motion – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Thoracolumbar spine trauma – Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice US
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