The joint stiffness, pain, and limited mobility associated with arthritis can significantly impact a veteran’s day-to-day activities. Veterans with service-connected arthritis are entitled to VA disability benefits. Ratings are based on the severity of impairment.
How Arthritis Is Rated
Degenerative arthritis, caused by overuse of the joints or an injury, is the most common form of arthritis in veterans and is rated under Diagnostic Code 5003. Veterans receive either a 10% or 20% rating depending on the severity of their symptoms and the number of joints affected. A 20% rating requires that two or more major joints or two or more groups of minor joints have occasional incapacitating episodes. If only one joint or joint group is affected, you can receive a 10% rating if you have evidence of painful motion.
Rheumatoid arthritis is attributed to a malfunction of the immune system that attacks the membranes lining the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is rated under Diagnostic Code 5002. Ratings for rheumatoid arthritis are higher than those for degenerative arthritis. A rating of 100% is possible when the condition is totally incapacitating, while a rating of 60% will be given when a veteran has severely incapacitating episodes four or more times per year or experiences weight loss, anemia, and a decline in overall health that is related to their condition. Three or more incapacitating episodes per year result in a 40% rating, while two or more incapacitating episodes per year result in a 20% rating. It does not matter how many joints are affected.
Both degenerative arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are considered progressive illnesses. Veterans are encouraged to apply for benefits as soon as they have a diagnosis, even if they do not have severe symptoms at the time. It is easier to apply for an increased rating when needed than to establish a service connection after an extended period of time has passed.
TDIU and Arthritis
Arthritis can often affect a veteran’s ability to work, especially if they have only held jobs involving physical labor. Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits let a veteran receive payments at the same rate as someone who is 100% disabled. These benefits require a veteran to have at least one service-connected disability rated 60% or more disabling. If a veteran has two or more service-connected disabilities, one must be rated at 40% or more disabling, and they must have a combined rating of 70% or more.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
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