If you have an elbow or forearm injury from your time in the service, you can learn about the veterans’ disability ratings for these injuries and apply for disability. VA ratings can seem complex; however, we are going to break them down so that you can get an idea of what type of rating you should receive.
In this article about elbow and arm VA disability benefits:
- What Type of Elbow and Forearm Injuries Qualify for a VA Rating?
- How to Get a VA Disability Rating for Elbow and Forearm Injuries
- How VA Ratings for Hand and Forearm Injuries Are Assigned
- VA Ratings for Loss of Use or Elbow Amputation
- VA Ratings for Limited Elbow Range of Motion
- VA Ratings for Elbow Replacement
- VA Ratings for Limited Range of Motion in the Forearm
- VA Ratings for Excessive Motion or Instability
- VA Ratings for Damage to the Elbow and Forearm Bones
- VA Ratings for Pain Resulting From Motion of the Arm
- Bilateral Ratings for Arms and Elbows
- Convalescent Ratings
- Additional Ratings For Limited or Impaired Finger Motion
- Do You Need Help Getting VA Compensation?
What Type of Elbow and Forearm Injuries Qualify for a VA Rating?
Most injuries to the elbow and forearm, as well as elbow and forearm diseases and conditions (such as cancer), qualify for a VA disability rating. However, for a rating to be assigned, veterans must be able to establish a service connection.
Elbow and forearm injuries do not need to have been inflicted during combat to receive a rating. Non-combat injuries that have a service connection are also compensatable.
In short, if your elbow or forearm was injured out of combat, do not feel that you are not worthy of compensation.
Here is a video of one of our VA disability lawyers talking about various non-combat PTSD veterans’ disabilities.
How to Get a VA Disability Rating for Elbow and Forearm Injuries
To grant a VA disability rating, the VA needs to conduct a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam.
However, before the VA schedules a C&P exam for elbow or forearm injuries, you will need to provide a medical nexus letter. This is because forearm and elbow injuries and conditions are not considered to be presumptive service-connected disabilities.
Certain conditions (such as malaria if you have served in a malaria area) are presumed automatically to be service-connected.
But because elbow and forearm injuries can easily occur outside of service as well, you need to establish proof that the injury occurred during your service years.
How to Get a Medical Nexus Letter
To get a medical nexus letter, you will need to visit a doctor or specialist. After examining your injury or disability, they may be able to ascertain that it is service-related.
If so, the doctor or specialist will then need to write a letter that shows medical nexus between your injury/disability and your time in service. If the VA is satisfied with the nexus they will then schedule a C&P exam.
To increase your chance of success, veterans may choose to seek multiple nexus letters from different specialists.
One of our VA disability lawyers talks about the importance of the nexus letter for your VA disability claim.
Going to your C&P Exam for Your Elbow
The thing to remember about your C&P exam is that you aren’t there for treatment. The doctor or specialist may refer you to another doctor on another day or give you some advice, but the main purpose of a C&P exam is to diagnose and rate your disabilities. They will determine your pain levels, ability to conduct a normal life, and your range of motion in your joints and back.
Do not expect to get any prescriptions or medical care at your C&P exam. It is extremely important for your long-term care and disability, but isn’t designed to relieve your problems.
Here are tips on how to have the best C&)P Exam.
How VA Ratings for Hand and Forearm Injuries Are Assigned
During the C&P examination, a VA doctor will also examine your injury and ascertain what level of disability it is causing.
To do this, the VA doctor will assign you a disability rating. The disability rating will dictate the rate of compensation you receive for the injury/impairment.
Take note that a veteran can receive more than one disability rating if multiple injuries, conditions, or disabilities are present. Let’s take a look at some of the different forearm and elbow injuries and their VA ratings.
VA Ratings for Loss of Use or Elbow Amputation
Apart from amputation, one of the typical causes of loss of use of the arm is if the elbow joint is frozen in place.
Under the VA codes, if the elbow is frozen in place, it is rated according to the angle at which it is frozen.
If the arm is frozen at an angle of 50 degrees or less (0 degrees is when the arm hangs straight down), a 60% disability rating is assigned for the dominant arm. If the arm is frozen and the hand cannot be turned up or down, this is also given a 60% rating. For non-dominant arms, the rating is reduced to 50%.
Additionally, if there is hyperpronation or supination present, this incurs a further rating. Hyperpronation happens when the hand is turned downwards and outwards. Supination refers to when the hand is stuck facing upwards.
Frozen arms with a hand that is in hyperpronation or supination are given ratings of 40% if it is the dominant arm. If it is the non-dominant arm, the rating is 30%.
If the hand is in full pronation, the rating for a dominant arm is 30% and 20% for the non-dominant arm. Arms that are frozen at an angle of pronation of 0 degrees to 40 degrees are awarded ratings of 20%. This applies to either arm, both dominant or non-dominant.
When it comes to amputations, the VA adjusts their rating by whether the amputation is above the “insertion of the pronator teres” or below. The pronator teres is one of the main muscles of the forearm. It runs from the above the elbow joint down across the forearm and ends just over midway to the wrist. This point is the insertion of the pronator teres.
If a veteran’s arm has been amputated above this point, the VA assigns a rating of 80% for the dominant hand. If the non-dominant hand has been amputated, the rating is 70%.
If the amputation is closer to the wrist, below the insertion of the pronator, it is given a disability rating of 70% on the dominant hand. If the non-dominant hand has been amputated, the rating is 60%.
If you have not had an amputation, but cannot use your hand in any way, the VA will give you a rating of 70% for your dominant hand. A 60% rating will be assigned if it is your non-dominant hand.
VA Ratings for Limited Elbow Range of Motion
If your elbow is not frozen in place, but there is a limited elbow range of motion, the VA will assign the following ratings under codes 5206, 5207, and 5208. These are determined by what range of motion is present.
The VA ratings in relation to the range of motion are:
- The arm can only straighten to 110 degrees: 50% for dominant, 40% for non-dominant
- The arm can straighten to 100 degrees: 40% for dominant, 30% for non-dominant
- The arm can straighten to 90 degrees: 30% for dominant, 20% for non-dominant
- The arm can straighten to 75 degrees: 20% for both dominant and non-dominant arms
- The arm can straighten to 45 degrees: 10% for either arm, dominant or non-dominant
If the arm can extend to between 0 and 45 degrees, this is assigned a 0% rating.
This means that if your arm can extend almost all the way (0 degrees is hanging down straight), the rating will likely be 0%. Take note that 0% ratings can still help, if you need to seek Special Monthly Compensation.
VA Ratings for Elbow Replacement
In the event that your elbow had to be replaced, you will also be able to get a VA disability rating.
Under code 5052, veterans can receive a 100% compensation rate for one year after having an elbow joint replaced with a prosthesis. After this, the VA will re-evaluate the level of disability and assign a permanent disability rating.
If severe pain and/or weakness is present, the VA rating is 50% for the dominant arm. For the non-dominant arm, the rating is 40%.
If pain is not severe but limits the range of motion, this will also be awarded a disability rating. The rating assigned will depend on how much motion is restricted.
The lowest rating for an elbow replacement that the VA will assign is 30% for the dominant arm. For the non-dominant arm, it is 20%. This is irrespective of the amount of motion the arm has.
VA Ratings for Limited Range of Motion in the Forearm
Before we look at the ratings for this, let’s quickly explain what “range of motion in the forearm” means. This refers to the forearm’s ability to turn the palm of the hand up or down.
VA code 5213 stipulates that if the forearm is incapable of turning the hand upwards by more than 30 degrees, a 10% rating is assigned to either arm.
To explain this visually, 30 degrees would be halfway between holding one’s hand upright (like giving a thumbs-up) and holding the palm facing up.
The code also states that if the forearm cannot turn the palm upwards by more than 0 degrees, this will be rated at 30% disability on the dominant hand. If the non-dominant hand is affected, the rating is 20%.
In this case, 0 degrees is when then the hand is held upright with the palm facing sideways(or inwards, with your thumb facing up in the air).
If the forearm can’t turn the palm more than 40 degrees downwards, a rating of 20% is assigned for both arms.
VA Ratings for Excessive Motion or Instability
In some cases, injuries can cause excessive motion or instability within the elbow. If this has occurred, the VA rates the injury at 60% for the dominant arm. For the non-dominant arm, the rating is 50%.
VA code 5210 also states that if a break to the radius or ulna bone fails to heal, and the result is unreliable and unwanted motion in the joint, this will receive a rating of 50% for the dominant arm. For the non-dominant arm, the rating is 40%.
VA Ratings for Damage to the Elbow and Forearm Bones
If you have suffered damage to the elbow and/or forearm bones that are not healing, the VA will assign varying ratings depending on which bones have been affected.
These ratings range from 10% to 40%. Influencing factors to the rating assigned include whether deformity and bone loss have occurred. Symptoms such as excess motion and limited range of motion may also be rated under the above codes.
This video explains veterans disability claims for rheumatoid arthritis, which might be a better rating for pain in your elbows or wrists.
VA Ratings for Pain Resulting From Motion of the Arm
If you aren’t experiencing any of the above issues but suffer from forearm bone pain when you move your arm, the VA will award you a rating for this. If there is a military connection, the VA must assign you the minimum rating of 10% disability.
For example, if you are wondering what the tennis elbow VA disability rating is, it would probably fall under this.
Also, take note that not all painful symptoms in the arm are covered by the above codes. Some issues, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are evaluated differently if they are nerve-related. Anytime two ratings could be assigned to the same symptom, the VA is required to give you the higher rating.
One of our VA disability lawyer talks abou thow the Bilateral Factor works.
Bilateral Ratings for Arms and Elbows
If you suffer from a disability in both arms, you may be able to get a bilateral disability rating in addition to the disability rating for each arm.
This is because the VA recognizes that having impairment in both arms (or both legs) creates an added disability because you don’t have the second spare arm or leg to fall back on.
Bilateral disability ratings are calculated at 10% of the combined disability rating for both limbs. If you use our VA disability ratings calculator, it will automatically detect and add the bilateral factor in for you.
If an injury to the elbow or forearm requires intensive care, the VA will assign a 100% rating during these periods. This includes hospital stays and periods where an at-home nurse is required.
After the extensive care period ends, the 100% rating continues, generally, for three months. For certain stipulated conditions it is extended for longer. Once the predetermined time is up, the VA will assign a permanent disability rating.
What is the difference between 100% and Permanent Disability Ratings? We explain in this video.
Additional Ratings For Limited or Impaired Finger Motion
If an injury to your forearm or elbow is has resulted in more than one finger having a limited range of motion, this can be compensated separately from the elbow or forearm injury.
However, the combined ratings cannot add up to more than a 70% disability rating for the dominant hand. For the non-dominant hand, they cannot total more than 60%.
Answers to veterans’ common questions about VA disability.
Do You Need Help Getting VA Compensation?
Something like a limited elbow range of motion can have a large impact on your life and your ability to carry out daily activities.
If you are living with the effects of an injury to the elbow or forearm, and need to get compensation, we can help.
Our team assists veterans from all over the country to gain fair compensation for their service disabilities. We help you navigate the VA channels, and fight on your behalf to make sure that you get the right rating for your impairment. This is done through a proven process that ensures nobody falls through the cracks.
What’s more, we only charge if we win. If we lose, our services are 100% free.
It depends very specifically on what the doctors can see with your elbow. Depending on how much of your hand is lost, your rating might be close to 100% already. Or if you can’t work, you may be able to get TDIU, which is the same amount of money as 100% disability without the full rating.
You can, as long as we can service-connect it to your time in the service instead of old age or your career in minor league baseball. Give us a call and we’ll go over your file to see if you have a case for free.