Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition that affects a large number of veterans. Vets suffering from fibromyalgia caused or aggravated by their service may qualify for VA disability. The VA has also established a link between the condition and veterans who fought in the Gulf War, meaning these veterans may be eligible for a presumptive service connection for fibromyalgia.
In this article, we will explain how the VA rates fibromyalgia, how the condition may be service connected, and what veterans can do if their service-connected condition keeps them from holding down a job.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
In this VA benefits for fibromyalgia article:
- What is fibromyalgia?
- VA rating for fibromyalgia
- Service connecting fibromyalgia for VA disability
- Direct service connection for fibromyalgia
- Common conditions that are secondary to fibromyalgia
- Unemployability and fibromyalgia
- How our VA disability lawyers can help
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic pain and tenderness throughout the body or in multiple areas of the body. The pain may feel like aching, burning, or throbbing. Other symptoms include difficulty sleeping and consistent feelings of tiredness and weakness. Some veterans with fibromyalgia may also experience stiffness in their joints, sensitivity to stimuli like light and sound, stomach issues, and more.
The condition affects people of all ages and genders and has no known cure. The current treatment options available are to manage pain from the condition.
VA rating for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is rated by the VA under diagnostic code 5025, Fibromyalgia (fibrositis, primary fibromyalgia syndrome) at 10%, 20%, or 40% disabling. Although 40% is the highest VA rating you can receive for fibromyalgia on its own, many other ratable conditions may be connected to your service-connected fibromyalgia, which we will discuss later.
The VA rating criteria for fibromyalgia are as follows:
|Widespread musculoskeletal pain and tender points, with or without associated fatigue, sleep disturbance, stiffness, paresthesias, headache, irritable bowel symptoms, depression, anxiety, or Raynaud’s-like symptoms that are constant, or nearly so, and refractory to therapy||40%|
|With widespread musculoskeletal pain and tender points, with or without associated fatigue, sleep disturbance, stiffness, paresthesias, headache, irritable bowel symptoms, depression, anxiety, or Raynaud’s-like symptoms that are episodic, with exacerbations often precipitated by environmental or emotional stress or by overexertion, but that are present more than one-third of the time||20%|
|Widespread musculoskeletal pain and tender points, with or without associated fatigue, sleep disturbance, stiffness, paresthesias, headache, irritable bowel symptoms, depression, anxiety, or Raynaud’s-like symptoms that require continuous medication for control||10%|
For these VA ratings, “widespread pain” means pain that is felt on both the left and right sides of the body and above and below the waist. The pain should also be felt in both the spine, lower back, or the sternum as well as the arms or legs. Chronic pain focused in just one area of the body would typically be viewed and rated differently by the VA.
Service connecting fibromyalgia for VA disability
In order to receive a VA rating for fibromyalgia, you must be able to show your condition is service connected. There are several different ways your fibromyalgia could be connected to your time in the military.
Presumptive service connection for fibromyalgia
For veterans who served in specific theaters of operation, the VA has classified certain ailments and diseases as presumptively connected to the veteran’s service.
“[One] type of service connection available is presumptive service connection,” explained VA-certified disability benefits lawyer Cecilia Ton. “VA will grant presumptive service connection without requiring the veteran to submit evidence of nexus.” Here, a nexus means the medical link proving the condition was caused or aggravated by your service.
The VA has acknowledged there is a connection between fibromyalgia and veterans who served during the Gulf War era. Therefore, any Gulf War veteran who developed fibromyalgia while serving active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations between Aug. 2, 1990, and present day have a presumptive service connection to help support their claim.
Some VA publications and resources still state that fibromyalgia must manifest at at least 10% prior to Dec. 31, 2026 for Gulf War veterans to qualify for a presumptive condition. The PACT Act has voided these requirements.
Direct service connection for fibromyalgia
It is possible your fibromyalgia is directly connected to your service. Although the exact causes of fibromyalgia are not known, there are many cases where fibromyalgia is believed to be caused by injury, infection, or even stress. All three of these can be common parts of life while serving your country. A doctor may be able to help you establish how an incident or incidents during your service led you to develop fibromyalgia.
Other types of service connection for fibromyalgia
It is also possible your fibromyalgia can be service connected on a secondary basis or a basis of aggravation.
Fibromyalgia could be secondarily service connected due to post-traumatic dress disorder (PTSD), for example. If your PTSD is service-connected and can be shown as the reason you developed fibromyalgia, you could receive a VA rating and monthly compensation for both conditions. Other conditions that often lead to a fibromyalgia diagnosis include depression, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis in the spine). If you are service-connected for any of these conditions and have developed fibromyalgia, you may be able to receive compensation for fibromyalgia as a secondary condition.
You may also be eligible for VA disability if you had fibromyalgia before serving in the military, and your service made the condition worse, or “aggravated” it.
Common conditions that are secondary to fibromyalgia
Just as your fibromyalgia can be secondary to another service-connected condition, it’s possible your service-connected fibromyalgia has led you to develop other conditions secondary to it.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, and PTSD are more commonly found in veterans with fibromyalgia. If you have service-connected fibromyalgia and have developed one of these conditions as a result, you may be owed additional compensation from the VA.
Fibromyalgia and IBS
A link has been found between fibromyalgia and IBS, although the connection between the two is not yet fully understood. Approximately 70% of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia also have IBS. The conditions have overlapping symptoms, including trouble sleeping, pain that cannot be scientifically explained, and symptoms related to stress.
If you are a veteran with service-connected fibromyalgia that also has IBS, you may want to explore whether your IBS is connected.
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are two conditions that often co-occur. Like fibromyalgia and IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome share many of the same symptoms. These include sleep disturbances and widespread pain.
Veterans with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia who have also developed the other illness may be able to receive ratings from the VA for both conditions.
Fibromyalgia and PTSD
As previously mentioned, a connection has been found between PTSD and fibromyalgia. Veterans often have both conditions, and both conditions may be caused by stressful, traumatic incidents. The overall relationship between the two conditions is not well understood, but the symptoms of the two are very different.
It’s possible a health professional could help you show the same traumatic incident in service triggered either your PTSD, fibromyalgia, or both. You may be currently rated for one by the VA but not the other, and may be eligible for additional disability compensation.
Unemployability and fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can cause extreme physical discomfort that is difficult to manage for many veterans. It can also often co-occur with other conditions that may make daily activities like sleeping and socializing harder than usual.
Naturally, this may make holding down a job especially difficult. Veterans may find themselves unable to maintain substantially gainful employment if they are suffering from severe fibromyalgia symptoms. Veterans who cannot hold down work due to service-connected conditions can seek total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) from the VA.
Schedular TDIU requires at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher OR two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one disability rated at 40% or higher, with a combined rating of 70% or higher.
Because of this criteria, a 40% rating for fibromyalgia could be key in receiving individual unemployability. The average number of service-connected conditions is currently more than 5 per veteran. You may have another service-connected condition that is completely unrelated to your fibromyalgia, or you may also experience IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome, or another condition that commonly co-occurs with fibromyalgia that could help bring your overall rating to a 70% or higher.
“The firm got me to 70%, and I was happy. Individual unemployability was awarded to me and to this day I’m so grateful. My future is no longer bleak. These people work very hard for you.“
R.C., a Navy veteran in HawaiiFacebook review
How our VA disability lawyers can help
Our team of VA-certified lawyers, legal analysts, and case managers have helped thousands of veterans across the country receive individual unemployability. We are familiar with the VA’s sometimes confusing or frustrating processes, forms, and reasons for denying a claim. You fought for your country, now let us do the hard work. You won’t pay us unless we win your case. If we win, we only take a percentage of your back pay plus case expenses – we never touch your future monthly checks. Call us today for a free legal consultation and to see if we can take your case.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A veteran can not receive a 100% rating for fibromyalgia, but service-connected fibromyalgia may still make keeping a job difficult. You may have other service-connected conditions unrelated to your fibromyalgia, or you may also experience IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome, or another condition that commonly co-occurs with fibromyalgia which could qualify you for TDIU benefits.
The highest VA rating a veteran can receive for fibromyalgia is 40%.