Rotator cuff and other shoulder injuries may happen during military service or result from another service-related injury. If you can prove that your injury is related to your military service, you can receive a VA disability rating for shoulder rotator cuff tear.
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In this article about VA disability ratings for rotator cuff tears
You didn’t feel like you were necessarily doing anything strenuous or out of the ordinary, but now you can hardly lift or use your arm, and there’s pain radiating through your shoulder. You may have torn your rotator cuff. If the injury is connected to your military service, you can receive VA disability benefits. This post explains the VA disability rating for a shoulder rotator cuff tear and the VA rating for a shoulder labral tear.
What is a rotator cuff?
The shoulder is a “ball and socket” joint. A rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint.
The top of your upper arm bone (humerus) is the ball. The socket refers to a dish-like part of the shoulder blade (scapula) called the glenoid. This rotator cuff keeps the head of the humerus firmly within the glenoid.
These muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff not only keep your joints in place. They also allow you to raise and rotate your arm.
A rotator cuff injury can involve any of these parts. Rotator cuff injuries are more common in older people or those who perform repetitive overhead tasks or heavy lifting. These tasks create progressive wear and tear on the tendons causing damage over time.
Rotator cuff tears
Trauma can cause tears in the rotator cuff muscles or tendons. Military personnel often get rotator cuff tears from training activities or assigned job roles during service.
A tear in the tendons causes pain in the shoulder and limits the movement of the arm. Bursitis, which is an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac near your large joints, can also occur. It can cause a dull ache deep in the shoulder or sharp pain with movement. As the shoulder movement becomes more restricted, the arm gets weaker, making it difficult to reach forward or up to lift or pull.
Rotator cuff injuries have a significant impact on daily life. Many people have trouble sleeping due to pain. A limited range of motion or ability to lift also makes it difficult to perform regular tasks or work.
Doctors can treat torn rotator cuffs with physical therapy or, in extreme cases, surgery.
Torn rotator cuffs versus shoulder labral tears
A torn rotator cuff is a relatively common injury, but it’s not the only possible shoulder injury. Some people also experience a shoulder labral tear.
The labrum helps keep your shoulder joint in place. If it tears, you’ll feel shoulder pain, but you also may feel like your shoulder slips out of place when you move it in specific ways. Overuse or another injury typically causes a labrum tear.
A torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum feel a lot alike, but they aren’t the same injury. That feeling of instability in your shoulder is a key difference. Your shoulder feels loose and wobbly if you have a labral tear.
Repairing a shoulder labral tear requires surgery.
Service connecting a torn rotator cuff
To service connect a torn rotator cuff or another shoulder injury, you must receive a diagnosis and prove that an in-service event or injury caused it. Most often, rotator cuff tears occur during active duty. However, research shows that rotator cuff tears or other injuries will likely reoccur within six months of the original injury. So, tearing it once could quickly result in injuring it again.
You also may be able to secondarily connect a torn rotator cuff or other shoulder injuries if your muscles are weak because of another service-related injury (such as arthritis), and it causes the tear.
You will need to submit evidence showing the extent of the injury and your current level of disability. Supporting documents can include VA and private medical exam reports.
You must provide evidence that the condition is service-connected. In addition to the medical records described, other evidence can help with your claim. This includes lay statements, which are supporting statements from family members or friends, who have witnessed how your symptoms impact your life. You also may submit a buddy claim from a fellow service member who witnessed your injury occur.
VA rating for a torn rotator cuff
The VA uses diagnostic codes 5200 or 5201 in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities to determine your disability rating for a torn rotator cuff. The rating is based on your range of motion and whether your injury affects your dominant arm or non-dominant arm.
You can get a 20%, 30%, 40%, or 50% rating for a torn rotator cuff.
The VA might also use diagnostic code 5304 to assign the rating if the injury affects the shoulder muscles. The ratings are 0%, 10%, 20%, and 30% depending on severity and whether the injury is to your dominant or non-dominant arm.
You may even experience nerve issues, which could lead to a separate rating for a neurological condition.
Shoulder injuries are complex because they involve the joint, tendons, muscles, and bones. As you heal, you may be compensating for your injured shoulder by using other parts of your shoulder and arm that could lead to other problems.
It’s important to follow medical advice to help you heal properly and to avoid further injury.
The VA rating system for these conditions is just as complicated as the medical diagnosis. The VA disability lawyers at Woods and Woods know the right questions to ask and how to read your medical records to make sure you have the correct VA rating for your condition.
VA unemployability and shoulder injuries
The extent of your injury could affect your ability to continue working. Depending on your rating, you may qualify for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU), which pays the same monthly compensation as a 100% rating without a rating of 100%. TDIU isn’t always permanent, so you could receive it while you recover from a shoulder injury.
Woods and Woods can help
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans get the VA benefits they deserve. Call us for a free case evaluation to find out how we can help. If we take your case, you only pay if you win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, you can if you can prove that the injury is related to your military service.
The VA disability rating for a shoulder injury depends on the severity of the injury, how it impacts your daily life, and if it’s one or both shoulders that are injured. It can be rated at 0%, 20%, 30%, and 40% depending on the level of severity.