Wrist pain can make everyday life more difficult. Although the wrist is a relatively small part of the body, it plays a big role in nearly every task you perform, including lifting, writing, and gripping objects.
Veterans commonly report experiencing wrist pain during and after service, likely as a result of military jobs. Repetitive use of the wrist joint and connecting bones could leave a veteran with significant loss of range of motion and ongoing pain.
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For veterans, filing a claim for a wrist pain VA rating could provide the compensation needed to get the right medical treatment for their disability, and to help with other expenses. This guide will help you understand what conditions can affect the wrist, how these wrist conditions are rated, and how the VA rates wrist pain without a diagnosis.
In this article about how the VA rates wrist pain:
- VA disability rating for wrist range of motion
- Ganglion cyst wrist VA disability rating
- VA disability rating for arthritis in the wrist
- VA disability rating for tendonitis in the wrist
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis VA disability
- Cubital tunnel VA rating
- Carpal tunnel VA rating
- Bilateral wrist pain VA disability
- TDIU for wrist pain
- How the VA-accredited attorneys at Woods and Woods can help
VA disability rating for wrist range of motion
When a veteran files for a VA wrist disability rating, the VA may evaluate their condition based on how difficult it is to move, twist, and bend their wrist to the fullest extent. This is referred to as “loss of range of motion.” Wrist pain and loss of range of motion are often closely related.
Loss of range of motion in the wrist can be rated under diagnostic codes 5214 and 5215.
Diagnostic code 5214 covers ankylosis, or immobility, of the wrist. Veterans who can move their wrist but without a healthy range of motion are rated under 5215.
In the ratings below, “major” refers to a veteran’s dominant wrist. This will typically be the hand a veteran writes with. Minor refers to the nondominant hand and wrist. Unfavorable ankylosis refers to a wrist being “stuck,” or frozen, in a flexed or extended position. Favorable ankylosis refers to the wrist being stuck in a neutral position.
|5214 Wrist, ankylosis of:||Major/Minor|
|Unfavorable, in any degree of palmar flexion, or with ulnar or radial deviation||50% / 40%|
|Any other position, except favorable||40% / 30%|
|Favorable in 20° to 30° dorsiflexion (palm down, bending wrist/hand upward toward the top of your forearm)||30% / 20%|
Extremely unfavorable ankylosis is rated as loss of use of hand under diagnostic code 5125.
|5215 Wrist, limitation of motion of:||Major/Minor|
|Dorsiflexion (palm down, bending wrist/hand upward toward the top of your forearm) less than 15°||10% / 10%|
|Palmar flexion (palm down, bending wrist/hand downward toward the underside of your forearm) limited in line with the forearm||10% / 10%|
Additionally, muscle injuries that affect range of motion in the wrist can be rated using diagnostic codes 5307 and 5308. These ratings are based on the severity of the functional loss of the wrist or fingers, as well as whether the veteran’s dominant hand is affected. Typically, a veteran’s dominant hand would be the hand they write with.
Ganglion cyst wrist VA disability rating
A ganglion cyst is a balloon-like cyst full of fluid that most commonly develops in the back of the wrist. Larger cysts look like a visible lump underneath the skin, while smaller ones may be undetectable. Most ganglions aren’t painful, but if it puts pressure on nearby nerves it could cause tingling, muscle weakness, and wrist pain that worsens with movement.
Ganglion cysts are not specifically listed in the VA’s disability rating system, but can be rated analogously using the diagnostic code that best describes the veteran’s condition, including diagnostic code 5215, for any pain and limitation of range of motion of the wrist.
VA disability rating for arthritis in the wrist
Arthritis in the wrist is characterized by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the wrist joint. Veterans that perform months or years of heavy lifting or repetitive wrist movement could be more at risk of developing the condition.
The VA rates different types of arthritis in the wrist based on an evaluation of how limited motion of the wrist is, if other joints are affected, and how painful it is to move.
The VA can also use diagnostic code 5214 and 5215 for arthritic pain and limited range of motion in the wrist, depending on the severity of the veteran’s condition.
VA disability rating for tendonitis in the wrist
Tendonitis in the wrist is caused by inflammation in the tendons that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bones in your hand.
Tendonitis could make it painful to make a fist, lift objects, or perform simple wrist movements, like turning a doorknob. Symptoms can include warmth at the joint, swelling, wrist pain, and stiffness.
Tendonitis in the wrist is rated based on pain and limitation of motion of the wrist. Under diagnostic codes 5214 or 5215, the minimum rating for tendonitis is 10%, but can be higher based on the severity of symptoms. If tendonitis affects your major (dominant) wrist, you could earn a higher rating.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis VA disability
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a common result of thumb and wrist overuse or wrist injury. When the tendons that run along the thumb side of the wrist are constricted, they’ll swell, which can cause pain and stiffness in the hand and wrist.
You’re likely to notice this condition more when you’re moving your thumb, turning your wrist, forming a fist, or lifting or grasping an object.
Like most other wrist conditions, the VA will look at the veteran’s range of motion and pain when assigning a De Quervain’s tenosynovitis VA rating.
Cubital tunnel VA rating
Cubital and carpal tunnel share many of the same symptoms, and are rated the same way, but stem from different nerves in the elbow and wrist.
Cubital tunnel syndrome affects the ulnar nerve, causing inflammation and irritation, which in turn cause pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, or aching in the wrist, elbow, and hand. Arthritis, bone spurs, and previous fractures or dislocations of the elbow can also cause cubital tunnel syndrome.
Cubital tunnel is rated using diagnostic code 8516. The rating assigned will depend on the severity of paralysis of the ulnar nerve, and whether or not the injury is unilateral or bilateral (affecting both hands and wrists). Ratings are also based on whether your cubital tunnel affects your dominant hand (“major”), or non-dominant hand, (“minor”).
Carpal tunnel VA rating
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when one of the major nerves in the hand, the median nerve, is pinched or compressed as it travels through the wrist. Carpal tunnel VA ratings depend on the severity of the paralysis of the median nerve and, like cubital tunnel, depends on whether or not the injury is unilateral or bilateral.
The criteria for carpal tunnel disability ratings can be found under the neurological conditions and convulsive disorders section of the Schedule of Ratings, under diagnostic code 8515. Ratings are also based on whether your carpal tunnel affects your dominant hand (“major”), or non-dominant hand, (“minor”).
Bilateral wrist pain VA disability
The bilateral factor is applied when a veteran’s condition affects both sides of the body. The bilateral factor exists because disabilities that affect both sides of the body are far more limiting than disabilities that affect just one side. If a veteran’s wrist pain and other service-connected issues affect both arms, they could be owed increased compensation through the bilateral factor.
VA disability lawyer Krystal Lechner said, “The purpose of the bilateral factor is to compensate veterans for additional disabilities and their restrictions and their ability to function in their everyday life. For example, if you have a veteran who has a right wrist disability that’s 30% disabling and a left elbow condition that’s 10% disabling, and then an unrelated condition such as tinnitus that’s 10% disabling, the bilateral factor is gonna be applied to those arm conditions, because you have conditions on both sides of the body. So you combine the right wrist and the left elbow, making a combined rating of 37% under the ratings table.”
The bilateral factor combines ratings for any disabilities on either side of the body, but also adds 10% of the value of this combined rating. Because VA math requires a veteran’s overall rating to be rounded, there are circumstances in which the bilateral factor could push a veteran to the next highest compensation level.
If you need help figuring out VA ratings with the bilateral factor, you can use our helpful VA disability ratings calculator.
TDIU for wrist pain
When a veteran’s symptoms from a service-connected disability make it impossible to keep a job, they may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).
This also applies to veterans with wrist conditions whose pain and other symptoms may make it difficult to work because:
- Writing and typing is uncomfortable
- Gripping a pen or pencil or phone is difficult
- You cannot easily perform tasks like lifting and moving objects
- Your pain causes sleep and concentration problems
TDIU pays at the same rate as a 100% disability rating, without the requirement of a 100% rating. To qualify for TDIU, a veteran must be able to show that their service-connected wrist pain or related wrist condition causes them to be unable to seek and hold substantially gainful employment.
Qualifying for TDIU typically requires you to have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at least 60% OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities, at least one disability ratable at 40% or more, with a combined rating of 70% or more.
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How the VA-accredited attorneys at Woods and Woods can help
The wrist pain you experience that resulted from military service should never leave you feeling helpless. The VA-accredited attorneys at Woods and Woods work with veterans seeking VA disability to ensure they receive the justice and benefits they deserve. The claims process can be lengthy and confusing, but our experienced attorneys are ready to help you when you need it. Give us a call for a free legal consultation today.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Wrist pain that causes functional loss justifies at least a minimum wrist pain VA rating even without a formal diagnosis or symptoms.
Service-connected wrist pain and wrist conditions may be rated using the bilateral factor if the veteran’s disability affects both arms. The bilateral factor takes the ratings from the veteran’s conditions on each side of the body and combines them, then adds 10% of the combined total.