How The VA Rates Arthritis

Updated: March 31, 2020

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    How The VA Rates Arthritis Arthritis affects one out of every five Americans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America and most who suffer from the condition are working adults.

    The VA statistics in this area for veterans? One out of three vets suffers from arthritis. Half of those who report problems with the condition say it limits daily activities.

    Arthritis can be managed with a combination of clinical therapy, healthy lifestyle choices, and weight management. For those with the condition, how does the Department of Veterans Affairs rate arthritis?

    An important thing to note along these lines is the VA’s stance on arthritis as a condition. According to the VA official site, “Although the word arthritis actually means joint inflammation, the term is used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint and other connective tissue.”


    VA Arthritis Ratings

    The Department of Veterans Affairs does not assign a single disability rating for arthritis. Much depends on the nature and severity of the condition. What you read here is current at the time of this writing according to the VA, but disability percentage rating procedures, criteria, and amounts are always subject to change through legislation, VA policy, etc.

    Always consult the VA about your condition, possible rating percentages, and qualifying criteria.

    Condition

    Arthritis rheumatoid (atrophic) as an active process with “constitutional manifestations associated with active joint involvement, totally incapacitating

    VA Disability Rating

    100%


    Condition

    Arthritis rheumatoid (atrophic) as an active process with “less than criteria for 100% but with weight loss and anemia” productive of “severe impairment of health or severely incapacitating exacerbations occurring 4 or more times a year or a lesser number over prolonged periods.

    VA Disability Rating

    60%


    Condition

    Arthritis rheumatoid (atrophic) as an active process less than criteria for 100% but with weight loss and anemia with symptom combinations productive of definite impairment of health objectively supported by examination findings or incapacitating exacerbations occurring 3 or more times a year

    VA Disability Rating

    40%


    Condition

    Arthritis rheumatoid (atrophic) as an active process with “less than criteria for 100% but with weight loss and anemia” with one or two exacerbations a year in a well-established diagnosis.

    VA Disability Rating

    20%


    Condition

    Arthritis, degenerative (hypertrophic or osteoarthritis). The Department of Veterans Affairs says of this condition that, when established via X-rays, the VA disability rating will be made “on the basis of limitation of motion under the appropriate diagnostic codes for the specific joint or joints involved.

    But in cases where “the limitation of motion of the specific joint or joints involved is noncompensable under the appropriate diagnostic codes,” a rating of 10%  “is for application for each such major joint or group of minor joints affected by limitation of motion, to be combined, not added under diagnostic code 5003.”

    There are too many major and minor joint issues to comprehensively list here, but veterans should ask a VA representative about this type of VA rating and what the current percentages may be for the veteran’s specific medical issue related to joints, arthritis, etc.

    VA guidelines for this type of arthritis condition state that any diagnosed arthritis-related limited range of motion must “be objectively confirmed by findings such as swelling, muscle spasm, or satisfactory evidence of painful motion.” In cases where there is no limited motion, VA ratings are as follows:

    Condition

    Degenerative arthritis with X-ray evidence of involvement of two or more major joints or two or more minor joint groups, with occasional incapacitating exacerbations.

    VA Disability Rating

    20%


    Condition

    Degenerative arthritis with X-ray evidence of involvement of two or more major joints or two or more minor joint groups.

    VA Disability Rating

    10%


    Important Information On Combined Ratings For The Degenerative Arthritis Condition

    The VA policy in this area includes a prohibition on combining ratings. The VA official site states that 20% and 10% ratings mentioned above cannot be combined “with ratings based on limitation of motion”.


    Advice For Veterans Suffering From Arthritis

    • Consider using online and community-based physical-activity and arthritis-management programs.
    • Make regular appointments with a physical therapist. This can help manage functional limitations, stick with an exercise program designed to help with the condition, etc. You may also be able to get help with assistive devices that may be useful for arthritis sufferers.
    • There is evidence that “integrative health approaches” or certain kinds of reputable alternative therapies may be useful for those suffering from arthritis. The VA official site suggests that Yoga, tai chi and massage therapy could help in the right circumstances.
    • Stay up with current research and developments in arthritis care. The Department of VA has active arthritis research projects from lab studies to new medications and therapy programs. Learn more about ongoing VA arthritis research.

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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