Military Neck for Veterans: A Simple Issue in Posture or a Disability

Military neck, also known as Cervical Kyphosis, is when one’s cervical spine is either curved towards the front or straight. But it should be towards the back normally. Many veterans suffer from this issue due to different activities in their service.

What many don’t know is that a veteran can get disability benefits for military neck. So, if you are a veteran with this problem, be sure to check whether it is service-related, and if so, let the VA know about it by filing a claim. There are also treatments for Cervical Kyphosis.

Let’s talk about this issue in more detail below and find out relevant information you should know.

Understanding Your Cervical Spine

The cervical spine is in your neck right under your skull, which allows the rotation of the head and supports it. It contains seven bones (known as vertebrae). This spine stays in place properly thanks to the connection of many ligaments and muscles. There are also discs between each vertebra that keep them from scraping each other.

Aside from supporting the head, it also holds many nerves regulating functions throughout the upper body, including breathing.

Is Military Neck a Disability?

For many people, whether military neck is a disability or not may depend on the severity of your condition. If it is only an issue in your posture, many may not count it as one. However, it is still a disability, so as a veteran with this issue, you must definitely give it importance.

As a disability, the VA obviously will provide sufficient compensation benefits to the veteran. The amount will depend on how bad the disability is. So, if it goes to the point that the neck feels harder to move, there is a sharp pain or frequent headaches, VA will apply a rating from 10% to 40%.

What Are the Symptoms of Military Neck?

Military neck is not so difficult to discern since the symptoms are obvious. Below are the symptoms that indicate you have this condition-

  • Headaches with a throbbing and pulsing sensation and are frequent.
  • Stinging or stabbing sharp pain in the lower neck
  • It may get hard to move your head from side to side, and the neck will feel stiff
  • Military neck may also lower the strength, reflexes, and sensation in one’s arms. So, if you lose grip strength or find it harder to lift things, along with some other symptoms here, that may be due to military neck
  • Incontinence
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The pain in the neck may also spread to your shoulder and arms, and it will be a burning pain.
  • Instability while walking

Even experiencing one of these symptoms may indicate military neck. So, if it happens to you, it is imperative to visit a doctor and check it up. And if your condition is service-related, let the VA know.

What Are the Causes of Military Neck in Veterans?

There can be many service-related causes of military neck in veterans. Usually, it happens because of long activities in certain postures. Let’s look at some of the common causes of military neck during service-

  • Military training, including high-intensity physical activities or carrying heavy equipment
  • Standing or sitting guard in one place and one position (often awkwardly) 
  • Carrying heavy loads, like military gear, heavy artillery, and other objects
  • Sitting in front of a computer for an extensive amount of time without taking rests or much muscle movement 
  • Sleeping in an awkward position
  • Too many repetitive movements involving the muscles close to the neck 
  • Finally, the reduction of disc space because of other disabilities like degenerative disc disease or Arthritis may also cause military neck

Aside from the above, the following conditions can cause Cervical Kyphosis-

  • Spine tumors
  • Spine surgery in the past
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (This disease is where the vertebrae fuse, causing stiffness in the neck)
  • Injury or trauma of the spine

If you have any of the above diseases because of your service and then it causes your military neck, you can file for it as a secondary service-connected disability. 

How VA Rates Military Neck?

Currently, there are four different ratings that a veteran can get on their military neck condition. It is 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40%. But before we explain the factors that define your ratings, you should learn about ROM first.

Range of Motion (ROM) percentage: It is a test that the VA runs on veterans with military necks or any conditions of the spine and back during the Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. This test, as its name suggests, VA will check the movement you can make at specific parts of your back and neck. They will also note whether you feel pain while moving a part or find it stiff and rigid to move any part. With that cleared and out of the way, let’s look at how the VA assigns different ratings on patients with Cervical Kyphosis.

Disability RatingCervical SpineRange of Motion (ROM)
10% ratingCan bend forward over 30° to not more than 40°Higher than 170° but is limited to 335°. Or,
Any localized tenderness or muscle spasm not causing abnormal spinal contour or vertebral body fracture where the veteran loses 50% or more of their height
20% ratingBend forward more over 15° but is limited to 30°Not more than 170°. Or,
Any guarding or muscle spasm causing abnormal spinal contour or gait. A stiff back, reversed lordosis, scoliosis, and abnormal kyphosis.
30% ratingFixed in place (0° at neutral) and favorable ankylosis of the whole cervical spine
40% ratingUnfavorable ankylosis of the whole cervical spine


It is not easy to collect the perfect evidence when filing a claim for your condition. The military neck is one of those disabilities that is even harder to prove to be service-related. Hence, it is better to collect a Nexus letter for it. We, in VA Disability Coach, can check the possible rating you will get on your Cervical Kyphosis.

Aside from the Nexus, any medical report from your private doctor, including x-rays or MRI scans and proof of your treatment during your service days, can be valuable evidence.