VA Disability Ratings for Back Pain

The disability ratings for back pain or any back condition range from 10% to 100% by VA. However, which exact rating you will get depends on many different aspects. But the first and foremost factor VA will check is the veteran’s range of motion (ROM).

It is pretty easy to get such injuries during your service time, leading to back pain. And any service-connected disability can get you VA benefits. The rule is that there must be proof that your conditions are service-related or secondary service-connected.


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What Makes You Eligible for VA Disability Benefits for Back Pain?

If the origin of your back condition has something to do with your service, it automatically makes you eligible for VA disability benefits. But, of course, it needs to be proven via appropriate evidence. Even if your range of motion is not limited, you may still get a 10% rating or higher if you feel back pain during movement.

Some of these proofs include-

  • Any relevant and credible reports that explain your condition’s relation to your service days.
  • Medical reports from VA or any private doctors.
  • Supporting letters from fellow veterans who served with you, your family, or your friends.

Note that whoever examined your condition and made your medical report must check your range of movements using a goniometer. VA won’t accept that result as valid or solid evidence if they haven’t.

Our experts at the VA Disability Coach use a goniometer to measure your ROM to ensure the success of your claim being accepted.

When they are examining your movement, make sure to stay honest about your movement. Let them know when there is pain right when you feel it. Likewise, don’t say you have pain when you don’t.

Unfavorable Ankylosis
Credit: Mayo Clinic

In the §4.46 code, it is specially mentioned how to accurately measure the range of motion in a patient using a goniometer. When measuring it, some people face the unfavorable ankylosis condition. It is when the spine, cervical spine, or thoracolumbar spine is fixed in either extension or flexion position whole.

The veteran may be facing any of the following in this case-

  • Difficulty breathing because of diaphragmatic respiration.
  • Dyspnea or dysphagia.
  • Struggle to walk properly because of poor line of sight.
  • Cervical dislocation or subluxation.
  • Struggle to chew or open mouth fully.
  • Neurological issues.

The position of any injury, scar, joint excursion, and other factors must be measured during an examination.

VA Rating for Back Pain

The table below showcases the VA disability rating for back conditions and pain.

Other than the above ratings, any kind of pain you feel on your back during any movement should give you a 10% rating. It is also the average VA rating for back conditions. Check out CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, for further details.

Additionally, if your back condition renders you unable to sustain any real job, you may be eligible for the Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit. Separated from the regular VA rating, you will get a compensation payment equal to the 100% VA rating with this benefit. But there are some eligibility factors to match.

Does VA Apply Separate Ratings for Back Pain?

VA doesn’t provide separate ratings for the same disability in similar organs. They may often overlap, and not all may be service-connected. There is a concept in the federal code named, Avoidance of Pyramiding that explains it.

You can still get a higher VA rating than usual for different parts of your disabilities. If you have an unfavorable ankylosis throughout your cervical spine, you may get a 40% rating even if you can move your parts properly.

VA Disabilities Secondary to Back Pain

A secondary condition is when one disability causes another. If a service-connected disease causes another, you will get ratings and benefits for both, despite the secondary illness not being directly service-connected. Radiculopathy is the most common secondary condition to back pain.

Radiculopathy- Radiculopathy is a condition in the nerve where the patient feels numbness, weakness, or pain in the nerves of the affected areas. Both neck conditions and lower back pain can cause radiculopathy. The former may affect the hand and shoulder, while the latter may reach the foot.

Final Note

Back pain can be severe and may impact your personal and work life greatly. You should submit your claim to the VA if you have a service-connected back condition to receive their benefits. It may feel like a hassle, but it is worth the effort.