The Knee and Lower Leg
Knee and Lower Leg Overview
The VA awards disability compensation for each Knee and Lower Leg condition that is service-connected. The DoD will also rate service-connected conditions as long as they also make the service member Unfit for Duty. For Reservists, the condition must have occurred in or resulted from an injury in the Line of Duty to qualify.
The Musculoskeletal System is vast and complex, consisting of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones. Thus, a single injury to the knee and/or lower leg can cause multiple issues. Because of this complexity, the VA simplified the rating system for musculoskeletal conditions to focus on the resulting disability from a condition or group of conditions existing in the same body part.
To honor the Pyramiding Principle, only a single rating can be given for conditions of the Knee and Lower Leg with a few exceptions. If a nerve condition also exists in the Knee and Lower Leg, then that can be rated separately under one of the Lower Nerve codes since the Nervous System is separate and distinct. Other exceptions, if any, are noted in specific rating codes found on the Knee and Lower Leg Condition Ratings page.
Muscles do have their own rating system (see the Foot and Lower Leg Muscles page), but cannot be rated in addition to another musculoskeletal rating for the Knee and Lower Leg since they often result in similar symptoms (limitation of motion, etc.).
Knee and Lower Leg Ratings
The VASRD offers ratings for the following musculoskeletal conditions of Knee and Lower Leg:
- Loss of Use/Amputation of the Knee and Lower Leg
- Knee Replacements
- Limitation of Motion of the Knee
- The Meniscus
- Too Much Motion or Dislocation (Instability)
- Musculoskeletal Diseases
- Injuries to the Bones of the Lower Leg
- Shortening of the Leg
In reality, the majority of Knee and Lower Leg conditions will be rated on limitation of motion since that is the most common symptom of these conditions that results in a measurable disability, but other rating options exist to rate the Knee and Lower Leg conditions that cause other forms of disability.
If a condition is not directly listed, it is rated under the Knee and Lower Leg code that best describes it or its dominant symptom (hint: the majority will be rated as limitation of motion).
In addition to or instead of the standard disability compensation for Knee and Lower Leg conditions, amputations or loss of use of the Knee and Lower Leg may also qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
How will the VA rate my knee or lower leg conditions?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate knee and lower leg conditions based on pain, limited motion, damage to the bones, diseases like arthritis, etc. Check out our Knee and Lower Leg Conditions Ratings page for the exact codes and ratings.
My knee condition wasn't diagnosed until after I was discharged. Can it qualify for VA disability?
The VA can only rate conditions that meet some type of service-connection requirement. For conditions diagnosed after service, the condition must either be a secondary condition caused by another service-connected condition, or it must be on the VA's Presumptive List.
Are my conditions eligible for a rating?
Your conditions are eligible to be rated by the VA if they are the result of your military service. You must be able to show proof of service-connection for each condition. For the DoD, they will rate your service-connected conditions as long as they also make you Unfit for Duty.
How do I apply to receive my ratings?
If you are still in the military, then you can request your military physician to refer you to the MEB and start the IDES process. If you are already a veteran, you can submit a VA Disability Claim along with evidence of service-connection and all medical records regarding the conditions on the claim.
If my claim is approved, what benefits will I receive?
If you are rated 20% or less from the DoD, then you will receive a single separation payment. If you are rated 30% or more, you will receive full retirement benefits. From the VA, you will receive a monthly payment as well as full medical care from the VA for the qualifying conditions.
How long does it take to receive my disability benefits?
Brand new claims usually take 3-6 months to process. Once processed, you will start receiving payments in 1-3 months.
How are the rating percentages assigned to my conditions?
The rules of the VA's Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) are used to assign rating percentages to conditions. The VASRD gives rating rules for conditions based on their symptoms, treatment options, and the resulting level of disability they cause.
My conditions have worsened. How do I increase my rating percentages?
If your conditions have worsened since you last applied and now qualify for a higher rating, you can submit a new claim, checking the box for an increased evaluation.