The Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles
Overview for Rating Conditions of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles
The VA awards disability compensation for injuries to the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles that are service-connected. The DoD will also rate service-connected injuries of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles as long as they also make the service member Unfit for Duty. For Reservists, the injury must have occurred in the Line of Duty to qualify.
The Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles are divided into six groups for rating purposes:
- Group I includes the muscles that raise the arm forward
- Group II includes the muscles that lower the arm
- Group III includes the muscles that raise the arm to the side
- Group IV includes the muscles that rotate the arm
- Group V includes the muscles that flex the elbow
- Group VI includes the muscles that extend the elbow
Only a single rating can be given for each muscle group, regardless of the number of individual muscles damaged in the group. All symptoms for each group will be considered together and a single overall rating given for each group.
See the Combined Ratings for Muscle Injuries principle for other special circumstances that limit when muscle conditions can be rated.
All conditions of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles are either rated on the Slight to Severe Scale or on limited motion of the affected joints, whichever gives the higher rating, but a rating for both cannot be given unless a completely different condition causes the limited motion (see the Pyramiding Principle).
The Slight to Severe Scale
The severity of a disability of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles is decided by the presence of the cardinal signs and symptoms, the type of wound, and the effect of any scars. Not all muscle injuries are caused by external injuries, like a bullet wound, so it is important to remember that not all bullet points must be met in order for a wound to qualify for a severity. This scale paints a picture of the type of muscle damage that should be present for each severity. To determine the correct severity, choose the level that best describes the symptoms and level of disability caused by the injury.
The Cardinal Signs and Symptoms include:
- loss of power
- easily fatigued
- pain with fatigue
- lack of coordination
- decreased movement control
The Slight to Severe Scale
SLIGHT muscle disability:
- A simple wound without infection or debris (bits of bone, shrapnel, etc.).
- An easily treated wound with good healing and function.
- No Cardinal Signs and Symptoms.
- Small scar with no impairment of function.
MODERATE muscle disability:
- A through-and-through or deep penetrating wound without serious infection or debris.
- The regular presence of one or more of the Cardinal Signs and Symptoms.
- Small scars with some loss of muscle tone or substance. Some loss of power and a bit more easily fatigued.
MODERATELY SEVERE muscle disability:
- A through-and-through or deep penetrating wound with debris, prolonged infection, and the development of limiting scar tissue in the muscles.
- This wound would need hospitalization for treatment, have the constant presence of the Cardinal Signs and Symptoms, and would significantly interfere with the ability to work.
- Significant scars that stretch across one or more muscle groups. Loss of muscle substance and tone would be present, and there would be a definite decrease in function and use.
SEVERE muscle disability:
- A through-and-through or deep penetrating wound with shattered bones and lots of debris, prolonged infection, and seriously limiting scarring in the muscles.
- This wound would need lengthy hospitalization for treatment, have the constant and very serious presence of the Cardinal Signs and Symptoms, and a definite inability to work.
- Scars would be very large and jagged and would stretch across a large area. Serious loss of muscle substance and tone (even causing muscles to be flabby and weak) would cause significantly abnormal muscle function.
- Other evidence of severe disability could include X-ray evidence of foreign bodies in the muscles, skin attaching directly to the bone instead of the bone being covered by muscle, decreased response in the muscles to electric shocks, significant Atrophy, other muscle groups having to compensate for the injured muscle group, and atrophy of connected muscles not directly damaged.
- If the condition is an open comminuted fracture with muscle damage (if the wound is open, it will almost always have muscle damage unless it is strictly over a purely boney spot like the wrist), then it will be rated as severe damage to the muscles affected.
- A through-and-through muscle injury will be no less than moderate for each group of muscles damaged.
Check out The Ratings of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles page for the exact ratings for each severity for each Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles group.
How will the VA rate my shoulder muscle condition?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate conditions or the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles based on how they affect the ability to use the shoulder. Check out our Ratings of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles page for the exact codes and ratings.
Can I get VA Disability for shoulder pain?
Yes, as long as the shoulder pain is service-connected, you can qualify for VA Disability. It will be rated the minimum 10% unless there is limited motion that qualifies for a higher rating.
How will my shoulder muscle be rated on the Slight to Severe Scale?
The VA rates all conditions of the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles on either the Slight to Severe Scale or limited motion of the shoulder, whichever rating options gives the higher rating.
How to I apply to receive my benefits?
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.