The Shoulder and Upper Arm
Shoulder and Upper Arm Overview
The VA awards disability compensation for each Shoulder and Upper Arm 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 shoulder and/or upper arm 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 Shoulder and Upper Arm with a few exceptions. If a nerve condition also exists in the Shoulder and Upper Arm, then that can be rated separately under one of the Upper Nerve codes since the Nervous System is separate and distinct. Other exceptions, if any, are noted in specific rating codes found on the Shoulder and Upper Arm Condition Ratings page.
Muscles do have their own rating system (see the Shoulder and Upper Arm Muscles page), but cannot be rated in addition to another musculoskeletal rating for the Shoulder and Upper Arm since they often result in similar symptoms (limitation of motion, etc.).
Shoulder and Upper Arm Ratings
The VASRD offers ratings for the following musculoskeletal conditions of the Shoulder and Upper Arm:
- Loss of Use/Amputation of the Shoulder
- Shoulder Replacements
- Limitation of Motion of the Shoulder and Upper Arm
- Shoulder Dislocation
- Injuries to the Humerus Bone
- Musculoskeletal Diseases
- Injuries to the Clavicle and Scapula Bones
In reality, the majority of Shoulder and Upper Arm 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 Shoulder and Upper Arm conditions that cause other forms of disability.
If a condition is not directly listed on the Shoulder and Upper Arm Condition Ratings page, it is rated under the 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 Shoulder and Upper Arm conditions, amputations or loss of use of the Shoulder and Upper Arm may also qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
How will the VA rate my shoulder condition?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate shoulder conditions based on how they affect the ability to use the shoulder and arm. Check out our Shoulder and Upper Arm Condition Ratings 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 torn tendon be rated?
Tendons are rated on how they affect the motion of the connected joint(s).
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.