The Hand Overview
The VA awards disability compensation for each Hand 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 Hand 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 Hand with a few exceptions. If a nerve condition also exists, 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 Hand Condition Ratings page.
Muscles do have their own rating system (see the Forearm and Hand Muscles page), but cannot be rated in addition to another musculoskeletal rating for the Hand since they often result in similar symptoms (limitation of motion, etc.).
The VASRD offers ratings for the following musculoskeletal conditions of the Hand:
- Loss of Use/Amputation of the Hand
- Amputation of the Fingers
- Loss of Use of the Fingers
- Limitation of Motion of the Fingers
- Musculoskeletal Diseases
Hand conditions could also be rated on limitation of motion of the Wrist if that is the main symptom that they cause.
If a condition is not directly listed, it is rated under the code that best describes it or its dominant symptom.
In addition to or instead of the standard disability compensation for Hand conditions, amputations or loss of use of the Hand may also qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
How will the VA rate my Hand condition?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate hand conditions based on the level of disability they cause. Check out our Hand Conditions Ratings page for the exact codes and ratings.
My 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. The only ways to prove service-connection after service is for the condition to either be a secondary condition or on the VA's Presumptive List.
Both of my hands have a condition. Can I get a rating for each?
Yes. The VA considers each limb a separate body part and so each can receive their own separate ratings. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as arthritis, which rates all the joints affected together if they do not individually qualify for a rating under limited motion. In the vast majority of cases, however, they are rated separately.
How do I apply to receive a rating for my condition?
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. The exact amount of monthly benefits depends on your Total Combined Rating.
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.