The Torso and Neck Muscles
Overview for Rating Torso and Neck Muscle Conditions
The VA awards disability compensation for injuries to the Torso and Neck Muscles that are service-connected. The DoD will also rate service-connected muscle injuries 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 Torso and Neck Muscles are divided into five groups for rating purposes:
- Group XIX includes the abdominal muscles
- Group XX includes the paraspinal muscles
- Group XXI includes the thoracic muscles
- Group XXII includes the muscles at the front and side of the neck
- Group XXIII includes the muscles at the back of the neck
Only a single rating can be given for each Torso and Neck Muscles 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 muscle conditions 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 a Torso and Neck Muscles condition 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 Torso and Neck Muscles page for the exact ratings for each severity for each muscle group.
How will the VA rate my Torso and Neck Muscles condition?
The VA uses the rules of the VASRD to rate conditions or the Torso and Neck Muscles based on how they affect the ability to use the muscles. Check out our Ratings of the Torso and Neck Muscles page for the exact codes and ratings.
Can I get VA Disability for neck muscle pain?
Yes, as long as the neck 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 Torso and Neck Muscles be rated on the Slight to Severe Scale?
The VA rates all conditions of the Torso and Neck Muscles 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.