VA Disability Ratings for Arthritis of the Knee (2023)

Written byBerry lawon October 3, 2022 atdisability assessments

Veterans may receive disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if they suffer from an illness or disability caused by their service.

Some veterans are unaware of what the VA covers, which can cause them to miss out on the benefits they deserve. And many veterans may not know that VA can cover arthritis that develops from their time in the service.

The central theses:

  • You will learn that the two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • You'll understand why the VA tends to overlook veteran arthritis claims.
  • You will learn that some risk factors can lead to the development of arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritisis the painful swelling of one or more joints. It can occur in several areas of the body, such as: the hands, knees, or back, and can worsen as a veteran ages.

Although there are many types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between the joints to break down, resulting in severe pain in a person's joints. People who work in strenuous conditions over a long period of time, such as B. Veterans can be prone to osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints directly.

Veterans are particularly at risk of developing osteoarthritis. Because much of their on-duty work involves active movement, joints can be put under significant stress over time.

Certain conditions may also put veterans at higher risk of developing arthritis, including age, family history, gender, obesity, and previous joint injuries. Symptoms can include:

(Video) VA Disability for Arthritis

  • stiffness
  • pain
  • redness
  • Limited freedom of movement
  • swelling

When arthritis symptoms go uncontrolled, veterans can feel pain and not know exactly what is causing it. This can significantly reduce their quality of life.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Physical exams

To better understand what type of arthritis you have, your VA doctor will first examine your joints for swelling, redness, and warmth. They will also want to see how much range of motion and flexibility you have in the affected joints and they will listen to your list of symptoms.

laboratory work

Laboratory tests can help determine the specific type of arthritis a veteran may have. For example, a blood test can help reveal the inflammatory markers characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.

Alternatively, arthrocentesis — obtaining a sample of synovial fluid by inserting a needle into the affected joint — can help doctors diagnose inflammation and even bacterial causes of arthritis.


Imaging can detect problems within the joint that other diagnostic methods cannot detect. To track the progression of your arthritis, your VA doctor may recommend regular X-rays to show cartilage loss, bone damage, and bone spurs.

Your doctor may also suggest a CT (computed tomography) scan, which combines X-rays taken from many different angles to create cross-sectional views of both the bones and surrounding soft tissues.

Likewise, they might recommend an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to get more detailed cross-sectional images of soft tissues like cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.

Finally, your VA doctor may recommend an ultrasound. This rapid and non-invasive technology uses high-frequency sound waves to provide images of soft tissue and cartilage near arthritic joints.

What are the treatments for arthritis?

When a veteran goes for arthritis treatment, they may be surprised by some of the different types of treatment.

Overall, there is hope that treating osteoarthritis will result in increased range of motion, reduced pain, and improved strength in the affected joints.

(Video) VA Disability for Knee Conditions & Pain

Drug treatments for arthritiscould include:

  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).This common category of drugs includes ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox). NSAIDs can cause side effects in higher doses, so they may be prescribed as a topical rub or cream instead of oral medications.
  • Corticosteroids.Steroid medications like prednisone help reduce inflammation and pain. They can also help slow joint damage, and they can be given in the form of a pill or an injection.
  • DMARDs (disease modifying anti-inflammatory drugs).These drugs can slow the progression of autoimmune arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) and help prevent permanent damage.
  • Creams, ointments, patches, gels and rubs.Topical medications can be obtained over the counter or by prescription. These medications are applied directly to the skin and may contain ingredients such as capsaicin (a pain reliever derived from capsicum), salicylates (aspirin-based pain relievers), menthol (a cooling agent), and lidocaine (a topical anesthetic).

Other treatment optionsmay include:

  • Relax
  • Operation
  • physical therapy
  • Hot and cold compresses
  • A practice
  • joint protection

It is not uncommon for a veteran suffering from arthritis to be prescribed a combination of specific treatments. Combining treatments helps maximize the likelihood of healing and improvement.

How does arthritis develop in the knee?

One of the most common joint areas that veterans develop arthritis in is theKnee. Arthritis in the knee can make everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and running extremely painful.

Many different knee conditions and injuries can cause knee pain, but here are some of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee:

  • Weakness that can cause the knee to buckle
  • swelling
  • pain
  • A popping of the knee when moving
  • stiffness

Unfortunately, arthritis in the knee gets worse over time. It usually occurs in veterans when strenuous activity on duty causes strain on their knee over time or when they suffer an injury that damages their knee.

Veterans with arthritis in the knee

Did you know thatmore than 1 in 3 veteransis diagnosed with arthritis? How about the fact that thesecond most common service-related disability in 2020was limited flexion of the knee a common symptom of arthritis?

If a veteran sustains an injury while on duty and later develops osteoarthritis in the knee, they may be eligible for benefits from the VA. Because of this, it's important that veterans report all injuries — including damage from repetitive stress on a joint — to authorities so they can be recorded.

A veteran with arthritis may receive either a 10 or 20 percent rating, depending on the specifics of their condition.

Unfortunately, it is common for the VA to overlook information or make mistakes in arthritis claims.

(Video) Osteoarthritis VA Disability Ratings: An Old Military Injury That You May Have Ignored Until Now

To make matters worse, some veterans may not report an injury at the time it occurs. Likewise, the full extent of an injury may not be known until years after it has occurred.

Service records and medical records are valuable evidence in making a claim. Failure to submit the correct claim may result in the VA denying the claim or giving a veteran a low disability rating.

Veterans need to make oneservice connectionbetween her arthritis and her time in the ministry. In order to have a service connection, there are three necessary components that a veteran's claim must demonstrate:

  1. A recent diagnosis of a veteran's arthritis
  2. Evidence of an event that caused the arthritis
  3. A medical nexus that connects the current diagnosis to the on-duty stressor

When a veteran visits a physician to establish the connection between the current diagnosis and the stressor on the job, the physician must use clear and concise language when writing his statement. Typically, this will be a statement stating that the veteran's arthritis was "at least as likely as not" to have been caused by his time on duty.

If a doctor does not use this style of wording and language in the application, the VA may deny the claim or award a low disability rating.

Appeal against a VA decision

The VA makes many mistakes each year when reviewing veterans' claims. These errors can cause them to award a low disability rating, resulting in low benefits for the veteran or a denial of the entire entitlement.

When either of these scenarios occurs, veterans can feel stressed and depressed. After all their hard work collecting evidence and writing a claim, it can feel like it's been for nothing.

Thankfully, veterans canappealany decision the VA makes by filing a supplemental claim or filing its case with the Veterans Claims Court of Appeals. An appeal may cause the VA to change its mind regarding the status of a veteran's current disability or illness, and it may even cause the VA to award more benefits and a higher disability rating.

Veterans who have decided to submit a supplemental application should act quickly. If they do not initiate the process within one year of receiving their initial decision, they will have to start the entire application process over again.

If a veteran is appealing a VA decision, they should consult an experienced attorney like Berry Law's. Our experience in helping veterans receive the benefits they deserve allows us to be effective in working with veterans on arthritis claims.

(Video) How Does The VA Rate My Arthritis Disability?

As veterans' claims professionals, we see many service members not knowing what the VA is looking for in their claim. This leads to easy, avoidable mistakes on the part of both the veteran and the VA.

All of this can be avoided by working with an experienced lawyer. Berry Law helps ensure that a veteran has all the necessary components to meet their entitlements so they have the best chance of receiving the benefits they deserve.


While arthritis can be a difficult condition, whether in the knee or elsewhere, veterans don't have to go through it alone. Veterans can get VA benefits for their arthritis, and the right law firm can help. For more information on veteran benefits and VA laws, see Berry Law'sWebsite.


Arthritis - Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

Arthritis - Diagnosis and Treatment | Mayo Clinic

Understanding Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment | WebMD

Arthritis and the Military |

Annual Performance Report: Fiscal Year 2020 | Administration of Veteran's Benefits

Arthritis in the knee: what you need to know | Medical news today

(Video) VA Claims: Arthritis Ratings Explained (Part 1)


What is the average VA disability rating for knee pain? ›

Limitation of Flexion of the Knee (Diagnostic Code 5260)

This refers to the range of motion a person has when their knee is moving towards the body. This is the most common knee problem eligible for VA disability benefits, with ratings that typically range from 10% to 30%.

What is the average VA disability rating for arthritis? ›

Degenerative arthritis, caused by overuse of the joints or an injury, is the most common form of arthritis in veterans and is rated under Diagnostic Code 5003. Veterans receive either a 10% or 20% rating depending on the severity of their symptoms and the number of joints affected.

What is maximum VA rating for knee? ›

The highest rating available for residuals of the total knee replacement is 60%. A 60% rating will be assigned when there is weakness and severe pain with motion.

How do you prove arthritis in VA? ›

How is a Service Connection Established for Arthritis? To establish a service connection for arthritis, a veteran must prove that the condition was a result of an event that occurred during service, such as an in-service injury or overuse of a joint during a service-related task that caused the condition to develop.

How hard is it to get disability for arthritis? ›

Qualifying for Disability with Arthritis

In order to qualify for disability benefits, your arthritis condition must be so severe that it prevents you from working, and it is expected to last for at least a year.

Can you prove arthritis? ›

Blood, Fluid and Tissue Tests

Blood tests are not needed to diagnose all types of arthritis, but they help to confirm or exclude some forms of inflammatory arthritis. Your doctor may also draw joint fluid or do a skin or muscle biopsy to help diagnose certain forms of arthritis.

What knee problems qualify for disability? ›

Three of the common types of knee disability are major dysfunction of a knee joint, reconstructive surgery or replacement of the knee joint, and amputation at the knee. Evidence to support these conditions may be physical, such as proof of an assistive device like a prosthetic leg, walker, or cane.

What is the VA rating for left knee osteoarthritis? ›

VAOPGCPREC 23-97 and 9-98. The RO has assigned separate disability ratings for the veteran's left knee disorder, 30 percent for instability and 10 percent for arthritis with limitation of motion. This combines to a 40 percent rating (see 38 C.F.R. § 4.25) for the overall left knee disability.

What determines if you have arthritis? ›

Doctors usually diagnose arthritis using the patient's medical history, physical examination, X-rays, and blood tests. It is possible to have more than one form of arthritis at the same time. There are many forms of arthritis, and diagnosing the specific type you have can help your doctor determine the best treatment.

What is the most approved disability? ›

What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.

Is osteoarthritis in the knee a disability? ›

Osteoarthritis is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Osteoarthritis can be debilitating, causing severe pain and mobility issues. Many joints can be affected by osteoarthritis, including the knee. Even tricompartmental osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis in the knee is a disability.

Is arthritis considered a permanent disability? ›

Yes, you can get disability for arthritis. However, in order for you to get disability for arthritis, your arthritis needs to be so severe that impacts your ability to work full time for at least year.

Does knee arthritis show up on xray? ›

Knee X-rays can show signs of everything from fractures to infections to arthritis. Knee X-rays are quick and painless procedures that will help your healthcare provider diagnose you properly.

What type of arthritis is in the knee? ›

Two common types of knee arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA is the most common type. It's a progressive condition that usually appears after midlife where the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. RA is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can occur at any age.

What are secondary conditions to knee pain? ›

Common Secondary Conditions to Knee Pain

Limitation of flexion or extension of the knee, which have diagnostic codes 5260 and 5261, respectively. Instability of the knee, diagnostic code 5257. Ankylosis of the knee, diagnostic code 5256. Total knee replacements, diagnostic code 5055.

Is arthritis in knees a disability? ›

Arthritis affects a person's overall function and mobility, which can result in activity and other limitations. It is a leading cause of work disability among US adults.

How do you prove arthritis is service connected? ›

How is a Service Connection Established for Arthritis? To establish a service connection for arthritis, a veteran must prove that the condition was a result of an event that occurred during service, such as an in-service injury or overuse of a joint during a service-related task that caused the condition to develop.

What is a C&P exam for knee pain? ›

During the C&P exam, you will have time to explain your knee injury and how your life has changed as a result of it. You can take this time to discuss flare-ups and episodes or spend time describing why the condition is service-connected.

What types of arthritis affect the knee? ›

Two common types of knee arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). OA is the most common type. It's a progressive condition that usually appears after midlife where the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. RA is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can occur at any age.


1. A Vet Might Get VA Disability Benefits for Knee Pain from a Variety of Different Conditions
2. Arthritis Pain May Qualify for VA Disability Benefits
(Hill and Ponton, P.A.)
3. The Truth About VA Disability Claims For Knee Problems
(Combat Craig)
4. Winning VA Disability for Knee Injuries
(Cuddigan Law)
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis VA Claims: How To Get The Highest Rating For Your Veterans Disability Benefits
6. 3 Ratings for 1 knee! #vadisabilitybenefits
(Hill and Ponton, P.A.)


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