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August 9, 2022

10 Top VA Disability Claims Explained (2023 Edition)

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This post is the Definitive Guide to the 10 Top VA Disability Claims, utilizing the latest data from the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) report to Congress regarding the VA disability compensation program. 

VA disability compensation provides eligible veterans with a tax-free monetary benefit each month for service-connected disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during their active duty military service.

Disability compensation may also be paid for VA disabilities that are “secondary” to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities “presumed” to be related to circumstances of military service (e.g., burn pit exposure presumptive conditions), even though they may arise after the veteran has left active duty military service.

Top VA Disability Claims

2023 VA disability pay rates are determined by percentages for each service connected conditions according to a veteran’s combined VA disability rating, which is currently rated on a scale from 0% to 100%, with breaks in 10 percent increments at 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, and 90%.

For example, in 2023, a 10% VA disability rating is roughly $160 per month while a 100% VA rating is worth more than $3,500 per month.

Generally, the more severe a veteran’s disability symptoms in terms of Frequency, Severity, and Duration, to include the impairment to your work, life, and social functioning, the higher your monthly VA compensation will be.

However, some disabilities are more common VA claims than others, which is the focus of this post, so let’s jump into it!

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How to Get Your VA Disabilities Service Connected: 3 Required Elements

How to Get Your VA Disabilities Service Connected

To be eligible for VA disability benefits by law, a veteran must prove three criteria under the law:

  • #1. Medical Diagnosis of the disability condition in a medical record
  • #2. Medical Nexus Evidence between the diagnosed disability condition and the veteran’s active-duty military service (Direct Service ConnectionOR how the diagnosed disability condition is “proximately due to” or “aggravated by” another service-connected disability (Secondary Service Connection)
  • #3. Current Symptoms of the disability condition that negatively affect your work, life, or social functioning (“Severity of Symptoms”)

If you’ve ever been denied service connection, it’s most likely because you failed to prove a “Nexus” exists on an “at least as likely as not” basis.

We created a helpful flow chart we call the “VA Claims Insider Golden Circle” so you can better understand the required elements for service connection:

How to Get Your VA Claim Approved

Pro Tip: “Nexus” simply means “link” or “connection.” After claim submission, the VA will likely schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam from a VA contracted examiner to determine if there is a link or “Nexus” between your claimed disability condition and your military service. However, you can meet this requirement independently, and typically make a much stronger case for service connection, by having a private medical professional write a credible Nexus Letter in support of your claim.

List of the 10 Top VA Disability Claims This Year (2023)

List of 10 Top VA Disability Claims

According to the most recent VA report regarding the VA disability compensation program, the 10 most common VA disability claims to get approved are listed in order as follows, along with the total number of veterans receiving disability compensation for each condition:

Of these, Tinnitus is by far the #1 easiest VA disability claim to get approved, with a total of 2,500,581 veterans service connected for the condition.

In second place is Limitation of Flexion of the Knee with 1,474,667 veterans service connected, followed by Hearing Loss in third place with 1,377,713.

Okay, let’s dive into more detailed explanations as well as the VA rating criteria for each of the 10 Best VA Disability Claims of 2023!

#1. Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the easiest VA disability to claim

Tinnitus, otherwise known as “Ringing-in-the-Ear-Syndrome” is the #1 most common VA claim of 2023.

It is also the #1 overall easiest VA disability to claim.

Tinnitus is when you experience ringing, hissing, buzzing, or other noises in one or both of your ears.

The ringing in your ears isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people usually can’t hear it, which is a condition called “Subjective Tinnitus.”

The VA rates Tinnitus under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, Diagnostic Code (DC) 6260, Tinnitus, Recurrent.

The one and only VA Rating for Tinnitus is 10%.

There are no higher or lower ratings.

In total, 2,500,581 disabled veterans are service-connected for Tinnitus.

Pro Tip: There is no test for “Subjective” Tinnitus, which is the most common type of Tinnitus. Only you can hear Subjective Tinnitus, and you either have it or you don’t. Write a strong Statement in Support of a Claim for Tinnitus and explain the in-service event or injury that led to your ringing in the ear (e.g., worked on a flight line without property hearing protection).

#2. Limitation of Flexion, Knee 

Limitation of Flexion of the Knee is the second most common VA disability claim

Limitation of Flexion of the Knee is the #2 most common VA disability claim.

Knee pain is a common complaint that affects veterans of all ages.

Knee pain may be the result of an injury, such as a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage.

Other medical conditions, such as arthritis, gout, and infections can also cause knee pain.

The VA rates knee conditions under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 5257, Knee Impairment.

VA Ratings for Limitation of Flexion of the Knee range from 0 percent to 30 percent with interim breaks at 10 percent and 20 percent.

The highest schedular rating for limitation of flexion of the knee is 30%, which includes the following symptoms:

Recurrent subluxation or instability: Unrepaired or failed repair of complete ligament tear causing persistent instability, and a medical provider prescribes both an assistive device (e.g., cane(s), crutch(es), walker) and bracing for ambulation.

What are the VA disability ratings for Knee Pain?

If you have unfavorable ankylosis of the knee, it’s rated under DC 5256 instead, which has ratings of 30%, 40%, 50%, and 60% depending on the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms to include limitation of range of motion:

  • Extremely unfavorable knee ankylosis, with limitation of flexion at an angle of 45° or more is rated at 60%
  • Unfavorable knee ankylosis with limitation of flexion between 20° and 45° is rated at 50%
  • Knee ankylosis with limitation of flexion between 10° and 20° is rated at 40%
  • Favorable angle in full extension, or in slight flexion between 0° and 10° is rated at 30%

1,474,667 disabled veterans suffer from service connected knee pain.

Pro Tip: In accordance with the “Painful Motion” principle, if you have pain upon flexion or extension of your knee, the VA is required to award the minimum compensable rating for the condition, which is 10 percent.

#3. Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss is among the 10 top VA disability claims

Hearing Loss is the #3 top VA disability claim.

Hearing Loss is quite common in veterans and is defined by one of three types:

  • Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)
  • Sensorineural (involves inner ear)
  • Mixed (combination of the two)

Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises (e.g., aircraft flight lines, gun ranges, heavy equipment) most contribute to Hearing Loss.

The VA rates Hearing Loss under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 6100, Hearing Loss.

VA Ratings for Hearing Loss range from 0 percent to 100 percent, with breaks at 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, and 90 percent although the average VA rating for Hearing Loss is 10 percent, and many veterans have a 0 percent rating.

The highest scheduler rating for Hearing Loss is 100 percent, which means you have total deafness in both ears.

There are 1,377,713 disabled veterans service-connected for Hearing Loss.

Pro Tip: If you’ve been out of the military for more than 12 months, Hearing Loss is one of the most difficult claims to get service connected and rated above 0%. Get a Medical Nexus Letter to improve your odds of service connected Hearing Loss.

#4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is the most common VA mental health claim

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the #4 most common VA claim.

PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event, which the VA calls a “stressor event.”

Common symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression, or uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

The VA rates PTSD under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders, DC 9411, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

VA Disability Ratings for PTSD range from 0 percent to 100 percent with breaks at 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, and 70 percent.

The average VA rating for PTSD is 70%.

The highest scheduler rating for PTSD is 100 percent.

What is the PTSD VA rating scale?

100% VA Rating Criteria for PTSD: Total occupational and social impairment.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Gross impairment in thought processes or communication
  • Persistent delusions or hallucinations
  • Grossly inappropriate behavior
  • Persistent danger of hurting self or others
  • Intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene)
  • Disorientation to time or place
  • Memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name

70%: Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood.

Symptoms of the 70 percent VA rating for PTSD include but are not limited to:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Obsessive rituals which interfere with routine activities
  • Speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant
  • Near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively
  • Impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence)
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene
  • Difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting)
  • Inability to establish and maintain effective relationships

50%: Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity.

Symptoms of the 50 percent VA rating for PTSD include but are not limited to:

  • Flattened affect
  • Circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech
  • Panic attacks more than once a week
  • Difficulty in understanding complex commands
  • Impairment of short and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired abstract thinking
  • Disturbances of motivation and mood
  • Difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships

30%: Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal).

The 30 percent rating for PTSD has symptoms that include but are not limited to:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Suspiciousness
  • Panic attacks (weekly or less often)
  • Chronic sleep impairment
  • Mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)

10%: Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication.

The 10 percent VA rating for PTSD has very mild symptoms that only flare up during periods of high stress.

0%: A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.

The 0 percent PTSD rating has no symptoms or continues medication keeps your symptoms in-check.

According to the VA’s published statistics as of June 2022, 1,257,940 disabled veterans have a service-connected VA disability rating for PTSD.

Pro Tip: PTSD claims always have a stressor event. If you’re wondering if your PTSD stressor is strong enough, here’s a quick litmus test: Did you fear for your life? If yes, your stressor is good enough to get a service-connected PTSD rating.

#5. Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain

Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain is among the top 10 most common VA disability claims

Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain is neck pain, and it’s the #5 most claimed VA disability.

Neck pain is very common among veterans.

Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture, carrying heavy things, deployments, leaning over your computer, etc.

The VA rates Lumbosacral or Cervical Strain under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 5237.

VA Ratings for Neck Pain range from 10 percent to 100 percent, with breaks at 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent.

The highest scheduler rating for neck pain is 100 percent, which means your entire spine is frozen in an unfavorable position.

A total of 1,217,631 disabled veterans are rated for neck conditions.

Pro Tip: In accordance with the “Painful Motion” principle, if you have pain upon flexion or extension of your neck, the VA is required to award the minimum compensable rating for the condition, which is 10 percent.

#6. Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve 

Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve is one of the top 10 VA disability claims

Sciatica (paralysis of the sciatic nerve) is the #6 most often claimed and service-connected VA disability.

Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg.

Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve.

This causes inflammation and pain to include some numbness in the affected leg.

The VA rates Sciatica under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 8520, Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve.

VA Ratings for Sciatica fall between 10% and 80%, with breaks at 20%, 40%, and 60%.

The highest scheduler rating for Sciatica is 80%, which means you have complete paralysis of the sciatic nerve, your foot dangles and drops, you have no active movement of the muscles below the knee

What are the VA disability ratings for Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve?

  • 80%: Complete paralysis; the foot dangles and drops, no active movement possible of muscles below the knee, flexion of knee weakened or lost
  • 60%: Incomplete paralysis, severe with “marked muscular atrophy”
  • 40%: Incomplete paralysis, moderately severe
  • 20%: Incomplete paralysis, moderate
  • 10%: Incomplete paralysis, mild with flexion of knee weakened or (very rarely) lost.

In total, 1,149,565 disabled veterans have a service-connected VA disability rating for Sciatica.

Pro Tip: A Limitation of Range of Motion (ROM) test with a goniometer should be performed at your C&P exam for Sciatica. Make the doctor stop as soon as you feel pain!

#7. Scars, General 

Scars are one of the easiest things to claim for VA disability

Scars are the #7 most common VA disability claim.

Scars form as part of your body’s natural healing process.

Your body builds tissue to repair damaged skin and close gaps due to an injury.

Scars come in all shapes and sizes.

They can result from accidents, burns, surgery, acne, and illness.

The VA rates Scars under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 7801, 7802, and 7805.

VA Ratings for Scars vary between 10 percent and 80 percent, with breaks at 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent.

The highest scheduler rating for severe Scars is 80%.

If there is obvious significant tissue loss with severe distortion of three or more of the following: the eyes (and eyelids), ears, nose, mouth (and lips), chin, forehead, or cheeks, it is rated 80%. Two of the above is rated 50%. One of the above is rated 30%

However, the average VA rating for Scars is 10%.

According to VA statistics, 992,770 disabled veterans have a VA disability rating for Scars.

Pro Tip: Ever heard the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words?” Using VA.gov, you should upload pictures of your Scars for the C&P examiner and VA Rater. It’s the #1 best way to prove you have Scars and how much of your body they cover.

#8. Limitation of Range of Motion of the Ankle 

Limitation of Range of Motion of the Ankle is the eight most claimed VA disability

Limited Range of Motion of the Ankle is the #8 most common VA claim.

Your ankle is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, which is strong enough bear your body weight and enable you to move.

This also means your ankle can be prone to injury and pain, especially due to your military service.

Most often, the VA rates ankle conditions under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 5271, Ankle, Limited Motion.

VA Disability Ratings for Ankle limitation of range of motion and pain fall between 10 percent and 20 percent.

The highest schedular rating for ankle pain is 20%.

What are the VA ratings for Ankle Pain?

  • Marked limitation of range of motion of the ankle (less than 5 degrees dorsiflexion or less than 10 degrees plantar flexion) rate at 20%
  • Moderate limitation of range of motion of the ankle (less than 15 degrees dorsiflexion or less than 30 degrees plantar flexion) rate at 10%

840,514 disabled veterans are service-connected and rated for ankle disabilities.

Pro Tip: In accordance with the “Painful Motion” principle, if you have pain upon flexion or extension of your ankle, the VA is required to award the minimum compensable rating for the condition, which is 10 percent.

#9. Limitation of Motion of the Arm

Limitation of Range of Motion of the Arm is the ninth best VA disability claims

Coming in at #9 is Limitation of Range of Motion of the Arm.

Frozen shoulder and arm are conditions characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint.

The VA rates arm conditions under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 5201, Arm, Limitation of Range of Motion.

VA Disability Ratings for the Arm range between 0% and 40%, with breaks at 10% and 20%.

What are the VA ratings for arm pain?

  • The highest scheduler rating for a disability of the arm is 40 percent, which means your dominant arm has limitation flexion and/or abduction at 25° from the side; with the same symptoms of the non-dominant arm, rate at 30 percent.
  • If your dominant arm has limited range of motion midway between the side and shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 45°), rate at 30 percent; for the non-dominant arm rate at 20 percent.
  • If your arm is limited in range of motion at the shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 90°) rate at 20 percent for either the dominant or non-dominant side.

There are 769,384 disabled veterans rated for arm conditions.

Pro Tip: In accordance with the “Painful Motion” principle, if you have pain upon movement of your arm, the VA is required to award the minimum compensable rating for the condition, which is 10 percent.

#10. Migraines

Migraines are the tenth most common VA claim

Rounding out the top 10 most common VA disabilities of 2023 is Migraines (Headaches) at #10.

migraine is a type of headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head, but sometimes both.

It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities and might even cause you to have to lay down (prostrating migraine).

The VA rates Migraines (headaches) under CFR Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities, DC 8100, Migraines.

VA Ratings for Migraines range between 0 percent and 50 percent, with interim breaks at 10 percent, and 30 percent.

The maximum scheduler rating for Migraine headaches is 50 percent, which has symptoms such as: Very frequent and completely prostrating (you must lay down) with prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability (your headaches affect your work and ability to produce).

743,156 disabled veterans have a VA disability rating for migraines.

Pro Tip: Perhaps the single most important word that can make or break your VA rating for migraines is the word “Prostrating.” The reason it’s so important is because the 30% and 50% VA ratings criteria contain the word “Prostrating” in reference to both frequency and severity of your headaches. The best definition we could find for “Prostrating” comes from Dictionary.com: “To lay oneself flat on the ground face downward, especially in reverence or submission.” Prostrating is further defined as weakness, fatigue, distress, exhaustion, or illness. For example, “To reduce (someone) to extreme physical weakness.”

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About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Founder & CEO

Brian Reese is a VA benefits expert, author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned, and founder of VA Claims Insider – “The Most Trusted Name in Education-Based Resources for Veterans.”

His frustration with the 8-step VA disability claims process led him to create “VA Claims Insider,” which provides U.S. military veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned for successfully submitting or re-submitting a winning VA disability compensation claim.

Brian is also the CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, which is the world’s largest free searchable database for all things related to DoD disability and VA disability claims and has served more than 4,600,000 military members and veterans since its founding in 2013.

His eBook, the “9 Secrets Strategies for Winning Your VA Disability Claim” has been downloaded more than 300,000 times in the past three years and is the #1 rated free VA disability claims guide for veterans.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).

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