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May 20, 2024

How to Get VA Disability for Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis: The Insider’s Guide

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

If you’re a veteran struggling with flat feet (pes planus) or plantar fasciitis, understanding how the VA rates these conditions is crucial for securing the benefits you deserve.

VA ratings for flat feet are higher than VA ratings for plantar fasciitis.

For example, the VA rating for bilateral flat feet is 50% while the VA rating for planar fasciitis is 30%.

If you’re experiencing issues with both flat feet and plantar fasciitis, consider filing a VA disability claim for both conditions.


Because if you have both conditions diagnosed, with similar symptoms for each disability, according to the higher of two evaluations principle, the higher rating will be assigned if the disability picture more nearly approximates the criteria required for that rating.

Summary of Key Points

  • VA Rating Differences: Flat feet can secure higher VA ratings compared to plantar fasciitis, with severe bilateral flat feet rated at 50% and severe bilateral plantar fasciitis at 30%.
  • Filing for Both Conditions: Veterans should file claims for both conditions if diagnosed, utilizing the “higher of two evaluations” principle to potentially secure the higher rating based on the disability that most closely matches the severity criteria.
  • Proving Service Connection: Establishing a service connection requires three elements: a current diagnosis, evidence of occurrence or aggravation during service, and a nexus linking the condition to service.
  • Consider Secondary Conditions: Flat feet and plantar fasciitis might lead to secondary conditions like knee, hip, or back pain, which can also qualify for compensation if linked to the primary foot conditions.

What is the Difference Between Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis?

  • Flat feet is a condition characterized by the collapse of the foot’s arch, causing the entire sole of the foot to come into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. This condition can be congenital (you’re born with it) or develop over time due to stress, injury, or wear and tear. Some people with flat feet experience no symptoms at all, while others may have pain in the heel or arch area, particularly after long periods of standing or strenuous activities.
  • Plantar fasciitis, on the other hand, is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. It’s one of the most common causes of heel pain. It typically causes a stabbing pain that usually occurs with the first steps in the morning. As you get up and move more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or when you stand up after sitting.

Key Differences Explained

  • Location of Pain: Flat feet generally cause pain in the arch, heel, or along the inner side of the foot. Plantar fasciitis pain is primarily located at the heel and sometimes the arch.
  • Nature of Pain: The pain from flat feet is often related to strain or fatigue in the foot and can vary based on activity level. Plantar fasciitis pain is sharp and often most severe during the first steps after awakening or after long periods of rest.
  • Underlying Causes: Flat feet can be a structural issue from birth or develop over time due to weakened tendons supporting the foot. Plantar fasciitis is specifically caused by repetitive strain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, often due to excessive running or walking, inadequate footwear, or overweight.

Flat feet and plantar fasciitis can be caused or made worse by various factors related to military service.

Here’s a list of common service-related factors that could contribute to these conditions:

  • Prolonged Marching or Running: Regular participation in extensive marching or running exercises, especially under load-bearing conditions, can put excessive strain on the feet, leading to flat feet or the development of plantar fasciitis.
  • Inadequate Footwear: Wearing boots or shoes that lack proper support or are not well-suited to a soldier’s foot type can lead to or exacerbate both conditions. Military footwear, especially if worn over long periods without adequate orthotic support, can contribute to these foot problems.
  • Carrying Heavy Gear: The heavy load carried by military personnel can increase the pressure and stress on the feet, flattening the arches over time or straining the plantar fascia.
  • Hard Surfaces: Regular training or operations conducted on hard surfaces without adequate cushioning footwear can lead to trauma or repeated stress on the foot’s arch and heel.
  • Sudden Increase in Physical Activity: A rapid escalation in physical activity without adequate conditioning or adaptation can lead to injuries including plantar fasciitis and the exacerbation of flat feet.
  • Traumatic Foot Injuries: Direct injuries to the foot such as fractures, sprains, or blunt trauma during service can directly lead to structural changes in the foot or secondary conditions like plantar fasciitis as part of the healing or adaptation process.
  • Overuse Injuries: Continuous use of the feet in rigorous activities without proper rest intervals can lead to overuse injuries, contributing to the development of flat feet and plantar fasciitis.

What are the VA Ratings for Flat Feet?

The VA rates flat feet under Diagnostic Code 5276 based on the severity of the condition:

  • 10%: Mild, symptoms relieved by built-up shoe or arch support.
  • 30% (Bilateral): Severe, with marked deformity, pain on manipulation and use accentuated, swelling on use, and characteristic callosities.
  • 50% (Bilateral): Pronounced, with marked pronation, extreme tenderness, marked inward displacement, and severe spasm not improved by orthopedic shoes or appliances.

What are the VA Ratings for Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is rated under Diagnostic Code 5269. The ratings are:

  • 10%: Unilateral or bilateral involvement requiring arch supports, custom orthotic inserts, or shoe modifications.
  • 20%: Unilateral, no relief from treatment.
  • 30%: Bilateral, no relief from treatment.
  • 40%: No relief from treatment, and the condition is so severe that it results in the loss of use of the foot.

Can I Get a VA Rating for Both Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis?

Because the symptoms associated with flat feet and plantar fasciitis are so similar, it’s unlikely to get separate VA ratings for flat feet and plantar fasciitis due to the avoidance of pyramiding.

However, if a veteran has both conditions diagnosed, with similar symptoms for each disability, according to the “higher of two evaluations” principle, the higher rating will be assigned if the disability picture more nearly approximates the criteria required for that rating.

For example, if you have both severe bilateral flat feet and severe bilateral plantar fasciitis, the VA Rater should grant the 50% rating for pes planus because it’s the higher of the two ratings (the maximum scheduler rating for severe bilateral plantar fasciitis is 30%).

Pro Tip: If you have flat feet and plantar fasciitis, we recommend you file a VA disability claim for both conditions and let the VA Rater decide which condition most approximates your disability picture.

How to Prove Service Connection for Foot Conditions

To prove service connection for flat feet or plantar fasciitis, a veteran must establish three key elements:

1. Current Diagnosis

Provide medical evidence of a current diagnosis.

This can include medical records, doctor’s notes, and test results.

2. In-Service Occurrence or Aggravation

Demonstrate that the condition began or was aggravated during military service.

This can be shown through:

  • Service Medical Records: Documenting symptoms, diagnosis, or treatment of the condition.
  • Lay Statements: From service members, family, or friends who witnessed the symptoms during service.
  • Evidence of Conditions or Exposures: During service that could have triggered or worsened the condition.

3. “Nexus” Between Service and Current Condition

Provide medical evidence linking the current condition to the in-service occurrence or aggravation.

This can include:

  • Nexus Letter: From a healthcare provider stating that it is “at least as likely as not” that the condition is related to military service.

4. Supporting Documentation

  • Medical Records: Both service and post-service medical records detailing the diagnosis and treatment. It’s helpful to have a current diagnosis in either VA medical records or private treatment records.
  • Lay Statements: Personal statements or “buddy statements” from fellow service members, family, or friends detailing the onset and continuity of symptoms.
  • Nexus Letters: A detailed letter from a medical professional explaining the connection between the flat feet or plantar fasciitis and your military service.

VA Secondary Conditions to Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis

Flat feet and plantar fasciitis can lead to secondary conditions that may also be eligible for VA disability compensation.

Some common secondary conditions include:

  • Knee Pain: Due to altered gait and posture.
  • Hip Pain: Caused by compensatory movements.
  • Back Pain: From prolonged improper alignment.
  • Ankle Injuries: Due to instability and strain.
  • Tendonitis: From overuse and strain on tendons.

To establish a secondary service connection for these conditions, a veteran must provide medical evidence showing that the secondary condition is caused or aggravated by the primary service-connected foot condition.

This typically involves:

  • Current Diagnosis: Of the secondary condition.
  • Medical Records: Linking the secondary condition to the primary foot condition.
  • Nexus Letter: Supporting the connection between the two conditions.

C&P Exam for Flat Feet and Plantar Fasciitis

After submitting your VA claim, you will typically be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam for flat feet and plantar fasciitis, which is often conducted by a private company working under contract with the VA.

The C&P exam for foot conditions evaluates if you have flat feet or plantar fasciitis condition diagnosed, determines if there’s a “nexus” to your military service or other service connected disabilities, and assesses your severity of symptoms including frequency, severity, and duration, as well as negative impacts to your work, life, and social functioning.

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About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).

Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start. 

As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.

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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