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VA Disability Rating for Neck Pain (Cervicalgia)

Injuries to your neck that you receive during military service can affect your life in several ways. This is because your neck is part of your spinal cord, through which you exercise control over much of your movements, including those of your arms and legs.

Service-connected injuries to your spinal column, including your neck, are compensable VA disabilities. 

Here we cover how you might receive a neck injury through your service, how the VA processes disability claims for neck injuries, and the kinds of VA disability compensation you might receive for your neck pain.

How the VA Rates Neck Injuries and Conditions

The VA evaluates functional impairment from spinal disabilities, including neck pain issues, using the General Rating Formula for Diseases and Injuries of the Spine. 

Generally, VA disability ratings for neck pain and shoulder pain are based on the limitation of motion or the degree of ankylosis for the cervical spine. 

The severity of your neck pain can be rated from 10% to 100%, depending on the limitation in your range of motion (ROM). 

ROM testing seeks to find your range of painful motion. 

It can be easy if you are not a physician to become confused about what ROM testing results mean. 

You might hear or see medical descriptions like, “forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine between 60 degrees and 85 degrees,” or “combined ROM of the thoracolumbar spine between 120 degrees and 235 degrees.” 

What is ROM?

What is important for you is not so much the technical terms or the numbers, but how pain is limiting your neck range of motion. 

This is because, bottom line for VA disability rating purposes, the VA considers the point that painful motion begins to be when functional loss occurs. 

Your doctor’s diagnosis of your neck injury, or proof of its in-service incident or origin, or a nexus linking it to your time in the service are all acceptable ways to evidence your neck injury claim.

Here are some of the possible VA disability ratings for neck pain, in increasing levels of severity. 

We also include the 2024 VA monthly disability benefit amount that you as an individual veteran might qualify for under each applicable disability rating (this amount may be more if you have a spouse, parents, or dependent children who can qualify you for additional benefits).

  • 10%: forward flexion of the spine greater than 30 degrees, but not greater than 40 degrees; or, the minimum compensable rating for cervical spine pain. VA disability benefit compensation: $171.23.
  • 20%: forward flexion of the cervical spine greater than 15 degrees but less than 30 degrees; or, the combined range of motion for the entire cervical spine is 170 degrees or less. VA disability benefit compensation: $338.49.
  • 30%: forward flexion of the cervical spine 15 degrees or less, or favorable ankylosis of the entire cervical spine. VA disability benefit compensation: $524.31.
  • 40%: unfavorable ankylosis of the entire cervical spine. Note that this rating is the maximum you can receive for a radiculopathy-based disability. VA disability benefit compensation: $755.28.
  • 50%: unfavorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine. This rating is the maximum you can receive for a migraine headache condition. VA disability benefit compensation: $1,075.16.
  • 100%: unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine. VA disability benefit compensation: $3,737.85.
VA disability ratings for neck pain

To learn more about how much you might qualify for in total monthly VA disability benefits, especially if you have multiple service-connected disabilities, see our VA Disability Calculator.

How the VA Classifies Spinal Injuries

The VA categorizes spinal injuries into two kinds, based on where the injury happens. 

Neck injuries occur in the seven cervical vertebrae inside your neck. 

Back injuries occur below those seven vertebrae. 

Here, we cover neck injury-related disabilities. These are also known as cervical, or cervical spine injuries and disabilities. 

If you see the term “cervicalgia VA rating,” this is another way of describing your neck injury VA rating.

How Neck Injuries Can Happen

Because of the intense physical nature of many military occupational specialties, it is common for military service members to sustain neck injuries from cervical strain. Here are a few of the ways it can happen:

  • Whiplash injuries from motor vehicle accidents, falls, or parachuting. These injuries happen when external forces cause your head to “whip” back and forth or from side to side, causing damage to your neck.
  • Spinal cord injuries from blunt trauma, serious falls, or even gunshot wounds.
  • Spinal disc injuries, such as herniated disks or degenerative discs.
  • Nerve impingements that come from pinching or squeezing the nerves of your neck. Causes include disc herniation, disc degeneration, and chronic strains.
  • Chronic neck strains that develop from frequent carrying heavy loads on your back and shoulders, or from Kevlar helmet wear.
  • Stenosis, or narrowing of the nerve channels or spinal cord channels.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease, a degenerative disc disease affecting the spinal discs that sit between the vertebrae. This can cause chronic neck pain, radiculopathy, and weakness.

The most common sources of neck injuries are accidents in moving vehicles. 

Even a low-speed collision between two vehicles or when a vehicle strikes a stationary object can cause a whiplash injury, especially if you are not prepared for it. 

Not all accidents must involve military vehicles or training accidents for your neck injury to have a service connection and be compensable as a disability. 

If you were on active duty, for example, and were involved in a vehicle accident while off duty you might still qualify for VA disability benefits.

Secondary Service Connection for Neck Conditions

Neck injuries often lead to complicating conditions. These can also be disabilities for VA compensation purposes. 

One of the most frequently experienced secondary conditions you can develop is radiculopathy

This happens when nerve roots in your neck get pinched. 

The symptoms of this condition, which affects your use of your arms, are numbness, pain, and a tingling sensation that can also feel like a mild electric shock. 

Another secondary condition you might see referred to in connection with your neck-related disability claim as ankylosis. This describes stiffening in a joint that can be caused by an injury or a disease.

A third, often-reported secondary neck injury condition is migraine headaches.

VA Examinations for Neck Conditions

When you file a service-connected disability claim, the VA may have you undergo a compensation and pension (C&P) exam. 

It is important that you attend this examination, because the VA uses its findings to decide key questions about your eligibility for disability compensation. 

If you do not go to your scheduled C&P exam, it could adversely affect your VA claim decision.

This C&P exam often includes a physical examination using a goniometer to measure your neck range of motion against the VA range of motion chart. 

The examining physician will also have questions for you about how the disability began. 

The VA will review the results of your C&P exam and decide whether it is at least as likely as not that your disability has a direct service connection. 

If the VA conclusion is that no service connection exists, then you can still appeal the decision.

VA Disability Compensation for Neck Injury Hospitalizations Or Surgeries

Temporary Total Rating for Hospitalization or Surgery

Injuries to the cervical spine can require surgery to correct. 

If you need surgery for a service-connected neck condition, or if you need to be hospitalized for more than 21 days because of a service-connected condition, then you might be eligible for a temporary total disability rating of 100% while you recover.

Multiple Ratings and Pyramiding

In determining your VA disability rating for neck pain, although you cannot receive multiple disability ratings for the same manifestation of a disability, in some cases you can receive additional ratings for the same joint, muscle, or injury. 

For example, you could be entitled to one disability rating for painful lateral rotation, and another rating for a forward flexion  of less than 40 degrees.

Total Disability Based Upon Individual Unemployability (TDIU) For Neck Conditions

If you cannot gain or keep substantially gainful employment because of a service-connected neck injury or condition, then you might qualify for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). 

TDIU compensates you at the 100% disability rate. 

You could also be eligible for Special Monthly Compensation in some cases.

There are two ways to get TDIU. 

The standard, or “schedular” path requires either one disability rated at least 60 percent, or a combined disability rating of at least 70 percent including one single disability rating of at least 40 percent. 

The other, “extraschedular” path to qualifying for TDIU relies on the VA’s case-by-case examination of the total circumstances of your claim. 

If the VA finds that you are effectively unable to work even though you do not qualify for TDIU under the schedular options above, then it may still allow you TDIU benefits based on additional considerations in your VA rating for neck pain.

VA Disability Claim Denials and Appeals for Neck Injuries

The VA rejects about 30 percent of disability claims that it receives. 

This can happen for many reasons, including sometimes a mistake on the VA’s end.

If the VA denies your neck-related injury or condition disability benefits claim, don’t give up. You have up to a year to appeal the VA decision.

If your appeal is successful, your benefits award will include retroactive, or back pay. 

This lump sum payment includes all the cash you should have received from the date of your claim.


We know that making or appealing VA service-connected disability claims can be frustrating, confusing, and intimidating. 

Remember, however, that you do not have to face the VA alone. 

Our expert VA disability lawyers at Stone Rose Law are ready and willing to assist you in obtaining the VA benefits you deserve. 

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to give us a call for a free consultation.