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VA Shoulder Rating: 2024 VA Disability Ratings

Shoulder injuries and arm conditions are commonplace in the United States military. 

One of every 20 active-duty military personnel will at some point during their service need clinical treatment for shoulder dysfunction. 

This should give you an idea of how frequently veterans experience lingering disabilities from shoulder conditions that began during their military service.

Shoulder dysfunction in the United States military

The Veterans Administration (VA) compensates veterans who can show that they have service-connected shoulder disabilities. 

Here we will go over what you need to know to get started with a claim for VA disability benefits for a shoulder injury you received while serving. 

VA Disability Compensation for Shoulder and Arm Injuries

How much monthly VA disability benefits you might receive for a shoulder or arm disability depends on multiple factors, including the type of injury, its location, and its severity. 

Shoulder and arm disability VA ratings can range from 0 percent to 50 percent. 

How much you might receive in 2024 benefit compensation for yourself as a veteran ranges from $171.23 (10 percent disability rating) to $1,075.16 (50 percent). 

These amounts can increase if you qualify for more benefits based on additional disabilities, and whether you have a spouse, parents, or dependent children. 

To find out more about how to calculate your VA disability benefits for your shoulder and arm injuries (and more), see our VA Disability Calculator.

Qualifying for VA Shoulder Disability Benefits

The VA compensates disabled veterans for many kinds of injuries and medical conditions. Shoulder disabilities are among them.

The way you make a claim for shoulder-related disability benefits is generally the same as for any other disability claim. The VA has three minimum requirements to accept your claim:

  • First, you must have a current diagnosed disability for one or both shoulders.
  • Second, while you were serving you must have experienced a shoulder-related injury or other event that was disabling.
  • Third, you must establish a medical connection between the symptoms you are experiencing from your disability and the service-connected disabling event.

Once you satisfy these three requirements, then the VA can give you a disability rating, based on its Schedule of Rating Disabilities.

How to qualify for VA shoulder disability benefits

VA C&P Examinations For Shoulder Disabilities

Once you have filed your disability benefits claim with the VA, it might schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination. 

If this happens, it is important that you make every effort to attend this examination. 

If you do not attend the C&P exam, this could adversely affect the VA decision on your disability benefits claim.

A VA clinician or a VA contractor will conduct your C&P exam. 

The exam usually has a question-and-answer part, in which the VA clinician or contractor will ask you about the details of how and when your shoulder disability began. It can also include a physical examination.

Because most shoulder disabilities involve limitation of joint movement, a physical examination will typically center around the function of your shoulder joint. 

The examiner will look for crepitus (creakiness in the joints), inflammation, or tenderness. The examiner will also use a goniometer to measure your limitation of motion. 

When the C&P exam is complete, make sure to request that a copy of the examiner’s report be sent to you. The VA will only send you a copy if you specifically request it. 

The C&P examiner will use the findings of the examination, together with evidence in your medical records and your claims file, to issue an opinion about whether your disability exists and whether a service connection exists for your disabling injury or event.

Types of Shoulder Injuries and Conditions

The VA shoulder ratings come from its Musculoskeletal System Schedule of Ratings (38 C.F.R. § 4.71a) and its Schedule of Muscle Disabilities (38 CFR § 4.73). 

These focus on six muscle groups in the arm and shoulder.

These schedules assign disability ratings for shoulder pain based on diagnostic codes. 

Each has levels of disability that range in declining severity from severe, moderately severe, moderate, or slight. Each of these in turn corresponds to a disability rating ranging from 0 to 40 percent.  

Your disability rating will also depend on whether your dominant or nondominant arm is being affected by the disability.

For shoulder and arm conditions that do not have a diagnostic code, the VA will rate them to a diagnostic code that best approximates the same symptoms you are experiencing. 

If no diagnostic code is appropriate, or the analogous diagnostic code does not adequately reflect your level of disability, then the VA may refer your claim for extra-schedular rating consideration. 

Common Kinds of Shoulder Disabilities

Here are some types of shoulder injuries and arm conditions that can be the basis for a VA disability based on limited range of motion.

Common kinds of shoulder disabilities

Shoulder Dislocation (Diagnostic Code 5202)

A dislocated shoulder happens when your upper arm bone pops out of the socket in your shoulder blade. 

Shoulder Separation (Diagnostic Code 5203)

Your shoulder can become separated when the ligaments that attach your collarbone to your shoulder become stretched or torn. A shoulder separation can require surgery to correct. 

Rotator Cuff Tear (Diagnostic Code 5200 or 5201) 

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons can become torn, and extensive tearing may not be correctable even through surgery.  

Shoulder Tendonitis or Bursitis (Diagnostic Code 5019)

Shoulder tendonitis describes a condition in which your rotator cuff and the biceps tendon in your arm become inflamed. Shoulder bursitis is caused by inflammation, similar to shoulder tendonitis. This can cause pain and stiffness in your shoulder.

Shoulder Replacement (Diagnostic Code 5051)

Your shoulder may need replacement because of severe arthritis or a serious shoulder fracture. The minimum rating for any total shoulder replacement is 30 percent for the dominant arm and 20 percent for the non-dominant arm.

  • If your entire shoulder joint must be replaced with a prosthetic device, then the VA rates this condition at 100 percent for one month after you are discharged from the hospital.  After the one-month period, the condition is then given a permanent VA rating.
  • If you experience weakness and severe pain with motion in connection with a shoulder replacement, the VA rates this at 60 percent for your dominant arm and 50 percent for your nondominant arm.  
  • Shoulder replacements can also be diagnosed analogously under other diagnostic codes, including for rheumatoid arthritis or impairment of the clavicle or scapula.

Shoulder Amputation (Diagnostic Code 5120)

For amputations, your disability is rated differently than if the range of motion of your shoulder is limited. Your dominant arm can qualify for a higher rating than your nondominant arm in most amputation situations.

  • If your arm is amputated from the shoulder down, including the scapula, then you are entitled to a 100% disability rating. This applies to either your dominant or nondominant arm.
  • If your arm is amputated below the shoulder but above the point where the deltoid attaches to your shoulder, this is rated 90 percent for your dominant arm or 80 percent for your nondominant arm.
  • If the amputation is below the deltoid but above your elbow, this is rated at 80 percent for your dominant arm and 70 percent for your nondominant arm.

Additional VA Disability Benefits for Shoulder Injuries

In addition to the monthly disability benefit compensation you can receive through the VA rating schedules and their related diagnostic codes, depending on your circumstances you might also be eligible for other disability benefits.

Disability Compensation For Hospitalizations Or Surgeries

VA disability compensation can change depending on if you need hospitalization or surgery.

VA disability rating after shoulder surgery

If you need surgery for a service-connected shoulder disability, or if you are hospitalized for more than 21 days because of a service-connected condition, then you may be eligible for a temporary rating of 100% while you recover from your surgery or while you are in the hospital.

Convalescence benefit

For shoulder surgery, you may be eligible for a temporary total disability rating based on convalescence. You will be assigned a 100 percent VA rating until any intensive treatment is complete. 

Then, usually your 100 percent rating will continue for a period of three months.

Multiple Ratings and Pyramiding

In some cases you can receive additional ratings for the same joint, muscle, or injury. You cannot, however, receive multiple ratings for the same manifestation of a disability. 

For example, fibromyalgia requires painful joints. Joints with painful motion are entitled to the minimum compensable rating. 

However, awarding  compensation for painful joints could constitute “pyramiding” of the manifestation of the fibromyalgia disability if you already have a rating for fibromyalgia.

But if you have one joint disability rating for instability, one rating for impaired flexion of the same joint, and one rating for its impaired extension, this is not pyramiding because the disabilities have different manifestations that are not separately addressed by the individual diagnostic codes.

Total Disability Based Upon Individual Unemployability (TDIU) For Shoulder Disabilities

If you cannot secure or keep substantially gainful employment because of a service-connected shoulder condition, then you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). 

TDIU compensates you at the 100% disability rate, with the potential for Special Monthly Compensation if appropriate.

There are two ways you can qualify for TDIU:

Schedular TDIU

To obtain TDIU through the requirements of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities, you must have:

  • At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or greater; or
  • One service-connected disability rated at least 40% and a combined disability rating of 70%.

Extraschedular TDIU

The VA understands that the schedule of rating disabilities does not always accurately or completely account for how a disability may affect your ability to work. 

In these circumstances, you may still be eligible for TDIU even if they do not meet the schedular criteria above, on an extra schedular qualification.

Bilateral Factor

If you have disabilities affecting both shoulders or both arms, then you may qualify for additional disability compensation through the bilateral factor.

The bilateral shoulder condition VA rating is an additional 10 percent that is added to a combined VA rating for shoulder pain if you experience disabilities of both arms, or both legs, or paired skeletal muscles. 

You calculate the shoulder and arm bilateral factor before you calculate your overall combined shoulder injury VA rating.

To apply the bilateral factor, the VA calculates the combined disability rating for both your shoulders or arms. 

Then it multiplies this combined rating by 10 to find the and adds that 10 percent to the combined rating.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today for Your VA Shoulder Disability Claim

We know that VA claims and claim denial appeals can be frustrating, confusing, and even intimidating. 

You do not have to face the VA by yourself. 

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

We can help you to prepare your shoulder or arm-related disability VA benefits claim. 

If you have already filed a claim and the VA has denied it, we can take your case to the VA Board of Veterans Appeals for reconsideration.

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (480) 630-2765 for a free consultation

Or, contact us online to ask a question or schedule that free consultation. 

One of our VA disability law specialists will get back to you as soon as possible.