Life in the military can be physically grueling, and service members and veterans are no strangers to tendinitis, which can cause aches, pains, tenderness, and swelling around joints that are getting lots of use. Due to its prevalence, VA offers disability compensation to affected veterans, and, due to the likelihood that your service may very well have caused or aggravated your tendinitis, you won’t want pass up the chance to collect on compensation for a condition that can cause plenty of trouble if left untreated.
What is Tendinitis?
Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of your tendons, which connect your muscles to your bones, and is often caused by overuse. While a sudden, acute injury may also cause it, more often than not people get tendinitis as a result of repetitive motion as part of their work, sports, or other activities. Performing movements incorrectly also contributes to its onset.
Tendinitis can occur wherever you have a tendon, but it’s most common around shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and heels according to the Mayo Clinic. Tendinitis is so familiar to so many people, it’s often called by a nickname associated with an activity that causes it, like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, trigger finger, or pitcher’s shoulder.
Treatment for tendinitis includes plenty of self care, including rest, icing, compression, and elevation of the affected area. Pain relief medication like aspirin, naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, as well as some creams, are able to help reduce pain, though you should be wary of side effects. Physical therapy can also help relieve pain and strengthen the affected tendons and muscles, too.
Severe cases of tendinitis may require stronger methods such as steroid injections or even surgery. However, most cases can be treated without these sorts of interventions. Preventing tendinitis in the first place can keep it from getting out of control. The best preventative methods include stretching, warming up, avoiding repetition, and performing movements correctly while maintaining good posture.
VA Disability Ratings for Tendinitis
Tendinitis is evaluated by VA the same as “degenerative arthritis, based on limitation of motion of affected parts” under diagnostic code 5024 of § 4.71a Schedule of Ratings—Musculoskeletal System. The rating criteria differ according to the type of tendinitis, though they follow the same logic of applying a rating based on mobility and the limited range of motion afforded to a certain affected body part. What follows are the diagnostic codes as described in the VA’s schedule of ratings so you can best see how your condition may be rated according to its severity.
Shoulder tendinitis is rated under diagnostic codes 5200, 5201, 5202, and 5203 and is based on the limitation of your range of motion. Importantly, you will see a higher ‘Major’ rating and lower ‘Minor’ rating, which are assigned based on whether your dominant arm is affected.
5200 Scapulohumeral articulation, ankylosis of (note: The scapula and humerus move as one piece):
- Unfavorable, abduction limited to 25° from side: 50 / 40%
- Intermediate between favorable and unfavorable 40 / 30%
- Favorable, abduction to 60°, can reach mouth and head: 30 / 20%
5201 Arm, limitation of motion of:
- Flexion and/or abduction limited to 25° from side: 40 / 30%
- Midway between side and shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 45°): 30 / 20%
- At shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 90°): 20 / 20%
5202 Humerus, other impairment of:
- Loss of head of (flail shoulder): 80 / 70%
- Nonunion of (false flail joint): 60 / 50%
- Fibrous union of: 50 / 40%
- Recurrent dislocation of at scapulohumeral joint:
- With frequent episodes and guarding of all arm movements: 30 / 20%
- With infrequent episodes and guarding of movement only at shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction at 90 °): 20 / 20%
- Marked deformity: 30 / 20%
- Moderate deformity: 20 / 20%
5203 Clavicle or scapula, impairment of:
- Dislocation of: 20 / 20%
- With loose movement: 20 / 20%
- Without loose movement: 10 / 10%
- Malunion of: 10 / 10%
Or rate on impairment of function of contiguous joint.
Elbow tendinitis ratings can be found under diagnostic codes 5206, 5207, and 5208, concerned the elbow and forearm. Ratings are based on limitations of the flexion and extension of the body part. One important note, VA assigns a different rating based on which of your arms is dominant. If dominant, you are assigned the higher ‘Major’ rating, if the non-dominant, you are assigned the lower ‘Minor’ rating.
5206 Forearm, limitation of flexion of:
- Flexion limited to 45°: 50 / 40%
- Flexion limited to 55°: 40 / 30%
- Flexion limited to 70°: 30 / 20%
- Flexion limited to 90°: 20 / 20%
- Flexion limited to 100°: 10 / 10%
- Flexion limited to 110°: 0 / 0%
5207 Forearm, limitation of extension of:
- Extension limited to 110°: 50 / 40%
- Extension limited to 100°: 40 / 30%
- Extension limited to 90°: 30 / 20%
- Extension limited to 75°: 20 / 20%
- Extension limited to 60°: 10 / 10%
- Extension limited to 45°: 10 / 10%
- 5208 Forearm, flexion limited to 100° and extension to 45°: 20 / 20%
Tendinitis in your knees is rated under diagnostic codes 5260 and 5261, and is based on the limitations to your flexion and extension.
5260 Leg, limitation of flexion of:
- Flexion limited to 15°: 30%
- Flexion limited to 30°: 20%
- Flexion limited to 45°: 10%
- Flexion limited to 60°: 0%
5261 Leg, limitation of extension of:
- Extension limited to 45°: 50%
- Extension limited to 30°: 40%
- Extension limited to 20°: 30%
- Extension limited to 15°: 20%
- Extension limited to 10°: 10%
- Extension limited to 5°: 0%
Ankle tendinitis is rated under diagnostic codes 5270 and 5271, and are based on limitations to flexion and dorsiflexion.
5270 Ankle, ankylosis of:
- In plantar flexion at more than 40°, or in dorsiflexion at more than 10° or with abduction, adduction, inversion or eversion deformity: 40%
- In plantar flexion, between 30° and 40°, or in dorsiflexion, between 0° and 10°: 30%
- In plantar flexion, less than 30°: 20%
5271 Ankle, limited motion of:
- Marked (less than 5 degrees dorsiflexion or less than 10 degrees plantar flexion): 20%
- Moderate (less than 15 degrees dorsiflexion or less than 30 degrees plantar flexion): 10%
Proving a Service Connection for Tendinitis
Veterans suffering from tendinitis may be able to collect compensation in a few ways. You may be able to get all the medical evidence you need to prove a service connection through a VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam, however you may also seek out private medical opinions at any time to support your claim.
Direct service connection: to get a direct service connection, you must meet three criteria:
- You have a current diagnosis for tendinitis,
- Evidence of an in-service incident, injury, or illness, and
- A medical nexus (a professional medical opinion) which links the one to the other
- Secondary service connection: you are able to get a secondary service connection when you satisfy two requirements:
- You have a current diagnosis for tendinitis, and
- A medical nexus which links your tendinitis to a service-connected condition which you already have
- Service connection by aggravation: you may pursue compensation for a case of tendinitis which existed prior to your service, but which your time in service has aggravated or exacerbated ‘beyond the natural progression’ of the disability. In these cases, VA will compensate you for the increase in its severity, but not for the full disability.
You should also understand that you may be able to pursue a higher rating if your tendinitis occurs on both sides of your body. In cases where both arms, legs, or paired skeletal muscles are affected by disabilities, regardless of whether they match in severity, VA will add the disabilities into a combined rating, then add 10% of the combined rating on top of that. Your final disability rating is calculated by rounding that number to the nearest tenth of a percent.
The bilateral factor will calculated based on the findings of your CP exam or private medical opinions, showing if both sides of your body are suffering from disabilities that, when combined, make it harder to go about your day.
Assistance with Your Claim
Military service is physically demanding, and calls for plenty of conditioning and exercise on top of the difficult tasks performed by veterans in the course of their duties. Tendinitis can often be the result of overworked tendons, and as a result you may suffer the pain and tenderness on a regular basis.
If you need to get started on a new claim or need to file an appeal for a rejected claim, don’t hesitate to call VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS or contact us online. We’ll help you get the compensation you deserve for the disability.