Many veterans have scoliosis, a condition that can cause pain and mobility problems. You may be eligible for a scoliosis VA rating if you have scoliosis and are a veteran.
For veterans, scoliosis can prevent you from being as active as you’d like. The negative impact on your ability to do what you want can further impact your mental health. If you’re a veteran with scoliosis and looking to file for VA benefits, this guide will show you how to get started.
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What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the spine curves or twists to the side. The spine is supposed to be straight, so it can cause pain and other problems when it curves.
Symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulders
- Uneven posture
- One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other
- A raised hip
- Uneven rib cage
- Limited range of motion
- Back pain
- Difficulty breathing
The curvature of the spine can cause pain, muscle weakness, and problems with balance. It can also make it difficult to breathe. In severe cases, scoliosis can lead to paralysis. Scoliosis is caused in veterans by things like:
- Back injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Diseases that affect the spine
When it comes to scoliosis, the type of scoliosis you have will dictate how the VA handles your claim. Congenital scoliosis is scoliosis that is present at birth. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by another condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Degenerative scoliosis develops later in life, usually due to wear and tear on the spine. Many veterans will be dealing with degenerative scoliosis as they experienced an in-service event or injury that caused or aggravated their scoliosis.
You can earn VA disability for scoliosis for congenital or neuromuscular scoliosis. However, you must show that your service worsened your condition. If claiming degenerative scoliosis, you’ll likely have to show that your service caused your scoliosis in the first place.
Scoliosis is just one condition that can cause back pain. No matter what type of injury you’re dealing with, you can learn more by reading our definitive guide to back pain.
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
Scoliosis is diagnosed with a physical examination and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs. Scoliosis can get worse over time or with additional injury, so making sure that your tests are up-to-date is important.
Scoliosis can’t be cured, but there are treatments available that can help to improve the symptoms. Getting your scoliosis treated now is critical to improving your quality of life.
How to get a VA Disability Rating for Scoliosis
To earn a scoliosis VA rating, you need three things:
- A current medical diagnosis for scoliosis
- An in-service event or injury that caused or aggravated your scoliosis
- A link (or nexus) between your military service and your scoliosis (Your scoliosis must be at least as likely as not caused by your military service)
The first step to getting a VA disability rating for scoliosis is to have a doctor examine you and confirm that you have scoliosis. The doctor will also need to provide documentation of your scoliosis, with either X-Rays or MRIs.
You’ll need to provide evidence to demonstrate that your scoliosis was caused by serving in the military. This could be a written statement discussing the accident or injury, but if you can show official military records of the incident the VA values this evidence even more than a personal statement alone.
When it comes to getting a VA rating for scoliosis, a nexus letter written by a qualified medical professional is highly recommended to improve your chances of the VA granting service connection. Looking for a Nexus Letter to help establish service connection for your scoliosis?
Click HERE now to join VA Claims Insider Elite, our premier education-based membership program, which also gets you discounted access to independent medical providers in our referral network for medical examinations, VA disability evaluations, and Medical Nexus Letters for a wide range of conditions!
Direct Service Connection for Scoliosis
If you can show that your active duty military service directly led to your scoliosis, you can pursue direct service connection. An example of scoliosis caused by service could be if you were in a parachuting accident while on active duty, leading to scoliosis. You’ll want to ensure that you have evidence of this accident and your trips to the doctor afterward.
If you have documentation for back pain in your military medical records, your pathway to service connection will be a lot easier.
What if I had scoliosis before joining the military?
Even if you had scoliosis before service, you might still be eligible for disability benefits if your military service worsened your condition. You’ll have to provide evidence that something happened while serving that aggravated the condition and worsened it.
Secondary Service Connection for Scoliosis
Many veterans will service connect their back through secondary service connection. Your back and spine are the foundation for your entire body. If you’re experiencing another service-connected condition, this could eventually lead to scoliosis.
Examples of conditions that could lead to scoliosis include:
- Spine injuries
- Cerebral palsy and other congenital disabilities
- Neurological disorders
- Muscular disorders
How The VA Assigns a Scoliosis VA Rating
In most cases, the VA will assign you a disability rating for your scoliosis based on your range of motion limitations. The VA does not have a separate rating system just for the severity of your scoliosis. Instead, the VA will look at how your scoliosis affects your spine and give you a disability rating for your spine.
Range of motion limitations for VA scoliosis ratings range from 10% to 100%:
- 10% – Forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 60 degrees (but not greater than 85 degrees); or forward flexion of the cervical spine greater than 30 degrees (but not greater than 40 degrees); or combined range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 120 degrees (but not greater than 235 degrees); or combined range of motion of the cervical spine greater than 170 degrees (but not greater than 335 degrees); or muscle spasm, guarding, or localized tenderness not resulting in abnormal gait or abnormal spinal contour; or, vertebral body fracture with loss of 50 percent or more of the height
- 20% – Forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine greater than 30 degrees but not greater than 60 degrees; or forward flexion of the cervical spine greater than 15 degrees (but not greater than 30 degrees); or the combined range of motion of the thoracolumbar spine not greater than 120 degrees; or the combined range of motion of the cervical spine not greater than 170 degrees; or muscle spasm or guarding severe enough to result in an abnormal gait or abnormal spinal contour such as scoliosis, reversed lordosis, or abnormal kyphosis
- 30% – Forward flexion of the cervical spine 15 degrees or less; or favorable ankylosis of the entire cervical spine
- 40% – Unfavorable ankylosis of the entire cervical spine; or forward flexion of the thoracolumbar spine 30 degrees or less; or favorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine
- 50% – Unfavorable ankylosis of the entire thoracolumbar spine
- 100% – Unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine
If your scoliosis leads to compression of the spine or irritation of a nearby nerve root, you may experience incapacitating episodes in addition to limiting your range of motion. In this instance, you could also be rated for intervertebral disc disease syndrome (IVDS).
IVDS is rated based on “incapacitating episodes” from 10% to 60%. An incapacitating episode is when a veteran is prescribed bed rest by their doctor. Here is how the VA rates those episodes if caused by scoliosis:
- 10% – You’ve experienced at least one week of incapacitating episodes in the past year.
- 20% – You’ve experienced at least two weeks of incapacitating episodes in the past year.
- 40% – You’ve experienced at least four weeks of incapacitating episodes in the past year.
- 60% – You’ve experienced at least six weeks of incapacitating episodes in the past year.
The VA will assign you a rating for your scoliosis based on the formulas above and use the criteria that will grant you the highest rating.
Your Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam for Scoliosis
When you attend your C&P exam, the doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your scoliosis. The examiner will also look at your medical records for evidence of scoliosis and the severity of your condition.
They will discuss your symptoms with you, look at your imaging, and may have you show your current range of motion using a tool called a goniometer.
Your doctor will complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire for your back at your exam. Here’s an example of the form that will be completed.
The VA examiner is supposed to consider flare-ups when assigning you a VA rating. You must be open and honest with your examiner during the C&P exam. If you’re more limited during flare-ups than you currently are at the exam, discuss this with your examiner. For instance, if there are times when you can only flex your spine by 15 degrees, but currently, you can go farther than that, be honest about this. The VA may award you a higher scoliosis VA rating.
Conditions Secondary to Scoliosis
Nerve conditions can be rated separately from spinal conditions. Once you’re service-connected for your scoliosis, your condition could cause other disabilities. These could include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative arthritis
Ready to File for a Scoliosis VA Rating?
Now that you know how to get a scoliosis VA rating, it’s time to start the process.
There are a few ways to file for VA disability for scoliosis to get the compensation and care you deserve. You can file online, mail-in forms, or file in person at your local regional VA office.
If you’d like more help filing for a scoliosis VA rating, reach out to our team of expert VA coaches. Our process makes filing a VA disability claim easy and provides the support needed to build a fully-developed claim (FDC)—and get the rating you deserve FAST.
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Trisha Penrod is a former active-duty Air Force officer. As an Intelligence Officer, she led teams of analysts to apply advanced analytic skills to identify, assess, and report potential threats to U.S. forces.
Trisha attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Webster University. After receiving an honorable discharge in 2018, Trisha worked as a growth marketer and utilizes her analytic skills to help others accomplish their business goals.
If you are considering filing disability claims for scoliosis, you need to receive an official diagnosis from a doctor with a diagnosis code confirming the scoliosis. You will also need to provide documentation that proves your military service caused your scoliosis or caused it to become worse.What is the max VA rating for scoliosis? ›
The VA offers disability benefits for a variety of back and spinal conditions connected to or aggravated by military service. One of those conditions is scoliosis, which is rated under the VA's General Rating Formula for Diseases and Injuries of the Spine between 10% and 100%.How do I file a VA claim for scoliosis? ›
A nexus letter can connect the veteran's service to their scoliosis. It will need to be provided by a medical provider, and often will draw upon medical evidence. In order to link the veteran's condition to service, there will likely need to be evidence of an in-service event, illness, or injury.How hard is it to get disability for scoliosis? ›
Scoliosis is also one of the more difficult disorders to receive benefits for due to the variety of treatments available to help. Reasons your scoliosis claim may have been denied include: Your medical diagnosis/imaging did not show evidence of a compromised nerve root.What is the rating for scoliosis? ›
In general, a curve is considered significant if it is greater than 25 to 30 degrees. Curves exceeding 45 to 50 degrees are considered severe and often require more aggressive treatment.What is considered severe scoliosis in adults? ›
Severe Scoliosis in Adults
At a Cobb angle measurement of 40 - 60+ degrees, this is classified as 'severe scoliosis'. Traditional treatment: this might seem surprising, but even with a 40 - 60+ degree of curvature, treatment would still consist of medications to address symptoms.
Scoliosis can range largely in its severity, but its effects can be debilitating. If your condition is hindering your ability to perform the functions of your job, you may be able to file for long-term disability benefits. Scoliosis can hinder a physical or sedentary occupation.Does scoliosis make you tired? ›
The more pronounced the curves become, the harder the surrounding muscles have to work to keep the body aligned and balanced. This causes them to wear out more easily. Additionally, severe scoliosis can put pressure on the chest cavity, eventually restricting the ability to breathe, which can cause chronic fatigue.Is scoliosis a hidden disability? ›
Is Scoliosis a Disability? Yes, scoliosis is a disability according to the SSA. If the curvature has impacts on your health and ability to work, then the SSA may approve you for disability benefits. In fact, not being ability to work can be one of the most important signs your disability claim will be approved.How do I get a higher VA rating for back pain? ›
You can file for a rating increase if your pain has worsened, or you can also apply for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). TDIU requires that you have one condition with at least a 60% rating or two disabilities that add up to 70%.
You may qualify by meeting an Adult Medical Listing in Social Security's listing of impairments (aka the Blue Book). If you do not meet the severity level of one of the listings in the blue book, you can still qualify. For this, you have to prove that your scoliosis prevents you from working.What disability category is scoliosis? ›
The SSA has a comprehensive list of considered disabilities, and while there is no specific section for scoliosis, it would fall under Section 1.00 'Musculoskeletal System' and then would be further specified in Section 1.04 under 'Disorders of the Spine'.How long is the waiting list for scoliosis? ›
The average wait for surgery was 24 months (range, 17-30 mo). The mean curve progression was 25.3° while on the waitlist, from an average of 52° to 77°.What is the gold standard for scoliosis? ›
The Cobb angle measurement is often described as the gold standard for assessing scoliosis. It's measured by determining the most tilted vertebrae in each curve.How bad is 60 scoliosis? ›
At 60 degrees, scoliosis is still considered severe, with symptoms being overt, the condition being painful, especially for adults, and the risk of complications being high.What is stage 5 scoliosis? ›
Risser 5 is the last Risser sign. It indicates skeletal maturity. An x-ray will show complete ossification and fusion of the iliac crest apophysis. An example of Risser 5, as seen on a pelvic x-ray.What are 4 symptoms of scoliosis? ›
- a visibly curved spine.
- leaning to 1 side.
- uneven shoulders.
- 1 shoulder or hip sticking out.
- the ribs sticking out on 1 side.
- clothes not fitting well.
Generally speaking, scoliosis does not cause pain in the early stages. However, scoliosis pain and symptoms become prominent once the scoliotic curve progress beyond a 30-degree curve. Generally, a scoliotic curve is not painful in adolescents.What are the 4 types of scoliosis? ›
There are four types of scoliosis: congenital, idiopathic, neuromuscular, and degenerative2.What problems can scoliosis cause later in life? ›
In some cases of scoliosis, particularly those affecting adults, the bones in the spine compress nearby nerves. In severe cases, this can cause problems such as: back and leg pain. numbness or weakness in the legs.
Does Scoliosis Get Worse With Age? If your doctor didn't treat idiopathic scoliosis when you were a child or adolescent, it can worsen with age. If your spinal curvature as an adolescent was less than 30 degrees, it's unlikely to deteriorate. If it was over 50 degrees, it's more likely to get worse.What jobs can you do with scoliosis? ›
- Teacher. Teaching roles often involve a mix of standing and sitting and have time for breaks. ...
- Self-employed. ...
- Exercise instructor. ...
- Sales agent. ...
- Reseller. ...
- Mindfulness coach. ...
- Administrative assistant. ...
- Project manager.
The one internal organ most frequently affected by severe scoliosis is the lungs. Severe scoliosis in the thoracic area of the spine (upper back) causes chest wall deformities, which can push the lungs into abnormal, restrictive shapes.Can scoliosis affect your weight? ›
The connection between scoliosis and weight loss/weight gain appears to be more indirect, than direct. Certain symptoms (pain and mobility issues) can cause a patient to respond in a way that leads to weight gain, but that's more about patient-response, than a direct effect of the condition.What aggravates scoliosis? ›
The precise causes of degenerative scoliosis or associated spinal osteoarthritis are not known, but the condition is clearly aggravated by daily wear and tear, microtraumas and repetitive activities that jar the spine, such as using a jackhammer. Less frequently, it is caused by a fall or other trauma.Can scoliosis put you in a wheelchair? ›
Patients afflicted with these conditions often develop scoliosis and/or kyphosis or round back. This is frequently associated with back pain, difficulty sitting in a wheelchair, and loss of walking ability over time.Can scoliosis leave you in a wheelchair? ›
Scoliosis & the Wheelchair User
So because of that, scoliosis tends to be fairly prevalent over time.” So while scoliosis usually isn't the reason your client is in his/her wheelchair, it is likely a side effect of the primary mobility-related condition.
Anything that looks abnormal in the back or ribcage -- like a hump -- might be a sign of scoliosis. If your spine is curved, your doctor may use a tool called a scoliometer to estimate its angle. To see the curve more clearly, they'll order standing X-rays of your spine from the back and from the side.What is the easiest VA disability to claim? ›
Tinnitus. Tinnitus, otherwise known as “Ringing-in-the-Ear-Syndrome” is by far the #1 easiest VA disability to claim. Tinnitus is when you experience ringing, hissing, buzzing, or other noises in one or both of your ears.What is the max percentage for back VA? ›
VA disability ratings for back pain go from 10% to 100% depending on how severe your symptoms are, including your range of motion and pain frequency and level.
Moderate scoliosis is a spinal curvature measuring 25°-44° according to Cobb angle (measured on an AP/PA scoliosis xray).Does scoliosis cause back pain? ›
In adults, scoliosis symptoms can cause a gradual loss of function. They include: Low back pain and stiffness. Numbness, cramping, and shooting pain in the legs from pinched nerves.What is the symptoms of scoliosis? ›
- Low back pain.
- Back stiffness.
- Pain and numbness in your legs (from pinched nerves)
- Fatigue due to muscle strain.
- Breathing difficulty due to upper spine curve.
In Conclusion. If scoliosis is a result of a traumatic experience, it could be considered a spinal cord or back injury.Are you born with scoliosis? ›
Although congenital scoliosis is present at birth, it may not be obvious that a child has it right away. Congenital scoliosis often gets worse as a child grows. Common signs and symptoms of congenital scoliosis include one or more of the following: uneven hip heights or positions.Is scoliosis a C or S? ›
Scoliosis is when the spine curves sideways, usually into the shape of an S or a C. An S-shaped curve is also called a double curve. A C-shaped curve is also called a single curve.At what age do doctors check for scoliosis? ›
Children can be screened at any age, although idiopathic scoliosis is more commonly discovered during a child's growth spurt (10 to 15 years old). The Scoliosis Research Society recommends that girls be screened twice, at 10 and 12 years of age (grades 5 and 7), and boys once at 12 or 13 years of age (grades 8 or 9).Can doctors miss scoliosis? ›
Scoliosis can be easy to miss
One reason scoliosis isn't being spotted? Mild idiopathic scoliosis typically does not cause any symptoms and can easily go unnoticed by both the child and their parents or caregivers.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This diagnostic test may be required by the surgeon to make sure there are no concerns with your child's nerves or spinal cord before surgery. Usually, an MRI is ordered for children with larger curves or for children with other medical conditions.What type of scoliosis is rare? ›
Congenital scoliosis is a rare condition that develops in the womb and lingers after birth. About one in 10,000 babies have this condition. Congenital scoliosis is usually corrected with surgery. Neuromuscular/myopathic scoliosis develops in wheelchair-bound individuals.
Mild scolioisis is considered a curve that's between 10 and 25 degrees variance from a normal spine alignment. The cause of scoliosis for most teens and children is unknown (called idiopathic scoliosis) though doctors and researchers acknowledge that a combination of elements are integral to the disease's development.What does 10 degree scoliosis look like? ›
Scoliosis at 10 Degrees
It's the spine's natural curves that give it the appearance of being straight when viewed from the front or back and a soft 'S' shape when viewed from the sides.
In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the curve develops around the time the patient hits puberty, then continues to progress throughout their adolescence until their spine has finished growing (usually at age 16-18).What does scoliosis pain feel like? ›
What does scoliosis pain feel like? Children or teens who have scoliosis don't generally experience pain. However, degenerative adult scoliosis can cause symptoms such as achiness or stiffness in the mid to low back or numbness and weakness in your leg.What should you avoid if you have scoliosis? ›
- Looking down at your phone. ...
- Lifting heavy objects. ...
- Certain exercises. ...
- One-sided / impact sports. ...
- High heels, flip-flops, and other shoes that don't provide much support.
Appearance. As scoliosis worsens, it can cause more noticeable changes — including uneven hips and shoulders, prominent ribs, and a shift of the waist and trunk to the side. People with scoliosis often become self-conscious about their appearance.Is 7 scoliosis bad? ›
Most commonly, this is detected by noticing a hump on the ribs or flank, between the ribs and hip, after asking the child to bend forward. The tilt produced in the back can be measured in degrees by a level; seven degrees or more is considered significant for scoliosis.How bad is degenerative scoliosis? ›
Severe spinal deformity.
Degenerative scoliosis rarely impinges or irritates the spinal cord (or the cauda equina nerve bundle beneath the spinal cord) enough to cause significant leg weakness or bladder/bowel control problems.
A 40 percent rating is the maximum schedular rating for limitation of motion of the lumbosacral spine under Diagnostic Code 5292. The Board has considered rating the veteran's low back disability under all potentially applicable diagnostic codes to determine whether a more favorable rating is warranted.What is the highest VA disability rating for back pain? ›
VA disability ratings for back pain go from 10% to 100% depending on how severe your symptoms are, including your range of motion and pain frequency and level.
In most cases, VA uses the General Rating Formula for Diseases and Injuries of the Spine under 38 CFR § 4.71a to evaluate back conditions, including low back pain. This general rating formula is based primarily on range of motion, or the measurement of the amount of movement around a specific joint or body part.How much is VA disability for erectile dysfunction? ›
Unlike other disabilities, erectile dysfunction is not given a rating schedule but instead, uses the following to determine compensation: Code 7520 Partial removal of the penis. This gives a rating of 30%.How do I get 100% VA disability for back pain? ›
- A current diagnosis of a back condition;
- An in-service event, injury, or illness; and.
- A medical nexus (i.e. link) between the current, diagnosed back condition and the in-service event, injury, or illness.
- #1 Add an additional service-connected condition.
- #2 Increase the rating of an existing service-connected condition.
- #3 Apply for TDIU.
What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.What is the easiest disability to claim for VA? ›
Tinnitus. Tinnitus, otherwise known as “Ringing-in-the-Ear-Syndrome” is by far the #1 easiest VA disability to claim. Tinnitus is when you experience ringing, hissing, buzzing, or other noises in one or both of your ears.What conditions are secondary to back pain? ›
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Sciatic nerve damage.
- Hypertensive vascular disease.
- External popliteal nerve damage.
For example, a veteran with a mental health disorder such as anxiety may receive a 30% VA disability rating if the veteran can generally function satisfactorily in terms of behavior, self-care, and communication, but may occasionally suffer a decrease in work efficiency and periods of inability to perform occupations ...Can you get disability for extreme back pain? ›
Back conditions often prevent people from working and cause financial hardships for them and their families. If you have back pain that affects your ability to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.What is the average VA rating for lumbar spine? ›
Many veterans with significant functional loss, pain, and difficulty working might initially only obtain a 10 or 20 percent rating. In fact, the average VA disability rating for back pain is only 10 percent.
The VA generally rates degenerative disc disease between 10 and 20%, depending on the number of joints affected.What is the average VA rating for spinal stenosis? ›
|VA Disability Rating%||Cervical Spine (neck)|
|30%||Flexion measures 15 degrees or less, OR entire cervical spine is frozen in a favorable position.|
|40%||Entire cervical spine is frozen in an unfavorable position.|
|100%||Entire spine is frozen in an unfavorable position.|