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VA Rheumatoid Arthritis Rating: Assessing The Impact On Veteran Compensation

November 9, 2023

Understanding the VA disability rating system for rheumatoid arthritis is crucial for veterans seeking benefits and compensation. Arthritis affects a higher percentage of veterans (25.6%) compared to non-veterans.[2] This blog post provides an overview of how the VA rates rheumatoid arthritis, highlighting its impact on benefits and compensation.

By delving into the range of ratings available, including the specific VA rheumatoid arthritis rating, veterans can better comprehend their eligibility and potential entitlements. Whether you're a veteran with rheumatoid arthritis or supporting someone who is, this information will help you navigate the complexities of the VA rating system. 

The VHA serves more than 67,000 veterans with rheumatoid arthritis.

Differentiating Types of Arthritis and VA Ratings

Explore how the VA distinguishes between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in their ratings. This section clarifies these differences and their impact on benefits, aiding veterans in understanding and navigating the VA disability rating system effectively.

Explanation of Different Types of Arthritis

Arthritis is a term used to describe joint inflammation, which can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. However, different types of arthritis vary in their causes and symptoms.

  • Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down over time.  It often affects older individuals or those who have experienced joint injuries.

  • Rheumatoid ArthritisMore than 67,000 veterans with rheumatoid arthritis are served by the VHA.[1] Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its tissues, including the joints. It can affect people of any age, typically leading to joint swelling, pain, and deformity.

Understanding How VA Rates Various Types of Arthritis Differently

It's important to understand that different types of arthritis may receive varying ratings.

  • VA Rating Criteria: The VA uses a rating schedule known as the Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to evaluate disabilities caused by various medical conditions, including arthritis. The VASRD provides specific criteria for each type of arthritis based on factors such as range of motion limitations and functional impairment. Patients in the VARA registry are mainly male (90%) and average 64 years old. [1]

  • Different Ratings for Different Types: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are rated differently because they have distinct characteristics and effects on individuals' daily lives. For example, rheumatoid arthritis may lead to more severe symptoms and functional limitations than osteoarthritis in some cases.

The VA uses a rating schedule known as the Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to evaluate disabilities caused by various medical conditions, including arthritis.

Importance of Accurate Diagnosis for Determining Appropriate Rating

Accurate diagnosis plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate rating for veterans with arthritis seeking VA benefits.

  • Medical Evidence: To establish eligibility for disability benefits, veterans need to provide medical evidence that documents their diagnosis and the impact of their arthritis on their daily lives. This evidence may include medical records, imaging tests, and statements from healthcare professionals.

  • Seeking Specialist Care: It is recommended that veterans with arthritis seek care from specialists such as rheumatologists with expertise in diagnosing and treating different types of arthritis. These specialists can provide accurate assessments of the severity of the condition, which is vital for determining the appropriate rating.

By understanding the distinctions between different types of arthritis and how the VA rates them, veterans can navigate the process more effectively and increase their chances of receiving fair compensation for their service-related disabilities.

Establishing Service Connection for Rheumatoid Arthritis

To establish a service connection for rheumatoid arthritis, begin by compiling documentation linking your military service to the condition, including medical records and diagnosis reports. Submit a detailed arthritis claim to the VA, emphasizing the relation to your service.

Navigating the service connection process effectively involves:

  1. Seek Professional Assistance: Engage with a veterans' service organization or an accredited attorney specializing in VA disability claims for guidance and ensuring complete documentation.

  2. Document Symptoms Thoroughly: Record all symptoms related to your rheumatoid arthritis to strengthen your case with evidence of ongoing issues.

  3. Understand Presumptive Service Connection: Investigate if your rheumatoid arthritis falls under presumptive connections due to specific military service exposures, which can ease the claim process.

  4. Obtain Buddy Statements: Secure statements from fellow service members corroborating symptom observations or related events during military service, adding credence to your claim.

Persistence and patience are key in providing comprehensive documentation and adhering to VA guidelines for a successful service connection claim. Understanding Criteria for VA Disability Rating

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses specific criteria to determine disability ratings for veterans. Several factors are considered when assigning a rating. These factors include symptoms, functional impairment, and the impact of treatment on the veteran's condition. Methotrexate has been used to treat 73% of VARA patients, and the median duration of treatment is 2.5 years.[2]

Overview of VA Disability Rating Criteria

To qualify for VA disability benefits, veterans must meet certain requirements outlined by the VA. The disability rating is based on the severity of the condition and its impact on daily life. The higher the rating, the more severe the disability.

Factors Considered for Rheumatoid Arthritis Ratings

When evaluating rheumatoid arthritis, the VA considers several factors to determine an appropriate disability rating. These factors include:

  • Symptom severity: The intensity and frequency of symptoms experienced by the veteran.

  • Functional impairment: How much rheumatoid arthritis affects daily activities such as walking, dressing, or performing occupational tasks.

  • Treatment response: The effectiveness of medical treatment in managing symptoms and improving functionality.

Impact on Rating Decision

The combination of these factors plays a significant role in determining the disability rating for rheumatoid arthritis. If severe symptoms significantly limit a veteran's ability to perform daily activities or work-related tasks, a higher disability rating may be assigned.

However, it's important to note that each case is evaluated individually based on medical evidence provided by the veteran. Diagnostic codes specific to rheumatoid arthritis help guide this evaluation process.

“The median duration of methotrexate therapy for VARA patients is 2.5 years. 73% of patients have been treated with methotrexate.”

Exploring VA Ratings for Rheumatoid vs Degenerative Arthritis

Delve into the nuances of VA disability ratings for rheumatoid arthritis versus degenerative arthritis. This section highlights the key differences in how the VA assesses these conditions, aiding veterans in understanding the implications for their benefits and compensation claims.

Comparison of VA Ratings

The VA uses different criteria to evaluate rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative arthritis. These two types of arthritis are assessed based on their impact on the veteran's ability to function and perform daily activities.

Evaluating Rheumatoid Arthritis

The VA considers factors such as joint deformity, functional loss, and flare-ups in determining the disability rating. The median disease duration in the VARA registry is 18.4 years, with a majority showing severe symptoms like erosive disease and rheumatoid nodules.[2]

 Joint deformity refers to any abnormal changes or misalignment in the joints caused by the disease. The severity of joint deformity can significantly affect a veteran's mobility and overall quality of life.

Evaluating Degenerative Arthritis

On the other hand, degenerative arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis) is evaluated differently by the VA. This type of arthritis is characterized by joint wear and tear over time. The evaluation focuses on pain, stiffness, range of motion limitations, and functional loss caused by degenerative joint changes.

Impact on Benefits

The type of diagnosed arthritis can have an impact on the benefits received by veterans. A higher disability rating for rheumatoid arthritis may result in increased compensation from the VA compared to degenerative arthritis.

Veterans with either rheumatoid or degenerative arthritis need to provide thorough medical documentation when applying for benefits. This documentation should demonstrate how their condition affects their daily life and overall functionality.

Impact of Painful Motion on VA Ratings

Assessing painful motion is a crucial factor. The severity of pain experienced plays a significant role in evaluating the level of disability and subsequent rating. Let's delve into how this assessment is conducted and understand the impact that limitations in range-of-motion due to pain can have on an individual's overall rating.

Assessing Painful Motion for VA Ratings

When evaluating painful motion, the VA considers various factors to determine the extent of disability caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Medical professionals assess the degree of pain experienced during specific movements or activities, such as bending, lifting, or walking. They also take into account any limitations in the range of motion caused by pain.

Role of Pain in Determining Disability Rating

The level of pain experienced directly influences an individual's disability rating for rheumatoid arthritis. The more severe the pain and its impact on daily activities, the higher the likelihood of receiving a higher rating. This takes into consideration both physical and functional limitations caused by painful motion.

Impact on Overall Rating

Limitations in range-of-motion due to pain significantly affect an individual's overall rating for rheumatoid arthritis. If an individual experiences restricted movement or difficulty performing tasks due to painful motion, their rating may be higher than someone with less limitation.

It's essential to gather comprehensive medical evidence that documents your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and their impact on your daily life.

Strengthening Claims on VA Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Understanding and navigating the VA rating system can be crucial for veterans seeking disability ratings for rheumatoid arthritis. Here are some key considerations and actionable insights to help veterans maximize their benefits:

Seek Expert Guidance

  • Consulting with a knowledgeable Veterans Service Officer (VSO) or an attorney who specializes in VA disability claims can provide valuable guidance throughout the process[4].

  • These professionals can help veterans understand the intricacies of the rating system, gather necessary evidence, and navigate any potential challenges.

Gather Strong Medical Evidence

  • To support your claim, it's essential to gather comprehensive medical evidence that clearly documents your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and their impact on your daily life.

  • This may include medical records, diagnostic test results, treatment plans, and statements from healthcare providers.

Highlight Functional Limitations

  • When applying for a disability rating, it's important to emphasize how rheumatoid arthritis affects your ability to perform daily activities.

  • Documenting functional limitations such as difficulty walking, dressing, or using your hands due to joint pain or stiffness can strengthen your case.

Be Thorough in Filing Your Claim

  • When submitting your claim to the VA, ensure that you provide all necessary information and complete all required forms accurately.

  • Missing or incomplete information could delay the processing of your claim or even result in a denial.

Appeal if Necessary

  • If your initial claim is denied or you believe that you were not awarded an appropriate rating, don't lose hope. You have the right to appeal the decision.

  • Working with a VSO or attorney experienced in appeals can increase your chances of obtaining a fair rating.

Remember that each veteran's situation is unique, so it's important to consult with professionals who can provide personalized advice based on individual circumstances. By understanding how the VA rating system works and taking proactive steps to build a strong case, many veterans with rheumatoid arthritis can secure the disability rating they deserve.


We explored arthritis types and VA ratings, focusing on establishing service connections and criteria for VA disability ratings in Rheumatoid Arthritis. We compared VA ratings for Rheumatoid and Degenerative Arthritis, examined the role of painful motion in ratings, and offered insights into VA Rheumatoid Arthritis ratings. Remember, this information is a guide; consult a professional to seek VA disability ratings for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Are you keen on understanding mental health VA disability ratings? Learn more from our resources at American Veteran.

Michael Blair contributes his expertise to help veterans access government benefits and resources. Through his informative articles and guides, he plays a vital role in empowering veterans and improving their quality of life.
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