There are many different factors that come into play when assessing and evaluating the extent of the knee and lower leg conditions. Claims made to the Department of Veterans Benefits (VA) involving the knee and lower leg conditions are common and, unfortunately, the VA is known to make mistakes while evaluating conditions and handling claims.
Understanding the different ratings available for knee and lower leg conditions and getting the highest rating possible for your specific injuries can be challenging. One reason for this is that VA regulations require knee injuries to be evaluated using a number of different diagnostic codes. This rule applies even in cases where there are different manifestations of the same disability. For example, bending and straightening the knee essentially involve the same knee joint, but because they involve a different set of movements, you can receive a rating for both flexions, as well as the extension for the same knee. To put it another way, as long as a given knee or lower leg disability affects you in multiple, distinct ways, you can receive multiple ratings for each disability.
Lower Leg Injury Ratings
Two basic rules for lower leg injuries are as follows:
- A complete break of the bones in the lower legs is assigned a 40% rating.
- Leg amputations of 4 inches or more are rated 60%, falling to 10% for amputations of between 1.25 and 2 inches.
Knee Injury Ratings
Different disability ratings are applied to knee injuries based on the specific problem or problems that the veteran in question suffers as a result of the injury. For example, there are separate ratings available for knee replacements, limited extension of the knee, and instability of the knee, even though all three diagnoses involve the overall function of the same part of the body. What is important is that you are aware that there are different ratings for different disabilities. Here is a brief list of different ratings that can apply to your case depending on the extent of knee or leg damage that you suffer from.
- Limited flexing: If your knee can straighten but cannot bend all the way, you can receive a disability rating of between 0% and 30% (in 10% increments).
- Limited extension: This assessment is used if your knee mobility is not frozen but it still cannot straighten all the way. You can receive a disability rating of between 0% and 50% for this disability.
- Knee instability: This assessment is used if the knee exhibits too much motion from one side to the other, or if it dislocates regularly. This can happen when damaged tendons and cartilage no longer properly support the knee joint. Disability ratings of between 10% and 30% apply to this type of injury or condition.
- Total Knee Replacement: A disability so severe that it requires a total knee replacement is automatically given a temporary 100% rating for one year after the surgery. After one year elapses, your knee will be rated based on the symptoms exhibited at that time, with a guaranteed minimum rating of 30%, up to a maximum of 60%. Please note that partial knee replacements do not have a diagnostic code of their own and are rated based on the symptoms they may cause, such as excessive or limited motion of the knee joint.
It is important that you are aware of these ratings so that you know which of multiple disability lawyer you can choose to file a claim for. For further details on ratings, see the VA’s Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs).