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VA continues to wrongfully deny military sexual trauma claims, watchdog finds

WASHINGTON — Veterans suffering from military sexual trauma were still unfairly denied benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs years after problems first came to light with the agency’s handling of claims, a federal watchdog reported Thursday.

The VA Office of Inspector General investigated denied claims of military sexual trauma and found VA processors didn’t always follow the policies and procedures for them. Leaders of the Veterans Benefits Administration didn’t monitor compliance, and there were ongoing “failures in governance,” the report states.

“As a result, veteran survivors of military sexual trauma remain at risk of not receiving the VA benefits to which they are entitled and experiencing additional distress when claims are improperly handled or denied,” the report reads.

The inspector general’s office investigated the claims as a follow-up to a 2018 review, during which inspectors found about 49% of rejected claims for military sexual trauma between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2017, were denied without the processors performing their due diligence.

Inspectors conducted a second review to see how the department improved since the 2018 report. Instead, they discovered the situation had gotten worse. The office found 57% of rejected claims for military sexual trauma in the last quarter of 2019 were incorrectly denied.

The VA had not corrected the problems found in 2018, the new report found.

In a written response to the report, Thomas Murphy, the VA’s acting under secretary for benefits, said the department has improved its handling of military sexual trauma claims in fiscal 2021. From Oct. 1, 2020, the start of the fiscal year, through June 1, the VA has granted 72% of military sexual trauma claims, Murphy wrote. That’s up from 57% in 2017.

“[The VA] acknowledges that additional controls and oversight are required to further improve [military sexual trauma]-related claims processing,” Murphy wrote. “However, as a result of our efforts since 2018, [the VA] has dramatically increased the grant rate for MST-related claims.”

The inspector general’s office said military sexual trauma claims are especially complex. To receive disability benefits, veterans must have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as credible evidence that sexual assault or harassment occurred during their military service. Veterans also need a medical opinion linking their symptoms to the assault or harassment.

The claims are a challenge for the VA because many sexual assaults are not reported when they happen, the inspector general’s office said.

The office suggested in 2018 that the claims be handled by processors who receive special training. The VA announced in May that it would follow through on that recommendation and designate specialized offices to handle the claims in an effort to reduce the rate of rejection.

At the time, the VA announced the claims would be handled by processors in Lincoln, Neb.; Hartford, Conn.; Columbia, S.C.; New York; and Portland, Ore.

The inspector general’s office directed the VA on Thursday to review all of the claims in which inspectors had found errors and correct them. Some lawmakers spoke out this week, though, arguing more action is needed. Rep. Mark Takano, R-Calif., called on the department to give a second look to all denied military sexual trauma claims.

“I call on VA to re-adjudicate all denied MST claims,” said Takano, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This the only way to know for sure that more claims are not inaccurately processed.”

The inspector general’s office also issued a report this week based on interviews with 136 of the VA’s military sexual trauma coordinators. More than 60% said they didn’t have the administrative support that they needed to perform their duties, and nearly 30% said they needed more funding for outreach and education.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he planned to introduced legislation in the next few weeks that he promised would “restore veterans’ confidence in the VA system” and provide care to survivors of military sexual trauma.

“The VA needs to aggressively and unequivocally increase accountability, improve claims processing and expand supportive services to better care for MST survivors,” Tester said in a statement.

The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. is shown in this undated file photo.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. is shown in this undated file photo. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)

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Virginia’s Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims for Week Ending October 9th

RICHMOND—The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) announced that the number of initial claims filed increased during the most recent filing week.

For the filing week ending October 9, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 10,040. The latest claims figure was an increase of 680 claimants from the previous week. Due to the holiday, this is a state estimate. Eligibility for benefits is determined on a weekly basis, and so not all weekly claims filed result in a benefit payment. This is because the initial claims numbers represent claim applications; claims are then reviewed for eligibility and legitimacy.

For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 43,535, which was a decrease of 484 claims from the previous week and 69% lower than the 142,220 continued claims from the comparable week last year. Due to the holiday, this is a state estimate. Over half of claims that had a self-reported industry were in the accommodation and food services industries, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and administrative and waste services. The continued claims total is mainly comprised of those recent initial claimants who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For additional information on who is claiming unemployment insurance in Virginia, access the VEC’s U.I. claims data dashboard ( that is updated no later than the following Monday after the weekly claims press release.


Nationwide, in the week ending October 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 293,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 3,000 from 326,000 to 329,000. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 277,632 in the week ending October 9, an increase of 16,017 (or 6.1 percent) from the previous week. There were 822,205 initial claims in the comparable week in 2020. Looking at preliminary data, more states reported increases on a seasonally unadjusted basis. California’s preliminary weekly change (+3,214) was the largest increase. Michigan’s preliminary weekly change (+3,171) was the second largest increase. Missouri’s preliminary weekly change (+2,211) was the third largest increase. New Mexico’s was the fourth largest increase (+2,135). Maryland’s increase (+1,666) was the fifth largest weekly increase. Virginia’s preliminary weekly change (+680) was the tenth largest increase. Florida had the largest decrease (-1,519).

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This new tool cuts VA disability claims’ processing time in half

Written by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier
Jul 2, 2019 | FEDSCOOP

Veterans looking to receive compensation for service-connected disabilities can now use a self-service online tool developed by the U.S. Digital Service team at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new tool, built in partnership by the digital team (DSVA), the VA’s Office of Information Technology and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), aims to make it easier for veterans to submit disability claims to the agency. And it comes with a side benefit for all involved: It’s reportedly decreasing the overall adjudication times for claims.

The Disability Compensation Claim Tool is a new digital front end for the form 526EZ, a deeply bureaucratic 12-page document that begins with seven pages of instructions. In it, veterans are called upon to describe their service-connected injuries neatly and in a small table — a process that can be as taxing as it is confusing.

The new digital version is designed such that veterans can “get through the process easily and understand what’s happening,” Andrea Schneider, product lead at DSVA, told FedScoop in an interview. It’s not just an online version of the old paper form — it’s a revamped experience that guides veterans through the process, asking user-friendly questions and using the answers to populate a regular 526EZ on the backend. In a sense, the tool works to translate the kind of plain language a veteran would use into the bureaucratic officialese that claims adjudicators require.

“We don’t need the veteran to be an expert in our administrative processes,” Paul Shute, chief of operational innovation at the VBA’s Compensation Service, told FedScoop.

As always, DSVA emphasized user-centered design in building the tool, talking with “hundreds” of veterans to unveil their needs and testing an early version of the tool beginning in August 2018, the team said. The final version, which fully launched in March, is the culmination of about two years of “solid, dedicated effort,” Schneider told FedScoop.

“It’s been a labor of love,” she added.

But the tool isn’t just easier — it’s also faster. Before launch, the average disability claims processing time was somewhere between 108 and 120 days (FedScoop got differing feedback on this). The majority of that time, Shute told FedScoop, was spent gathering evidence — often in a back-and-forth between the veteran and the adjudicator. The new tool’s use of conditional logic and data integration has already managed, on average, to cut that time in half, the team said. Since March, there have been more than 10,000 claims submissions sent through the tool.

“It’s been an incredible project,” Schneider said. “It’s been impactful from a service perspective, feeling like we’re really able to touch people’s lives and make them a little bit better.”

The new tool is the latest in the VA’s continued focus on putting its veteran “customers” first. In November 2018 the agency launched a new version of, one that puts veteran service front and center. And in May the agency officially added customer experience to its “Core Values and Characteristics” — the guidelines in the the Code of Federal Regulations that define priorities of VA employees as well as what the agency stands for.

“We depend on Veterans, their caregivers, and our business partners to help us form the vision of an improved Veteran experience,” James Gfrerer, CIO at the VA, said in a statement emailed to FedScoop. “Human-centered design, powered by IT, is transforming VA.”

-In this Story-

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Digital Service,, Veterans Benefits Administration

EASIEST VA Claims to WIN (with SECRET VA data revealed and explained!)

VA Rating for Anxiety, Depression, and/or Adjustment Disorder

Times have changed for veterans experiencing mental health disorders. In the past, it was often thought that if you couldn’t “see” an injury, it didn’t exist. Thankfully, the VA now recognizes service-connected conditions like anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorder. Each of these can have a profound impact on your ability to live your day-to-day life and work. Despite this, veterans are still sometimes denied the benefits they need and deserve. If anxiety, depression, and/or adjustment disorder is preventing you from working, you need to make sure you are maximizing your benefits. This is where the disability attorneys of Veterans Law Group can step in.

Receiving compensation for these service-related conditions isn’t charity. It’s money that you deserve and money that you earned through your service. We believe that no veteran should ever fall through the cracks or have to struggle financially. If you have been underrated by the VA, or your benefits were flat-out denied, you need to speak with a VA disability attorney. You completed your mission. This one’s ours.

A VA rating for anxiety, depression, and/or adjustment disorder is stated as a percentage, from 0% to 100%. These ratings mainly look at your occupational and social functioning, although your ability to take care of yourself (hygiene, grooming) is also considered. A higher percentage means that the condition has a greater impact on different aspects of your life.

The VA rates disability according to the following symptoms. Please note that these are general descriptions — your Veterans Law Group attorney can provide you with much more specific information.


Understanding VA Disability Rating Levels



You might receive this VA disability rating for adjustment disorder with anxiety if you’ve been formally diagnosed, but the condition is well-controlled. That means it does not interfere with your job or your social life, and that you do not need to be on medication continually.


For a 10% rating, the aforementioned symptoms are transient or sporadic. For example, you might have nightmares, but they do not occur every night and you are usually able to go back to sleep. Alternatively, your symptoms might be more severe, but medication either controls or eliminates them.


This disability rating is perhaps the most common one. It is appropriate if the aforementioned symptoms are worse but still manageable. Let’s return to the nightmares example. If your nightmares are more frequent and/or more severe, you might have a harder time sleeping through the night, at least on a bad day. As a result, you are groggy the next day, especially in the morning hours. At that point, the PTSD symptoms interfere with social interaction and job performance, even though you are “generally” able to function “satisfactorily.”


The first two ratings focus on overall effects. The higher three focus on specific symptoms. A 50% rating is appropriate if symptoms include:
• Flat or lethargic outlook,
• Speech impairment,
• Judgment, memory, and/or thought impairment,
• Weekly panic attacks, or
• Difficulty in understanding complex instructions or maintaining healthy social relationships.

Remember, if you disagree with your Compensation and Pension doctor’s assessment, you have the right to appeal.


At this level, you are likely struggling with maintaining employment. Holding down a job might be out of the question for you. Specific symptoms include:

• Suicidal thoughts,
• Obsessive focus on rituals,
• “Near-continuous” panic attacks or depression,
• Emotional outbursts, mostly irrational anger,
• Inability to manage stressful situations, and
• Neglect of personal hygiene.

Since veterans with a 70% disability rating may be struggling with employment, a Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability claim might be an option. You would have a 70% rating but paid at the 100% level due to unemployability.


Generally, you either are unable to leave your house or need constant supervision. Some total disability symptoms include:
• Gross thought impairment,
• Hallucinations and/or delusions,
• Disorientation as to place, time, and situation,
• Near-complete memory loss, and
• Danger to self or others.

At the Veterans Law Group, our practice is completely devoted to helping disabled veterans get the benefits they deserve. We’re experienced in dealing with the VA. We know what it takes to build a strong case and get the best possible disability rating for you. That might mean pursuing additional medical opinions or vocational expert reports. We’re prepared to go the extra mile for you.

While our office is based in California, we work with Veterans from all over the country. A consultation with one of our experienced VA disability lawyers is free and confidential. Please contact us to get started.


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How to Fight VA Debt

The Department of Veterans Affairs says you owe them money. You disagree. But how do you fight Uncle Sam when he comes for your cash?

If there's one thing military members know, it's that when the Defense Department gives you too much money, it will come back for it eventually.

The VA is similar, but the system is worse. That's because, thanks to the many different levels of cash benefits and payments offered through a convoluted system, it can be exceptionally easy for veterans to get overpaid without realizing it's happening or truly understanding the consequences. It's also very easy for the VA to simply try to collect debt it's not actually owed thanks to paperwork errors.

But what most often causes the debts, and how can a veteran fight them or the collections process that often results?

According to officials with veteran service organizations, the solution has two parts: speedy reaction, and asking for help.

VA Debt: Likely Causes

Veteran debt to the VA--or incorrect VA claims about debt--can be triggered by a whole host of accidental overpayments or paperwork errors. But there are a few types of problems that are especially common, officials with veteran service organizations said.

If a veteran is receiving compensation or pension based on their net worth, and that net worth changes but the VA isn't updated its records, the veteran can easily end up overpaid.

By law, veterans are not allowed to receive both VA disability compensation and a military paycheck from the Defense Department. That means if a veteran who receives disability payments returns to active duty or drill status in the Guard and Reserve and his or her VA payments aren't altered to offset that income, overpayments can stack up quickly. Sluggish paperwork processing also often contributes to this overpayment snafu.

Veterans who get divorced or have a change in marital or dependent status without notifying the VA can also easily get overpaid.

Overpayments are also common for veterans who find themselves in legal trouble, thanks to rules concerning VA pay and criminal convictions.

Widows often find themselves subject to VA debt collection after their veteran dies. Disability pensions are to stop on the day of death, but if a widow does not notify the VA that the veteran has died and that money continues to be paid, the VA will eventually come back to reclaim it.

Finally, the VA considers the veteran responsible to repay any money that is incorrectly given to his or her school through the GI Bill. That means if a school incorrectly accepts VA funds, the student must pay it back. If the school won't refund the student, that veteran could then be out thousands of dollars with no recourse.

VA Debt: Don't Wait to Respond

The VA worked through 600,000 debt cases last year, veteran support officials report. That's a lot of money problems.

And officials with the American Legion have helped veterans work through so many debt letters that they didn't have quick access to a full tally, they said.

But because of that, they know one action item is key: don't wait to deal with it.

"The biggest point I'd like to make is that [veterans] need to meet that first deadline," said Jim Vale, the Legion's assistant director for claims. His office works with the Legion's representatives nationwide to help veterans deal with VA debt problems.

Each debt letter or collection notice has two waiver deadlines: a waiver of collection deadline 30 days after the first notice, and a waiver of debt due to administrative error or financial hardship at 180 days.

Veterans need to work to make that first 30-day deadline, Vale said.

During that window, the collection process is at the VA Debt Management Center. But after 30 days it is filtered down outside the VA to the Treasury Offset Program, where the collections process is initiated by the U.S. Treasury Department.

There is much more flexibility with appeals received during that 30-day window, he said. Getting an appeal in right away can help a veteran avoid paying while the debt is being fought.

But Vale finds that veterans often miss that first deadline.

"A lot of times they miss that 30-day deadline, and then the VA's hands are tied," he said. "They need to request that before the 30 days."

Veterans can still request a waiver and maybe even get one up until 180 days after the notice, but it gets harder, he said. Once it's sent to the Debt Management Center after the initial 30 days, the veteran will likely have to pay the debt whether he is fighting it or not, and then, if the battle is successful, get the money back later.

VA Debt: Ask for Help

Veteran service organizations such as the American Legion or the organization Veterans Education Success exist for one reason, officials who work for them say: to help veterans.

Those organizations have people on staff whose only job is assisting veterans with VA-related questions, including debt appeals.

Vale said veterans do not need to be Legion members to tap into their service officer network. And they can get expert help appealing their debt by simply getting in touch with their regional Legion Service Officer, Vale said.

"When they call their service officer ... just say 'I have an overpayment, I need to request a waiver and I have a deadline,'" he said.

Officials with Veterans Education Success specialize in GI Bill overpayment problems. They said veterans who have debt issues specific to the GI Bill can call them for help.

"My advice is that they should be in contact with us, and we can try to help them," said Carrie Wofford, the organization's president.

This article was edited to clarify which agency collects debts for the VA. 

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Top 5 PTSD VA Claim *MYTHS* DEBUNKED: How to Get a VA Rating for PTSD in 2021

Top 10 Easiest Claims for VA Disability This Year (2022 Edition)

This post is the ultimate guide to the Top10 Easiest Service Connected Claims for VA Disability, utilizing data from the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) latest report to Congress regarding the VA disability compensation program. 

The VA disability compensation provides eligible veterans with a tax-free monetary benefit each month for service-connected disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during their active duty military service.

Disability compensation may also be paid for VA disabilities that are “secondary” to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities “presumed” to be related to circumstances of military service (e.g., burn pit exposure presumptive conditions), even though they may arise after the veteran has left active duty military service.

Easiest Claims for VA Disability

2022 VA disability pay rates are determined by percentages for each service connected conditions according to a veteran’s combined VA disability rating, which is currently rated on a scale from 0% to 100%, with breaks in 10 percent increments at 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, and 90%.

For example, a 10% VA disability rating is roughly $150 per month while a 100% VA rating is worth more than $3,000 per month.

Generally, the more severe a veteran’s disability symptoms in terms of Frequency, Severity, and Duration, to include the impairment to your work, life, and social functioning, the higher your monthly VA compensation will be.

However, some disabilities by nature impact you more than others and therefore might garner higher ratings, and some claims for VA disability are easier than others to get service connected, which is the focus of this post, so let’s jump into it!

And we’ve got your six! Become an Elite Member and talk with one of our Veteran Coaches to begin your journey to a higher rating!

Three Criteria Required to Get Your Claims for VA Disability Service Connected

VA Disability Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for VA disability benefits by law, a veteran must prove three criteria under the law:

  • #1. Medical Diagnosis of the disability condition in a medical record
  • #2. Medical Nexus Evidence between the diagnosed disability condition and the veteran’s active-duty military service (Direct Service ConnectionOR how the diagnosed disability condition is “proximately due to” or “aggravated by” another service-connected disability (Secondary Service Connection)
  • #3. Current Symptoms of the disability condition that negatively affect your work, life, or social functioning (“Severity of Symptoms”)

If you’ve ever been denied service connection, it’s most likely because you failed to prove a “Nexus” exists on an “at least as likely as not” basis.

Pro Tip: “Nexus” simply means “link” or “connection.” After claim submission, the VA will likely schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam from a VA contracted examiner to determine if there is a link or “Nexus” between your claimed disability condition and your military service. However, you can meet this requirement independently, and typically make a much stronger case for service connection, by having a private medical professional write a credible Nexus Letter in support of your claim.

Looking For Doctors Who Write High Quality Nexus Letters? Click HERE to Join Our #1 Rated VA Claims Insider Elite Program to Get VA Nexus Letters Fast at Reduced Rates, 61-67% OFF.  

10 Most Common VA Disability Claims in 2022

10 Most Common VA Disability Claims in 2022

According to the most recent Veterans Administration report to Congress, the 10 most common VA disability claims to get approved are listed in order as follows, along with the total number of veterans receiving disability compensation for each condition:

Of these, Tinnitus is by far the easiest VA disability claim to get approved, with a total of 2,327,387 veterans service connected for the condition.

In second place is Hearing Loss with 1,343,013 veterans service connected, followed by Limitation of Flexion of the Knee with 1,313,306.

Okay, now just because these VA claims are the most common according to VA data, that doesn’t mean they are the easiest claims to get service connected.

Alright, let’s jump into VA Claims Insider’s list of the 10 easiest things to claim for VA disability in 2022.

Top 10 Easiest Things to Claim for VA Disability This Year [2022]

#1. Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the Easiest VA Claim to Win

Tinnitus, also known as “Ringing in the Ear Syndrome,” is not categorically a condition, but rather, a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.

Tinnitus involves the sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present.

Common Tinnitus symptoms in veterans may include “phantom noises” in your ears such as ringing, buzzing, roaring, buzzing, clicking, hissing, or humming.

The most common type of this is Subjective Tinnitus which is the kind the veteran can only hear.

Tinnitus is the #1 easiest VA claim to win and we refer to it as a “gateway claim” because it can often open the door to many other service connected conditions.

Tinnitus is a low-value claim and can only have one VA rating; it is either rated at 10% or nothing at all.

People most at risk of Tinnitus are those who work in loud conditions including musicians, elderly, and military personnel and veterans.

If you’re thinking about filing your Tinnitus claim as a secondary disability, the following conditions can cause or make Tinnitus worse: Head and neck conditions, Meniere’s disease, depression and anxiety, PTSD, TBI, Hearing Loss, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) and high blood pressure, among others.

Pro Tip: You can also file for a host of disability conditions secondary to Tinnitus, but you’ll probably want to get a Nexus Letter to help prove service connection.

Here’s our list of the Top 5 Secondary Conditions to Tinnitus for VA Disability Benefits.

#2. Mental Health Conditions

PTSD is one of the easiest things to claim for VA disability

Many veterans suffer from significant mental health issues that may be service connected for VA disability benefits.

In fact, nearly every veteran we speak to is suffering from mental health symptoms whether they realize it or not.

In addition, mental health conditions are easy VA disability claims to get approved.

There are 31 ratable mental health conditions under the law, but five of them are most common in veterans:

  • PTSD (Combat, Non-Combat, & Military Sexual Trauma)
  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder

Mental health conditions are “high-value” claims, which we define as a disability condition that has a high likelihood of getting rated at 30% or higher on their own.

In 2022, mental health conditions can be rated from 0% to 100, with breaks at 10%, 30%, 50%, and 70%.

According to the most recent VBA report to congress, a whopping 92.1% of disabled veterans rated for a mental health condition are rated at 30% or higher.

44.2% of veterans with a service connected mental health condition are rated at 70% or higher; the average VA rating for mental health is 70%.

Additionally, mental health conditions qualified the veteran for a 30% disability rating 21.9% of the time, a 50% disability rating 26.0% of the time, a 70% disability rating 30.9% of the time, and a 100% rating 13.3% of the time.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an easy VA claim to get approved if you (1) Have a medical diagnosis of PTSD in a medical record and (2) Have a valid PTSD stressor event that can be verified.

Pro Tip: Many service connected physical conditions can cause or aggravate mental health conditions, and vice versa. So, if you’re already rated for another condition, consider filing a claim for a mental health condition with a Nexus Letter, assuming you and the doctor think they’re connected.

For example, PTSD can have significant debilitating effects on veterans, especially due to the side effects of medications taken to manage your PTSD symptoms, which can lead to a variety of other disabling conditions such as Sleep Apnea, Headaches, GERD, IBS, Erectile Dysfunction, and Female Sexual Arousal Disorder.

Here’s our list of the Top 5 Secondary Conditions to PTSD.

#3. Musculoskeletal Conditions

VA disability claims for musculoskeletal system conditions are easy to win

Musculoskeletal conditions are very common in veterans and include strains, sprains, arthritis, weakness, fatigue, and reduced flexion in the arms, legs, hips, back, neck, muscles, and joints.

VA disability for musculoskeletal system conditions are easy to win and include limitation of range of motion (flexion), painful motion, arthritis, weakness, fatigue, loss of power, lack of coordination, and decreased movement control.

Your final VA disability rating for these conditions depend on (1) Limitation of range of motion (flexion) and/or (2) Painful motion.

While musculoskeletal conditions can be rated from 0% to 100%, they are common rated at 0%, 10%, or 20%.

These conditions are low-value claims according to the VBA’s most recent compensation report and are commonly assigned a VA disability rating of 20% or less 91.7% of the time.

Pro Tip: Musculoskeletal disabilities can also be filed as secondary VA disability claims (and vice versa) and can be caused or made worse any of the following conditions: Radiculopathy, Medication side effects, depression and anxiety, PTSD, TBI, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), right side of body injuries affect left side of body (& vice versa) and spine, neck, back, hips, arms, legs, and feet, among others.


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Thus, you can also claim them as a secondary condition to other service connected disabilities.

If you are rated for any of these issues as a primary medical condition, you may be able to put in a VA disability application for a musculoskeletal issue.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, this could get you another 10% to 20% added to your disability rating per condition.

Here’s an example to illustrate how one of the easiest VA claims to win is Radiculopathy secondary to Back Pain.

Many veterans suffer from various service connected back conditions, which can affect your back.

For example, the following codes from 38 CFR, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities apply:

  • Code 5237: Lumbosacral or cervical strain—a generic label for back pain
  • Code 5238: Spinal stenosis—the spinal column narrows and presses on the spinal cord or nerves
  • Code 5239: Spondylolisthesis or segmental instability—when a vertebra slips out of position
  • Code 5240: Ankylosing spondylitis—an arthritic disease that causes the spinal joints to freeze in place
  • Code 5241: Spinal fusion—the vertebrae are surgically fused together
  • Code 5235: Vertebral fracture or dislocation—the bones of the spine break or slip out of alignment due to a traumatic event like a car accident. Any generic spinal bone injury would be coded here.

These six back conditions can often lead to pinched or damaged nerve roots, which can cause significant pain known as Radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy is a common secondary VA disability claim for secondary service connection due to one or more service connected back or neck conditions.

Note that a veteran is eligible to be rated for both a back condition, and Radiculopathy secondary to lower back pain, up to four times per extremity.

#4. Presumptive Conditions

List of Presumptive Conditions for VA Disability Benefits

A presumptive condition is one that the VA “presumes” to be service-connected, even if there’s no specific “causation” or Nexus for service connection.

These claims are easy to win, assuming you can show via your DD 214 that you were deployed to an eligible location during a specific period, and you developed a qualifying disability condition as a result of your military service.

VA ratings for presumptive conditions range from 0% to 100%, depending on the condition and its severity of symptoms.

There are four main categories of veterans who qualify for presumptive disability conditions: (1) Vietnam veterans, (2) Atomic veterans, (3) Gulf War veterans, and (4) Gulf War veterans exposed to burn pits.

List of Vietnam Veterans Presumptive Conditions

Vietnam Veterans Presumptive Conditions

This applies to Vietnam Veterans who were:

  • Exposed to Agent Orange
  • Served in the Republic of Vietnam or on a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia between Jan. 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975

For Vietnam Veterans, the VA considers the following conditions to be presumptive:

  • AL amyloidosis
  • B-cell leukemia
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (not including osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
  • Chloracne or other similar acneform disease
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

Because of widespread exposure to Agent Orange, to include the waters around eligible locations known as “Blue Water Veterans,” the VA presumes that these conditions are service connected, and thus, you have an excellent chance winning these claims.

List of Atomic Veterans Presumptive Conditions

ionizing radiation presumptive conditions

This applies to Atomic Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation and who experienced one of the following:

  • Participated in atmospheric nuclear testing
  • Occupied or were prisoners of war in Hiroshima or Nagasaki
  • Served before Feb. 1, 1992, at a diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky, Portsmouth, Ohio or Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Served before Jan. 1, 1974, at Amchitka Island, Alaska

For Atomic veterans, the VA considers the following conditions to be presumptive:

  • All forms of leukemia, except chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract, brain, bone, lung, colon or ovary
  • Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Lymphomas, other than Hodgkin’s disease
  • Primary liver cancer, except if there are indications of cirrhosis or hepatitis B

List of Gulf War Syndrome Presumptive Conditions

Gulf War Syndrome Presumptive Conditions

This applies to Gulf War Veterans who:

  • Served in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations
  • Have a condition that is at least 10 percent disabling by Dec. 31, 2021

For Gulf War Veterans, the VA considers the following conditions to be presumptive:

Medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses that exist for six months or more, such as:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

This also includes any diagnosed or undiagnosed illness that warrants a presumption of service connection, as determined by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Signs or symptoms of an undiagnosed illness include:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Sleep disturbance
  • GI symptoms
  • Cardiovascular symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Menstrual disorders

List of Gulf War Deployed Veterans Presumptive VA Conditions to Burn Pit Exposure

Burn Pit Exposure Presumptive List

This applies to Gulf War Deployed Veterans exposed to Burn Pits who:

  • Served in the Southwest Theater of Operations during the Persian Gulf War
  • Served in Afghanistan, Syria, Djibouti or Uzbekistan on or after September 19, 2001
  • Served any length of time in the qualifying area and a condition below becomes manifest to any degree within 10 years from the date of separation from military service:

For Gulf War Deployed Veterans exposed to Burn Pits, the VA considers the following conditions to be presumptive:

  • Asthma
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis, to include Rhinosinusitis

Click HERE to read about the 3 recently approved presumptive conditions to burn pit exposure.

#5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is one of the most common VA disability claims

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is very common in veterans and is one of the easiest VA disabilities to claim.

In 2022, a veteran’s VA rating for GERD can be 10%, 30%, or 60%, depending upon your frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms.

GERD occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the esophagus, which is the tube connecting your mouth and stomach.

When this happens, the lining inside your esophagus can become irritated due to the stomach acid.

This uncomfortable sensation leads to heartburn or acid reflux.

Many veterans have GERD, and according to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of GERD include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which may worsen at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food particles or sour liquid
  • Sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis
  • New or worsening asthma
  • Disrupted sleep and insomnia

Pro Tip: GERD is a common secondary VA disability claim, especially GERD secondary to PTSD especially due to the side effects of medication taken to manage mental health symptoms.

Another easy claim to win is Sleep Apnea secondary to GERD.

#6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is one of the top va disability claims

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common disorder that affects a veteran’s large intestine; it is one of the easiest things to claim for VA disability.

VA ratings for IBS range from 0% to 30%, with an interim break at 10%.

A veterans final VA disability rating for IBS depends upon the frequency, severity, and duration of your symptoms, meaning, the more severe your symptoms, the higher the VA rating for IBS.

There is no separate diagnostic code for IBS, and it’s most commonly assigned a VA rating analogous to diagnostic code 7319, Irritable Colon Syndrome.

Symptoms of IBS include cramping, stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

The most severe symptoms of IBS can usually be treated and managed with medication.

The specific cause of IBS isn’t known within the medical community, however, there are common triggers that can cause or make IBS worse.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, some common triggers of IBS in disabled veterans include:

  • #1 Food. The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood. A true food allergy rarely causes IBS. But many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks.
  • #2 Stress. Most people with IBS experience worse or more frequent signs and symptoms during periods of increased stress. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn’t cause them.
  • #3 Hormones. Women are 2x as likely to have IBS than men, which might indicate that hormonal changes play a role. Many women find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods.
  • #4 Medication Side Effects. Many over the counter and prescription medications taken to help manage a variety of physical and mental disabilities in veterans may cause IBS symptoms or make them worse.

Medical research does suggest a link between IBS and veterans with a mental health condition.

For example, PTSD anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are associated with IBS and the severity of a veteran’s mental health symptoms may trigger IBS symptoms and make them worse.

Finally, many over the counter and prescription medications taken to help manage a variety of physical and mental disabilities in veterans may lead to IBS symptoms.

Pro Tip: Many veterans with IBS, especially those who were diagnosed long after leaving the military are eligible under the law for secondary service connection, including but not limited to: IBS secondary to PTSD, IBS secondary to Depression, and IBS secondary to Anxiety.

Click HERE to read our Top 3 Tips for IBS Claims.

#7. Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches is an easy va disability claim to win

According to the new VBA report to congress, Migraines were the #9 most commonly claimed and service connected VA disability condition for new compensation recipients.

In 2022, Headaches are rated at either 0%, 10%, 30%, or 50% depending upon the severity of your symptoms.

While the law only specifically lists “Migraines,” ANY type of headache condition can receive a VA rating if you have symptoms that affect your work, life, and functioning due to your military service or another service connected disability.  

The International Headache Society and the Mayo Clinic have identified more than 150 different types of headaches, which are divided into three categories: Primary, Secondary, and Other.

For example, Tension Headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults, and the most common type of headaches in veterans as well. They cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over time.

Migraine Headaches are often described as pounding, throbbing pain, and they can last from 4 hours to 3 days and usually happen one to four times a month.

Along with the pain, veterans have other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, noise, or smells; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and upset stomach or belly pain.

Post Traumatic Headaches, for example, are quite common among veterans, specifically if you suffered from any type of head injury or trauma during military service.

Furthermore, post traumatic headaches, particularly migraine headaches, are commonly found in veterans who deployed in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to medical research, if you get a new headache within 7-10 days of a head injuryor after you are conscious again from the trauma, you may have a condition known as a post-traumatic headache.

Pro Tip: Headaches are often granted secondary service connection because Migraine Headaches are shown to be proximately due to or the result of another service connected disability. The frequency and severity of Headache Conditions typically increases with the severity of other service-connected disabilities. For example, veterans with more severe PTSD symptoms are likely to have more severe Migraine Headache symptoms, suggesting a correlation between the two.

Click HERE to learn more about Migraines and secondary service connection.

#8. Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is a common VA disability in veterans with back and neck conditions

Many veterans suffer from Radiculopathy, and it’s also an easy VA claim to get service connected.

In 2022, VA ratings for Radiculopathy typically range from 0% to 70%, depending upon the severity of your symptoms.

However, a VA rating for Sciatica can range from 10% to 80%, depending upon the severity of symptoms.

The highest possible VA disability rating for Radiculopathy, across all radicular groups, with complete paralysis, is 90%.

Your spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae, and your spinal cord runs through a canal in the center of these bones.

Nerve roots split from the cord and travel between the vertebrae into many different areas of your body.

When these nerve roots become pinched or damaged, the resulting symptoms lead to a painful condition called Radiculopathy.

When a nerve root is compressed, it becomes inflamed.

This results in numerous unpleasant and painful symptoms in veterans that may include:

  • Sharp and radiating pain in the back, arms, legs or shoulders that may worsen with certain activities, even something as simple as coughing or sneezing
  • Weakness, fatigue, or loss of reflexes in the arms or legs
  • Numbness or tingling of the skin, “pins and needles,” or other abnormal sensations (paresthesia) in the arms or legs

Your specific symptoms will depend on where in the spine the nerve root is pinched.

However, it’s also possible that you don’t experience any symptoms, or you go through periodic flare-ups of symptoms.

Pro Tip: Radiculopathy is a very common secondary VA disability claim for secondary service connection due to one or more service connected back or neck conditions.

Click HERE to read about VA disability claims for Radiculopathy.

#9. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the easiest VA claims to get approved

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain in veterans. It’s also an easy VA claim to win.

Plantar Fasciitis is inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (called the “Plantar Fascia”).

In 2022, Plantar Fasciitis has its own Diagnostic Code (DC) 5269 with ratings that range from 10% to 30% with a break at 20%.

The highest possible scheduler VA disability rating for bilateral Plantar Fasciitis is now 30% (not 50%), which includes symptoms such as no relief from both non-surgical (orthopedic shoes or appliances) and surgical treatment.

However, if the veteran has actual loss of use of the foot, the rating is 40%.

A veterans final VA disability rating for Plantar Fasciitis depends upon the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms, meaning, the more severe your symptoms, the higher the VA rating for Plantar Fasciitis.

There is also a bilateral factor—meaning veterans can get a higher VA rating for Plantar Fasciitis if they have the disability in both feet.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Your plantar fascia is in the shape of a bowstring, supporting the arch of your foot and absorbing shock when you walk. If tension and stress on this bowstring become too great, small tears can occur in the fascia. Repeated stretching and tearing can irritate or inflame the fascia, causing severe heel pain.”

Common risk factors include age, long distance running (such as military PT), poor arch and heel support (e.g., military combat boots), obesity, and occupations that require a lot of standing (active duty military service, perhaps combat deployments).

Pro Tip: Many veterans with Plantar Fasciitis, especially those who were diagnosed long after leaving the military, might still be eligible if medical evidence shows your heel pain is proximately due to or aggravated by another service-connected disability such as knee strain, hip conditions, and/or back conditions.

Click HERE to read about VA Claims for Plantar Fasciitis.

#10. Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile Dysfunction is very common in military veterans

Many Veterans suffer from Erectile Dysfunction from active duty service, and there are a variety of physical and mental conditions that can cause or make ED worse.

For example, Erectile Dysfunction is a common claim for secondary service connection, especially secondary to mental health conditions such as PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety.

In addition, side effects of medications you take to manage your physical and mental health symptoms can cause or make ED worse.

Erectile Dysfunction is assigned a 0% service connected VA rating under Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) Category (K) or SMC-K, for “Loss of Use of a Creative Organ.”

In 2022, Veterans with a 0% rating for Erectile Dysfunction qualify for SMC-K and will get an additional $118.55 per month added to their total monthly VA disability compensation payment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.

If you’re a Veteran suffering from ED, it can cause a significant amount of stress in your life, affect your well-being and outlook on life, and can contribute to relationship problems.

Common symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction in Veterans include:

  • Difficulty getting an erection
  • Difficulty keeping an erection
  • Decreased libido (low sex drive)

If a Veteran is going to file an Erectile Dysfunction VA claim, he/she must present medical evidence that shows all three of the following:

  • Tip #1: Make sure you have a medical diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction in a medical record, AND
  • Tip #2: You must have a “Nexus” for service connection, meaning, your Erectile Dysfunction was caused or made worse by your active duty military service OR your ED is “proximately due to or aggravated by” another service connected disability rated at 0% or higher, AND
  • Tip #3: Current symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction that negatively impact your work, life, or social functioning documented in a medical record. It also helps to write a strong personal VA statement in support of a claim.

We’re Veterans helping Veterans Worldwide™, and since 2016 we’ve helped 10,000+ Veterans just like you INCREASE their VA disability rating!

Erectile Dysfunction Secondary Claims for Disability

Pro Tip: In many cases, Erectile Dysfunction is caused by something physical or mental, and can be rated secondary to any of the following service connected conditions:

Click HERE to read our definitive guide on VA claims for Erectile Dysfunction.

Medical Evidence and Supporting Documentation Are Critical

Medical Evidence is Critical for VA Disability Compensation Claim Success

To maximize your chances of winning your VA claims, medical evidence and supporting documentation should be an important part of your VA claim strategy.

If you’re still on active duty, get your butt to the doctor, and have your injuries or conditions documented in your military medical records. Do this now and don’t wait until you’ve left the military.

If you are out of the service, and already a veteran, work with your private doctor to diagnose your condition, and document the severity of your symptoms in either VA or private medical records.

It’s important for you to write strong personal statements to support each disability you’re claiming before the VA.

It can also be helpful to have a friend, relative, coworker, or veteran you served with write a VA Buddy Letter as a first-hand witness to the event or injury that caused your disability.

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And, you’ll get to work with a Veteran Coach (VC) who will lead you to VA claim success.

  • We’re a company OF Veterans, BY Veterans, FOR Veterans! FOR Veterans, BY Veterans. We’re the largest community of Veterans Helping Veterans Worldwide™
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Click HERE to Join the #1 Rated VA Claims Insider Elite Program and Start Today for FREE.

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About the Author

Brian Reese

Brian Reese

Founder & CEO

Brian Reese is VA benefits expert, author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned, and founder of VA Claims Insider – “The Most Trusted Name in Education-Based Resources for Veterans.”

His frustration with the 8-step VA disability claims process led him to create “VA Claims Insider,” which provides U.S. military veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned for successfully submitting or re-submitting a winning VA disability compensation claim.

Brian is also the CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, which is the world’s largest free searchable database for all things related to DoD disability and VA disability claims and has served more than 4,600,000 military members and veterans since its founding in 2013.

His eBook, the “9 Secrets Strategies for Winning Your VA Disability Claim” has been downloaded more than 300,000 times in the past three years and is the #1 rated free VA disability claims guide for veterans.

He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).


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