Valor Firm’s VA Claims Manual

This manual is designed to help veterans understand how VA decides disability claims. At the left, there are links to all the articles in the manual. Using the search bar below, you can search for specific terms like “PTSD” or “DBQ.”

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How To Read VA’s Rating Charts

First, what are the rating charts? The VA finds the percentages assigned to each disabling condition here, in the Code of Federal Regulations, 38 C.F.R. § 4. From that link, look for the “Schedule of Ratings” under each system. The charts are organized by body part and then by each disability. The charts assign symptoms to each disability and a percentage rating for those symptoms.

Here’s an example:

Elbow and Forearm

This is a section of the chart under The Musculoskeletal System (you can find it here) for injuries to the elbow and forearm. The left column shows the condition’s Diagnostic Code and the symptom. Here we’re looking at Diagnostic Code 5205, Ankylosis of the Elbow, and Diagnostic Code 5206, Limitation of Flexion of the Forearm. Forearm Flexion is similar to the motion made when doing a biceps curl. On the righthand side are the percentages assigned to each possible symptom. For Diagnostic Code 5206, Limitation of Flexion of the Forearm, the symptom is an inability to raise the arm. As the veteran’s ability to raise his/her arm decreases (measured by the angle), the percentage increases. Major and minor refer to the dominant (major) and non-dominant (minor) side.

VA has charts like this for almost every conceivable condition. Another example is below, this one for mental disorders. Here is the left column, listing the rated conditions:

Mental Left Column

For mental disorders, the VA separates the columns for conditions and symptoms. The reason is because the rated symptoms are the same, regardless of the mental condition. This is why I tell veterans that if the VA has already diagnosed the veteran with a service-connected condition like Unspecified Depressive Disorder or Panic Disorder, a diagnosis of PTSD is less important because the symptoms of each condition are rated the same. Typically once a veteran has a service-connected mental condition, he or she should then focus on the symptoms of that condition to ensure a proper rating.

Here are the symptoms listed for mental conditions (on the left) and the percentages assigned to each (on the right):

Mental Right Column

Why Do I Need To Know This?

It’s not necessary for a veteran to familiarize themselves with the rating chart before filing a claim. But it can be helpful in knowing what symptoms the VA uses to rate the condition so that, if the veteran has that symptom, he/she knows to emphasize that in the claim. For instance, if the veteran suffers from PTSD which causes him/her to have panic attacks more than once a week, the veteran should ensure evidence of those attacks is submitted with the claim and argue for at least a 50% rating for that mental condition.

Have Questions About Your VA Benefits?

If VA denied your claim, we can perform a free review of your claim file to ensure VA followed the proper rules and regulations and to make sure you have all the right evidence needed to substantiate your claim.  Contact us so we can get a copy of your claim file from VA and review the file.

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If the VA denied your claim, you didn’t get the rating you deserve, or have lost an appeal before the Board of Veterans Appeals, we can help. Contact us by filling out the following form.