Knee and Leg Impairments

Marching, handling heavy equipment, and other strenuous physical tasks associated with military service put veterans at greater risk of developing knee and leg impairments while serving and after discharge. Whether caused by the chronic stress of military duty, a vehicle accident, or an acute injury sustained during combat or training, knee and leg conditions caused or made worse by military service are eligible for VA disability benefits. Read on to find out more about VA disability compensation for knee and leg impairments, and how to win the highest possible disability rating under the law.

Which Knee and Leg Conditions Are Eligible for Service Connection?

In general, any limitation in ordinary function such as painful motion of the leg or limited range of motion is likely to be eligible for service connection and compensation. When performing a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination, the VA uses a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) to assess a veteran’s degree of disability for a given body part. The DBQ for knee and lower leg conditions lists the following as potential diagnoses for compensable conditions:

-Knee strain

-Knee tendonitis/tendonosis

-Knee meniscal tear

-Knee anterior cruciate ligament tear

-Knee posterior cruciate ligament tear

-Patellar or quadriceps tendon rupture

-Knee joint osteoarthritis

-Knee joint ankylosis

-Knee fracture (including patellar fracture)

-Stress fracture of tibia

-Tibia and/or Fibula fracture

-Recurrent patellar dislocation

-Recurrent patellar dislocation

-Recurrent patellar dislocation

-Patellar dislocation

-Knee cartilage restoration surgery

-Shin splints (including tibia and or fibula stress fracture and/or exertional compartment syndrome)

-Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Orthopedic conditions affecting the knee are rated and compensated differently depending on the diagnosis and the degree of disability, so it’s important to work with your doctor and/or orthopedic specialist to get the correct diagnosis and to record your symptoms as early as possible. Understanding the condition causing your chronic back pain will also help you get the most effective treatment.

Proving Service Connection and Unemployability for Knee and Leg Conditions

If your knee or leg condition began during or was made worse by your military service, you are eligible for service connection and VA disability benefits. To prove service connection to the VA, assembling your service medical records, military personnel files reflecting an in-service accident, diagnosis, or change of duty due to knee issues, and any private medical records you have will help you establish a correlation between your military service and the progression of your neck condition. Make sure to have an examining physician use a goniometer as soon as possible in order to gain an accurate measurement of any mobility loss, as the degree of immobility is important for the disability rating process. Sworn declarations from fellow servicemembers, friends, family members or others familiar with your condition(s) can also help verify that condition was caused or made worse during your military service.

As you can see from the rating schedules below, the highest possible schedular disability rating for any given lower leg condition is 40 percent, and the highest possible schedular rating for a knee impairment is 60 percent. This is because of the so-called “amputation rule.” An amputation of the leg below the knee is generally rated as 40 percent disabling, and above the knee as 60 percent disabling, so any knee or leg condition that falls short of amputation cannot exceed that schedular rating. One notable exception to this is the case of a total knee replacement, which is rated as 100 percent disabling for one year following the implantation of the prosthesis.

Although it is very rare for a single leg condition to be considered for a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU rating), veterans frequently find themselves managing psychological health conditions, orthopedic issues in other areas of the body, or other service-connected health issues. Veterans with claims like this who are unable to work may find that the combined disability rating assigned to them by VA falls short of the total disability benefits they should be paid. To appeal a VA rating decision and win a TDIU rating or 100 percent combined rating, having an experienced veteran advocate working for you gives you best odds of success.

Disability Rating Schedules for Knee and Leg Conditions

Diagnostic Code 5055, Knee replacement (prosthesis)

Prosthetic replacement of knee joint:

For 1 year following implantation of prosthesis: 100%

With chronic residuals consisting of severe painful motion or
weakness in the affected extremity: 60%

With intermediate degrees of residual weakness, pain or limitation
of motion rate by analogy to diagnostic codes 5256, 5261, or 5262.
Minimum rating: 30%

Diagnostic Code 5256, Knee, ankylosis of:

Extremely unfavorable, in flexion at an angle of 45° or more: 60%

In flexion between 20° and 45°: 50%

In flexion between 10° and 20°: 40%

Favorable angle in full extension, or in slight flexion between 0° and 10°: 30%

Diagnostic Code 5257, Knee, other impairment of:

Recurrent subluxation or lateral instability:

Severe: 30%

Moderate: 20%

Slight: 10%

Diagnostic Code 5258, Cartilage, semilunar, dislocated

With frequent episodes of
“locking,” pain, and effusion into the joint: 20%

Diagnostic Code 5259, Cartilage, semilunar, removal of, symptomatic: 10%

Diagnostic Code 5260, Leg, limitation of flexion of:

Flexion limited to 15°: 30%

Flexion limited to 30°: 20%

Flexion limited to 45°: 10%

Flexion limited to 60°: 0%

Diagnostic Code 5261, Leg, limitation of extension of:

Extension limited to 45°: 50%

Extension limited to 30°: 40%

Extension limited to 20°: 30%

Extension limited to 15°: 20%

Extension limited to 10°: 10%

Extension limited to 5°: 0%

Diagnostic Code 5262, Tibia and fibula, impairment of:

Nonunion of, with loose motion, requiring brace: 40%

Malunion of:

With marked knee or ankle disability: 30%

With moderate knee or ankle disability: 20%

With slight knee or ankle disability: 10%

Diagnostic Code 5263, Genu recurvatum

Acquired, traumatic, with weakness and
insecurity in weight-bearing objectively demonstrated: 10%

Win Total Disability Benefits for Your Knee or Leg Condition

If you are a veteran who cannot work due to your service-connected knee condition and other impairment(s), having a team of dedicated VA disability attorneys working for you gives you the best chance of winning total disability benefits. If you are totally unable to work but received a combined disability rating of less than 100 percent, winning a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (a TDIU rating) will allow you collect total disability benefits without meeting the schedular requirements. Over more than 25 years of representing veterans, the award-winning veteran advocates at Friedman Disability have helped more than 5,000 veterans win TDIU ratings from the VA. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping veterans with knee and leg conditions prove service connection and get the maximum possible disability benefits. Our fee is 20 percent of your past-due benefits ONLY if we win your claim. For a free evaluation of your VA disability claim, call 800-742-5035 today, or visit