General Rating Formula For Lower Back Pain

General Rating Formula For Lower Back Pain

Posted On: May 24, 2023

Service-connected lower back pain is common among most veterans. In fact, lower back conditions consistently rank in the five most frequently VA-claimed service-connected disabilities every year.

However, obtaining a VA disability rating for your lower back pain may be extremely challenging and frustrating. Even if you encounter chronic pain that makes your gainful employment difficult or even impossible, you can still be provided a low VA rating after your initial C&P exam.

Here's how you can get a VA disability rating and the general rating formula VA uses for lower back pain.

How To Get A 100% Disability Rating For Back Pain

To receive a 100% VA rating for your spinal issue, you'll have to prove that your entire spine is totally frozen in an unfavorable position.

Entire Spine

It involves your thoracolumbar (lower and middle back) and cervical (neck) spine. If you have a slight movement in either or both, you won't qualify for a 100 percent rating.


You've significantly no range of motion in the spine.

Unfavorable Position

Your entire spine is fixed in a non-neutral or curved position. If your entire spine is fixed in the neutral position (0 degrees), it is called "favorable" ankylosis and can only qualify for a lower VA disability rating.

It is a strict standard to meet, and it needs an extreme level of functional loss.

That is why most veterans with service-connected lower back pain who qualify for 100 percent disability ratings do so by combining their lower back disability rating with other associated conditions.

General Rating Formula For Disability Ratings For Lower Back Pain

Considering you still have a slight range of motion in your spine, you'll be assessed a lower VA rating depending on the VA's disability rating table.

For your thoracolumbar spine:

50% Rating: Your entire thoracolumbar spine is totally frozen at an unfavorable angle;

40% Rating: Your spine is frozen in the favorable angle, or forward flexion is below 30°.

20% Rating: Your forward flexion ranges between 30° and 60°, or your combined range of motion (left and right flexion, forward flexion, extension, left and right rotation) is 120° or less.

10% Rating: Your forward flexion ranges between 60° and 85°, or your combined range of motion ranges between 125° and 240°.

The VA will also assess a "painful motion" principle regarding your back pain. In short, it indicates that if you experience any pain during movement, you must still qualify for a minimum rating (10%) even if the range of motion is normal.

Proving Your Service Connection

To obtain VA disability benefits, it's just not sufficient to be a disabled veteran. You must prove that your disability resulted from your illness, injury, or other event incurred during your military service.

So, showing that your lower back pain is linked to your service can be tough, specifically if your condition is degenerative and the severe symptoms appear long after discharge. To prove your service connection, you must have the following:

  • The current diagnosis of your disability, such as vertebral fracture, spinal stenosis, intervertebral disc syndrome, or evaluation of your disability from a professional doctor.
  • A recognizable in-service injury or event you believe resulted in lower back pain. For instance, your training or combat injuries, a car accident, or any repetitive stress from your military work.
  • The "medical nexus letter," or a way to connect your in-service event or injury to your current medical diagnosis, enough that your doctor would conclude that your disability is "as likely as not" to be directly linked to your military service than not.

You may need to gather sufficient medical records (from within and after your time in your service), military service records, or recorded buddy statements from people you served with who witnessed that event.