Understanding VA Rating for Plantar Fasciitis

Also known as neuritis,  runner’s heel, or painful sole syndrome, plantar fasciitis is a common condition caused by inflammation of the fascia – a set of tissues that connects the bones of the heel to the toes – your foot’s sole. 

People suffering from plantar fasciitis might experience acute to severe pain at the base of their feet. The pain can be severe to the point that it becomes impossible to put the most minimal weight on the feet. If you’re a veteran suffering from plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciitis can impact your VA rating. 

Overview of Plantar fasciitis, VA Rating and Its Significance 

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. It’s one of the most common causes of heel pain. It is accompanied with symptoms such as:

  • A sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel. This pain is usually most severe with the first few steps after waking up in the morning or after long periods of rest, and it may decrease with activity but worsen again after prolonged standing or walking.
  • Many people with plantar fasciitis experience stiffness and limited mobility in the affected foot, especially in the morning or after sitting for a long time.
  •  The bottom of the foot, particularly around the heel, may be tender to the touch.
  •  Some individuals may notice swelling along the bottom of the foot, although this is less common.
  • Plantar fasciitis often develops due to repetitive strain on the plantar fascia. 
  • Activities such as standing, walking, or running, especially on hard surfaces, can stress the tissue.
  • Certain foot characteristics, such as high arches, flat feet, or an abnormal walking gait, can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
  • Tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons can put additional strain on the plantar fascia, contributing to the development of plantar fasciitis.

The VA rating system determines the degree of disability for veterans based on service-connected injuries or illnesses, including those related to plantar fasciitis. The VA assigns a disability rating, expressed as a percentage, to reflect the severity of the condition and its impact on the individual’s ability to work and perform daily activities.

For plantar fasciitis, the VA typically evaluates the severity of symptoms, functional limitations, and the need for ongoing medical treatment. Factors such as chronic pain, difficulty walking, and the effectiveness of treatment options may all be considered when determining the disability rating.

The VA rating is significant because it determines the level of compensation and benefits that a veteran is entitled to receive. A higher disability rating typically corresponds to greater financial support and access to additional services and resources, such as vocational rehabilitation, home healthcare, and adaptive equipment.

Understanding the VA rating system and how it applies to plantar fasciitis is essential for seeking appropriate compensation and support for service-related injuries. 

Deep Dive: Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a prevalent condition among veterans, particularly those who have served in roles that involve prolonged standing, walking, or running periods, such as infantry soldiers, marines, or aircraft maintenance personnel. The demands of military service, including rigorous training, physical fitness requirements, and deployment-related activities, can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis over time.

Furthermore, certain factors commonly associated with military service may increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis among veterans. For example:

Combat Boots: Wearing combat boots for extended periods, especially on rugged terrain or during long marches, can place excessive pressure on the feet and contribute to pain and inflammation, including plantar fasciitis.

Overuse and Training: Military training often involves repetitive activities, such as running, marching, and standing for extended periods, which can strain the plantar fascia and lead to overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis.

Obesity and Body Armor: The physical demands of military service, combined with carrying heavy gear and body armor, can exacerbate existing foot conditions or contribute to developing new ones, including plantar fasciitis.

Service-Related Injuries: Veterans may also develop plantar fasciitis as a result of service-related injuries, such as fractures, sprains, or other trauma to the foot or ankle, which can impact the biomechanics of the foot and increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like plantar fasciitis.

VA Rating System Overview

The VA rating system is crucial in providing support and compensation to veterans who have incurred service-related injuries or illnesses during their military service. Understanding how the VA rating system works, the basics of evaluation and rating, and the importance of disability ratings are essential for veterans navigating the VA benefits process.

How does the VA rating work?

The VA rating system evaluates the degree of disability resulting from service-connected conditions and assigns a disability rating expressed as a percentage. This rating reflects the severity of the disability and its impact on the individual’s ability to work and perform daily activities.

The VA uses a standardized rating schedule, known as the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), to assess the severity of various conditions and assign disability ratings accordingly. Each condition is evaluated based on specific criteria outlined in the VASRD, which consider factors such as symptoms, functional limitations, and the need for ongoing medical treatment.

During the VA claims process, veterans must provide evidence of their service-connected conditions, including medical records, treatment history, and statements from healthcare providers. The VA reviews this evidence to determine whether the condition is related to military service and to assess its severity for rating purposes.

Once a disability claim is submitted, the VA conducts a comprehensive examination, often called a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination, to assess the veteran’s current level of impairment and functional limitations. The results of this examination, along with the evidence provided by the veteran, are used to determine the disability rating.

The basics of evaluation and rating in the VA system

The evaluation and rating process within the VA system involves several key steps:

Identification of Service-Connected Conditions: Veterans must establish a connection between their current medical conditions and their military service. This requires evidence that the condition either began or worsened due to their service.

Assessment of Severity: The VA evaluates the severity of each service-connected condition based on its impact on the veteran’s ability to function. This assessment considers factors such as symptoms, limitations in mobility or range of motion, and the need for assistance with activities of daily living.

Application of the VASRD: The VASRD provides a framework for assessing the severity of various conditions and assigning disability ratings based on specific diagnostic criteria. Ratings range from 0% to 100%, with higher ratings indicating greater levels of disability.

Combined Ratings: Veterans may have multiple service-connected conditions, each with its disability rating. The VA calculates the combined disability rating using a formula that considers the impact of each condition on the veteran’s overall functional capacity.

Periodic Reevaluation: Disability ratings are not necessarily permanent and may be subject to periodic reevaluation by the VA. This ensures that veterans receive appropriate compensation based on the current status of their conditions.

The importance of disability ratings

Disability ratings are essential for veterans as they determine the compensation and benefits they are entitled to receive from the VA. These benefits may include monthly disability compensation payments, access to healthcare services through the VA healthcare system, vocational rehabilitation, education assistance, housing grants, and more.

 Higher disability ratings correspond to greater compensation and support, providing veterans with the resources to address their healthcare needs, maintain their independence, and improve their overall well-being.

The VA rating system is a critical component of the VA benefits process, providing veterans with the recognition, support, and compensation they deserve for their service-related disabilities. 

What is the VA Rating for Plantar Fasciitis?

 Plantar fasciitis’s VA rating is under Diagnostic Code 5285 of 38 CFR § 4.71a.

The VA rating for plantar fasciitis is determined based on the severity of the condition and its impact on the veteran’s ability to work and perform daily activities. 

Breaking down the VA Rating for Plantar Fasciitis:

The VA uses the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to evaluate and assign disability ratings for various medical conditions, including plantar fasciitis. The VASRD provides diagnostic criteria and rating guidelines for assessing the severity of each condition and assigning disability ratings based on the level of impairment.

Ratings for plantar fasciitis were modified and taken into effect on February 7, 2021, which makes the highest rating for this condition 40 percent. The ratings scheduled for  plantar fasciitis include: 

  • 30 percent. Plantar fasciitis impacts both feet, and surgical and nonsurgical treatments have not been able to provide relief. 
  • 20 percent. Plantar fasciitis affects one of the feet, and surgical and nonsurgical treatments have not been able to provide relief.  
  • 10 percent. Plantar fasciitis can affect either one or both feet without a surgical or nonsurgical solution. 

Understanding Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) for Foot Conditions

Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), https://benefits.va.gov/compensation/dbq_publicdbqs.asp, are standardized forms used by the VA to gather medical evidence during the claims process. Healthcare providers complete DBQs, which provide detailed information about the veteran’s medical condition, symptoms, functional limitations, and treatment history.

For foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, the VA offers specific DBQs tailored to assess the severity of the condition and its impact on the veteran’s ability to work and perform daily activities. These DBQs include sections covering various aspects of the condition, including:

Medical History: Information about the onset and duration of symptoms, previous treatments, and any other relevant medical history related to the foot condition.

Physical Examination: Objective findings from a physical examination, including observations of tenderness, swelling, range of motion, and gait abnormalities.

Functional Assessment: Evaluation of the veteran’s functional limitations related to the foot condition, such as difficulty walking, standing, or performing activities requiring prolonged weight-bearing.

Treatment and Response to Treatment: Documentation of treatment modalities used to manage the foot condition, including medications, physical therapy, orthotics, injections, and surgical interventions, as well as the veteran’s response to treatment.

Impact on Daily Activities: Assessment of how the foot condition affects the veteran’s ability to perform activities of daily living, work-related tasks, and recreational activities.

Completing a DBQ for plantar fasciitis provides the VA with comprehensive medical evidence to support the veteran’s disability claim. It helps ensure an accurate assessment of the severity of the condition. Veterans are encouraged to work closely with their healthcare providers to complete the DBQ accurately and thoroughly, including providing relevant medical records and supporting documentation.

Factors that influence plantar fasciitis

 The VA rating for plantar fasciitis considers several factors to determine the level of disability and the appropriate compensation for affected veterans. 

Pain Level and Severity

Pain is one of the primary symptoms of plantar fasciitis and is a crucial factor in assessing the severity of the condition. The VA evaluates the frequency, intensity, and duration of pain experienced by the veteran, both at rest and during physical activity. Veterans with severe, persistent pain that significantly impacts their ability to walk, stand, or perform daily activities may receive a higher disability rating.

The VA considers the effectiveness of pain management strategies, including medication, physical therapy, orthotics, and injections, in controlling the veteran’s symptoms. If pain persists despite treatment or if the veteran experiences chronic or recurrent episodes of pain, it may warrant a higher disability rating to reflect the ongoing impact on their quality of life.

Limitations in Foot Motion

Plantar fasciitis can cause stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected foot, further impairing the veteran’s ability to walk, stand, and perform weight-bearing activities. The VA assesses the extent of limitations in foot motion, including dorsiflexion (bringing the toes towards the shin) and plantarflexion (pointing the toes away from the shin), through a physical examination conducted during the Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination.

Reduced foot motion may result from pain, inflammation, or structural changes in the foot associated with plantar fasciitis. Veterans with significant limitations in foot motion that interfere with their mobility and functional capacity may receive a higher disability rating to reflect the severity of their impairment.

Functional Limitations

Functional limitations encompass a broad range of daily living, work, and recreational activities. The VA evaluates how plantar fasciitis affects the veteran’s ability to perform essential tasks, such as walking, standing, climbing stairs, and maintaining balance. Functional assessments may also consider the veteran’s ability to engage in hobbies, sports, or other leisure activities that require physical exertion.

Veterans who experience significant functional limitations due to plantar fasciitis, such as difficulty walking long distances, standing for extended periods, or participating in physical exercise, may qualify for a higher disability rating. The VA considers the impact of these limitations on the veteran’s overall quality of life and ability to maintain employment or pursue vocational activities.

 Impact on Employment

Plantar fasciitis can profoundly impact the veteran’s ability to work and perform job-related tasks, particularly if their occupation requires prolonged standing, walking, or physical labor. The VA evaluates how the veteran’s condition affects their ability to meet the demands of their occupation and may consider factors such as job modifications, accommodations, or limitations imposed by the condition.

Veterans who cannot work or experience significant vocational limitations due to plantar fasciitis may be eligible for a higher disability rating to compensate for the loss of earning capacity and economic impact. The VA may also consider vocational rehabilitation services to help veterans with plantar fasciitis transition to alternative employment or retrain for new career opportunities.

Treatment and Response to Treatment

Another critical factor in determining the VA rating is the effectiveness of treatment modalities in managing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. The VA evaluates the veteran’s response to various treatment interventions, including medication, physical therapy, orthotics, injections, and surgical procedures, to assess the severity of the condition and the need for ongoing medical care.

Veterans who experience limited symptom relief or minimal improvement with conservative treatments may require more aggressive interventions, such as surgery, to alleviate pain and restore function. The VA considers the impact of treatment on the veteran’s overall functional capacity and quality of life when assigning disability ratings for plantar fasciitis.

How to Apply for VA Disability for Plantar Fasciitis

Applying for VA disability benefits for plantar fasciitis involves a detailed process that requires gathering the necessary documents and evidence to support your claim. 

Determine Eligibility

Before applying for VA disability benefits for plantar fasciitis, it’s essential to determine if you meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify for VA disability benefits, you must have a current medical diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, and the condition must be related to your military service or aggravated by your service-connected injuries or illnesses.

Gather Necessary Documents

To support your claim for VA disability benefits for plantar fasciitis, you’ll need to gather the following necessary documents:

Service Medical Records: Obtain copies of your medical records documenting any treatment for foot-related injuries or conditions during your military service.

Treatment Records: Collect all medical records, including doctor’s notes, diagnostic reports, and treatment history related to your plantar fasciitis, from both VA and non-VA healthcare providers.

Military Service Information: Provide details about your military service, including dates of service, branch of service, and any relevant deployment or combat experience.

Statement in Support of Claim: Write a personal statement describing your symptoms, how they affect your daily life and work, and any relevant details about your military service and the onset of your condition.

Buddy Statements: Obtain statements from friends, family members, or fellow service members who can attest to your symptoms, functional limitations, and the impact of your condition on your daily life and work.

Submit a Claim for Disability Benefits

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary documents and evidence, you can submit a claim for VA disability benefits for plantar fasciitis. You can apply online through the VA’s eBenefits portal, by mail, or in person at your local VA regional office. Be sure to include all relevant documents and evidence to support your claim, as complete or sufficient information may delay the processing of your claim.

Attend Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination

After submitting your claim, the VA may schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination to evaluate the severity of your plantar fasciitis and its impact on your functional capacity. During the examination, a VA healthcare provider will thoroughly assess your condition, including a physical examination, a review of medical records, and a discussion of your symptoms and treatment history.

 Await Decision and Appeal if Necessary

After completing the C&P examination, the VA will review all available evidence and medical records to determine your eligibility for disability benefits and assign a disability rating for your plantar fasciitis. Once a decision is made, you will receive a notification letter outlining the VA’s decision and the assigned disability rating.

If you disagree with the VA’s decision or believe that your disability rating does not accurately reflect the severity of your condition, you have the right to appeal the decision. You can request a review of your claim by a Decision Review Officer (DRO), submit additional evidence, or request a formal appeal hearing before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) to present your case.

Applying for VA disability benefits for plantar fasciitis requires careful preparation and gathering necessary documents and evidence to support your claim. If you need assistance with your claim or have questions about the application process, consider contacting a VA-accredited representative or veterans service organization for guidance and support.

Tips for Maximizing Your VA Disability 

Accessibility Aids

Accessibility aids can help alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and improve your overall quality of life. These aids may include:

Orthotic Inserts: Custom-made or over-the-counter orthotic inserts can support the foot arch and relieve pressure on the plantar fascia, reducing pain and discomfort.

Specialized Footwear: Wearing supportive footwear with cushioned soles and proper arch support can help reduce strain on the plantar fascia and promote healing. Look for shoes specifically designed for individuals with foot conditions like plantar fasciitis.

Night Splints: Night splints hold the foot in a dorsiflexed position while sleeping, stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and reducing morning pain and stiffness.

Walking Aids: Using assistive devices such as canes, walkers, or crutches can help reduce weight-bearing on the affected foot and alleviate pain during walking or standing.

incorporating these accessibility aids into your daily routine helps manage the symptoms of plantar fasciitis more effectively and improve your functional capacity, which may support your claim for VA disability benefits.

Importance of an Experienced VA Disability Attorney

 An experienced VA disability attorney can provide invaluable assistance throughout the claims process, including:

Expertise in VA Law: A VA disability attorney has in-depth knowledge of VA regulations, laws, and procedures governing disability benefits claims. They can guide you through the process and ensure your claim is handled correctly.

Gathering Evidence: A VA disability attorney can help you gather and organize the necessary medical evidence, treatment records, and supporting documentation to strengthen your claim for disability benefits.

Preparing for C&P Examinations: Your attorney can help you prepare for Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations by guiding you on what to expect, how to communicate your symptoms effectively, and what evidence to present to the examining healthcare provider.

Appeals Representation: If your claim is denied or you disagree with the VA’s decision on your disability rating, your attorney can represent you in the appeals process. They can file appeals, submit additional evidence, and advocate on your behalf before the VA or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).

Working with an experienced VA disability attorney can significantly increase your chances of success in obtaining the maximum disability benefits for plantar fasciitis. They can provide personalized legal representation and advocacy to protect your rights throughout the claims process.

Case Study: Veterans with Plantar Fasciitis and VA Rating

Case Example 1: Alex Catona, Army Veteran

Alex Catona, a former Army infantryman, developed severe plantar fasciitis during his deployment to Afghanistan. “The constant patrols and long hours on my feet took a toll on my feet,” Alex recalls. “The pain was excruciating, especially in the mornings.” After returning home, Alex struggled to find relief from his symptoms and was eventually diagnosed with plantar fasciitis by his VA healthcare provider.

Alex decided to pursue VA disability benefits for his condition. With the help of his VA-accredited representative, he gathered his medical records, treatment history, and statements from fellow service members who witnessed his symptoms during deployment. “It was a challenging process, but having someone knowledgeable on my side made all the difference,” Alex says.

After attending a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination and submitting his claim, Alex received a disability rating of 30% for his plantar fasciitis. “It’s not easy living with chronic pain, but the compensation helps ease the financial burden and allows me to focus on managing my condition,” Alex reflects.

Case Example 2: Harley Martinez, Marine Corps Veteran

Harley Martinez, a former Marine Corps sergeant, developed plantar fasciitis as a result of years of rigorous training and physical exertion. “I loved serving my country, but the constant marching and running took a toll on my feet,” Harley explains. “I couldn’t ignore the pain anymore.”

Harley sought treatment through the VA healthcare system and was diagnosed with severe plantar fasciitis. With the encouragement of her VA healthcare provider, she decided to apply for VA disability benefits. “I was hesitant at first, but my provider assured me that I deserved compensation for my service-related condition,” Harley says.

Harley submitted her claim with supporting documentation, including her medical records and a statement detailing the impact of her condition on her daily life and work. “It was a relief to have my claim approved,” Harley says. “The disability rating I received provides me with the support I need to manage my condition and continue moving forward.”

These case studies highlight the experiences of veterans who have navigated the VA disability benefits process for plantar fasciitis. Despite facing challenges, both Alex and Harley were able to successfully obtain disability ratings and receive compensation for their service-related conditions.

Their stories underscore the importance of seeking medical treatment, gathering supporting documentation, and enlisting the help of knowledgeable representatives or attorneys when pursuing VA disability benefits. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the VA rating for plantar fasciitis is essential if you seek compensation and support for your service-related condition. By familiarizing yourself with the VA rating system, including the factors that influence disability ratings and the process for applying for benefits, you can effectively navigate the claims process and maximize your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.

The VA rating for plantar fasciitis considers various factors, including pain level and severity, limitations in foot motion, functional impairments, impact on employment, and response to treatment. By providing thorough documentation and evidence to support your claim, including medical records, treatment history, and statements from healthcare providers and fellow service members, you can strengthen your case and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Seeking assistance from experienced VA disability representatives or attorneys can also help streamline the claim process. 

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