Rotator cuff repair refers to the surgery to correct a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that make it possible for the arm and shoulder to move. When these muscles are overused or subjected to undue force, the tendons may tear from the stress. Rotator cuff tears can severely limit a person’s range of motion, which may qualify them for disability benefits based on their inability to work.

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Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:

Recurring pain when using your shoulder (e.g., lifting, pushing, etc.)Inability to sleep or put pressure on the one sideCracking sounds when lifting your armRestricted range of motionWeak muscle strength

A rotator cuff tear caused by a shoulder injury will generally result in acute pain directly after it occurs. Rotator cuff tears that stem from overuse may be less obvious to the veteran though. This is why workers’ compensation claims may be filed even though the surgery was actually a result of a problem that one experienced in the service. It’s also important to remember that frozen shoulder syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and pinched nerves may result in similar symptoms to a tear.


The VA may use several ratings schedules in combination when rating rotator cuff injuries. The first is 38 CFR § 4.71a (Schedule of Ratings – Musculoskeletal System). The percent ratings that relate to rotator cuff injuries look as follows:

38 CFR § 4.71a – Diagnostic Code 5200 – Scapulohumeral articulation, ankylosis of:

Unfavorable, abduction limited to 25° from side:50% (major)40% (minor)Intermediate between favorable and unfavorable:40% (major)30% (minor)Favorable, abduction to 60°, can reach mouth and head:30% (major)20% (minor)

38 CFR § 4.71a – Diagnostic Code 5201 – Arm, limitation of motion of:

Flexion and/or abduction limited to 25° from side:40% (major)30% (minor)Midway between side and shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 45°)30% (major)20% (minor)At shoulder level (flexion and/or abduction limited to 90°)20% (major and minor)

The VA may also use 38 CFR § 4.73 (Schedule of Ratings – Muscle Injuries) when rating rotator cuff injuries. This diagnostic code breaks down the way that the shoulder and arm move. The code also takes into account whether the dominant or non-dominant side is affected.

For example, diagnostic code 5301 measures the upward rotation of the scapula, elevation of the arm above shoulder level, and the extrinsic muscles of the shoulder girdle. These ratings include:

Severe:40% (dominant)30% (non-dominant)Moderately Severe:30% (dominant)20% (non-dominant)Moderate:10% (dominant & non-dominant)Slight0% (dominant & non-dominant)

The most important parts of the rating will be how the shoulder pain developed, what kind of treatment you needed, and how the initial pain and recovery impacted your ability to earn an income. The right law firm can help you present these facts to the VA so they have a better idea of how everything links together.

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TDIU for Rotator Cuff Repair

Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is the VA designation for someone who is unable to work due to their disability. In order to qualify, the person will need a rating of 100. This may be achieved by having one serious condition, though will more likely be the result of having several conditions related to the service. The right legal advice plus the development of an attorney-client relationship can make a world of difference to your rating. Call today for a free consultation to discuss your disability and options.