Most Common Disabilities for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Many of the most common ratable conditions that receive VA compensation occur regardless of the branch of the military in which you served – which is why they’re the most common. However, some conditions are seen more often in some branches than in others.                                 

Below is a list of the most common disabilities rated by the VA:

  • Tinnitus, hearing deterioration, or loss
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Eye injuries and visual disorders
  • Knee, ankle, and arm conditions causing limitation of movement or range of motion
  • Spinal issues causing chronic pain or limitations
  • Sciatica, neuritis, or neuralgia, causing chronic pain and/or affecting movement and use of affected limbs
  • Migraines
  • Degenerative arthritis
  • Painful or excessive scarring
  • Agent Orange, asbestos, or other chemical exposure
  • Asthma and other respiratory conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea

Most of these conditions have additional sub-conditions. Some, like scarring, are generally rated low, at about 10% disability, but if you are rated for multiple disabilities, each will have the effect of raising your benefits, so do not ignore even low-rating disabilities, if they exist.

It’s also important to review with your doctor any other medical conditions that may be secondary conditions of a primary disability. For instance, hypertension (high blood pressure) may be a secondary condition of PTSD.

Soldiers who are frequently on foot and on land, such as those in the army and marines, will frequently experience damage to the spine, legs, knees, and feet, due to jogging and carrying heavy loads. Gunshots and mortar can damage hearing. Many other injuries can occur in a battle situation, not the least of which are TBI and PTSD. 

Military personnel in other service branches that serve in very different environments have a higher likelihood of certain other injuries or conditions.

 Air Force

Hazardous noise exposures are common among airmen. Sounds at or above 85 dB can create hearing loss over time, and a jet engine 100 feet away can measure 140dB. Although ear protection is often used, the constant presence of engines around Air Force personnel often leads to deterioration of hearing over time. Very common ratable disabilities from noise exposure are tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing deterioration or loss in one or both ears. 

Cosmic ionizing radiation, found in the upper atmosphere, is known to cause cancer. Studies of airline pilots and attendants have discovered that they have a higher risk of cancer. Thus military pilots may also have a higher cancer risk.

Pilots involved in high-performance flying often experience damage to the neck and spine from g-forces. 

Though every branch of the military has had asbestos exposure until recently, Air Force mechanics and pilots probably had a higher exposure level. Many parts of planes used asbestos, including brakes, cockpit heating systems, gaskets, and electrical wiring. 

Airmen often experience PTSD but are more hesitant to report, partly because reporting would disqualify them from flying. 


Being in enclosed, cramped quarters means sailors are at a higher risk of certain injuries than other military servicemen. The limited air circulation means that the fumes from paints, degreasers, solvents, and other chemicals used aboard ships or submarines are at a higher concentration than in open environments, and the use of asbestos in piping in these enclosed environments increases its potential harm.

The cramped quarters tend to cause more knee and back injuries, and the shock of frequent jogging on deck can cause ankle damage. Sailors aboard nuclear-powered vessels are likely to experience radiation exposure.   

Helicopter pilot

Regardless of the military branch, helicopter cockpits can lead to severe spinal injuries. A 2010 survey found 85% of helicopter pilots reported neck, back, and leg pain as their number one injury. This is so common that some medical personnel have nicknamed the injuries “helo hunch.” 

Help for our veterans

As disabled veterans ourselves, we at the Law Office of Robert B. Goss, Veterans’ Attorney are passionate about helping our fellow veterans receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries sustained while serving our nation. Call us from anywhere in the world at 877-425-4VET (4838) so we can help you.

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