TMJ and VA Disability Ratings: Everything You Need to Know

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) can be a confusing and frustrating condition, often shrouded in mystery due to its diverse range of symptoms. But understanding the telltale signs and how TMJ is diagnosed is the first step towards managing this condition effectively.

Common Symptoms:

  • Pain: Dull aches or sharp jolts in the jaw, face, neck, or even ears are frequent complaints. This pain can worsen with jaw movement, chewing, or even talking.
  • Jaw Movement: Restricted jaw opening, locking of the jaw (difficulty opening or closing), or clicking and popping sounds are classic indicators of TMJ dysfunction.
  • Facial Tension: Headaches, especially in the temples or behind the eyes, are often associated with TMJ. Stiffness in the facial muscles and difficulty chewing are other telltale signs.
  • Other: Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, and even toothaches can be linked to TMJ issues, highlighting the interconnectedness of the head and neck region.
tmj and va disability

Diagnosing TMJ:

Diagnosing TMJ often involves a combination of:

  • Medical History: Discussing your symptoms, including their onset, severity, and any potential triggers, provides valuable clues.
  • Physical Examination: Your doctor will assess jaw movement, joint tenderness, and muscle function, looking for signs of inflammation or instability.
  • Imaging Techniques: X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs can reveal structural abnormalities like joint misalignment or arthritis.

Additional Considerations:

  • Lifestyle Factors: Stress, teeth grinding, poor posture, and certain habits like nail-biting can contribute to TMJ issues.
  • Dental Evaluation: Since jaw alignment and bite problems can play a role, a dental evaluation might be necessary.
  • Ruling Out Other Conditions: TMJ symptoms can mimic other conditions, so your doctor may rule out possibilities like arthritis, neuralgia, or ear infections.

Remember: Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for managing TMJ effectively. If you experience any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek professional evaluation. With the right approach, TMJ can be managed and its impact on your daily life minimized.

TMJ and VA Disability Ratings

The VA recognizes TMJ as a service-connected disability, offering different compensation levels based on its severity. Here’s a breakdown of possible ratings:

Assessment Criteria:

  • Maximum Unassisted Jaw Opening: Measured in millimeters, this gauges your jaw’s range of motion. Limited opening (0-10mm) signifies greater impairment.
  • Dietary Restrictions: Can you eat regular food or require modified diets due to jaw limitations? This impacts the rating.
  • Pain: While not directly measured, documented pain significantly influences your evaluation.

Possible Ratings:

  • 10%: This applies to minimal limitations, like mild pain with jaw movement but no functional impairment.
  • 20%-30%: Moderate limitations come into play, with reduced jaw opening (11-29mm) and potentially requiring soft or liquid diets.
  • 40%: This reflects significant limitations, often with 30-34mm opening requiring dietary restrictions.
  • 50%: Severe limitations are evident, with extremely limited jaw opening (0-10mm) and necessitating a medically-recommended soft or liquid diet.


  • These are general guidelines, and your specific rating depends on detailed assessment by a VA medical professional.
  • Additional factors like joint instability, facial muscle dysfunction, and associated conditions can influence the rating.
  • Seeking help from veterans’ benefits organizations or qualified legal professionals can guide you through the application process and ensure you receive the appropriate compensation.

Applying for VA Benefits for TMJ

Seeking VA benefits for your TMJ can feel overwhelming, but understanding the process can empower you. Here’s a simplified overview:

1. Gather Evidence:

  • Medical Records: Collect documents confirming your TMJ diagnosis, treatment history, and any service-related injuries that might have contributed.
  • Military Records: Include deployment records, training documentation, or any evidence linking your TMJ to your service.
  • Witness Statements: If others witnessed your in-service injury or TMJ symptoms, their statements can strengthen your claim.

2. File Your Application:

  • Visit the VA website ( or contact your local VA regional office to access the application forms (VA Form 21-526EZ for service-connected claims).
  • Carefully fill out the forms, providing accurate and detailed information about your TMJ and potential service connection.
  • Submit the completed forms, along with your gathered evidence, to the VA regional office.

3. Attend Medical Exam (Optional):

The VA might request a medical examination to assess your TMJ severity and confirm its connection to your service. Cooperate fully with the examiner and provide any additional information they request.

4. Decision and Appeal:

The VA will review your claim and notify you of their decision. If denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within one year. Consider seeking help from veterans’ organizations or qualified legal professionals to navigate the appeals process.

Additional Tips:

  • Start early! Gathering evidence and preparing your case takes time.
  • Seek support! Veterans’ organizations and qualified legal professionals can offer guidance and assistance throughout the process.
  • Be patient! The VA processing time can vary, so stay informed and remain proactive in following up.

Getting Help for a VA Benefits Denial

Facing a VA denial for TMJ benefits can feel overwhelming. But a VA benefits attorney can be your powerful advocate:

  • Expertise: They understand the complex VA system and disability rating criteria, ensuring your claim is properly presented.
  • Evidence Gathering: They help identify and collect relevant medical records, military records, and witness statements to strengthen your case.
  • Appeals Strategy: They guide you through the appeals process, drafting persuasive arguments and navigating deadlines.
  • Legal Representation: They represent you in hearings and appeals, ensuring your rights are protected and your voice is heard.

While their services may involve fees, their expertise can increase your chances of success, potentially resulting in significant financial benefits. Consider seeking a consultation to discuss your specific situation and see if a VA attorney can help you overturn your denial.

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