Many veterans face the challenges of foot conditions related to their service, impacting their daily lives and well-being. Among these conditions, pes planus, commonly known as flat feet, is a prevalent issue. Leah will explore the implications of pes planus and veterans disability, covering aspects such as its types, service connection, aggravation, and secondary conditions.
Types of Pes Planus: Congenital vs. Acquired
Pes planus can manifest in two primary forms: congenital and acquired. A congenital flat foot is present at birth and an acquired flat foot is acquired over time. Veterans may enter service with asymptomatic flat feet, or they might develop the condition during or after their time in the military. The distinction between congenital and acquired flat feet is crucial in determining how the condition is service-connected.
Congenital Flat Feet: Documentation from Entrance Physicals
Veterans with congenital flat feet, present from birth, should have this information documented in their entrance physicals. A person may also have an acquired flat foot that was acquired prior to service entrance. The Report of Medical History (VA Form 2807) and the Report of Medical Examination (VA Form 2808) play a vital role in recording such details. The latter includes a foot examination section where the presence of flat feet is indicated.
Acquired Flat Feet: Causes and Service Connection
Acquired flat feet can result from various factors, including weight gain, chronic ankle rolling, foot surgeries, or other service-connected disabilities. Understanding how flat feet are service-connected is crucial for veterans seeking disability benefits.
Service Connection and Rating Criteria
Service connection for flat feet can occur on a primary or secondary basis. Primary service connection is established if the condition develops or worsens during service. On a secondary basis, flat feet can be connected to another service-connected disability. The challenge lies in showing the connection or relationship and demonstrating the impact on the veteran’s overall health.
- Primary Service Connection:
- In-Service Development or Aggravation: Veterans must show that flat feet either developed or worsened during their military service. Common factors include weight gain or conditions that affect the arch, such as posterior tibial tendonitis.
- Sustained Aggravation: It’s crucial to demonstrate a sustained aggravation, not just a temporary worsening. This could involve continuous foot pain post-service, indicating a lasting impact on the veteran’s health.
- Secondary Service Connection:
- Connected to Another Service-Connected Disability: Flat feet can be secondary to conditions like weight gain due to service-connected disabilities or other foot injuries sustained during active duty.
Aggravating Factors and Secondary Conditions
Several factors can aggravate or lead to the development of flat feet in veterans. Understanding these factors is essential for building a solid case for disability benefits.
- Weight Gain: A Major Contributor
- Posterior Tibial Tendonitis: Weight gain can contribute to the deterioration of the posterior tibial tendon, leading to acquired flat feet. This connection can be crucial in establishing service connection.
- Chronic Ankle Rolling and Foot Surgeries:
- Loss of Arch Support: Veterans who have experienced chronic ankle rolling or undergone foot surgeries may lose essential arch support, resulting in the development of acquired flat feet.
- Service-Connected Disabilities and Aggravation:
- Baseline vs. Aggravation: Veterans with pre-existing flat feet can still be eligible for disability benefits if they can demonstrate an aggravation of the baseline beyond its natural progression. Documentation of foot pain and dysfunction related to flat feet during service can be critical in such cases.
Diagnosis and Documentation
Proper diagnosis and documentation play a pivotal role in establishing service connection and obtaining disability benefits for pes planus.
- Medical Professionals for Diagnosis:
- Family Practitioners, Podiatrists, and More: Flat feet can be diagnosed by various medical professionals, including family practitioners, podiatrists, and orthopedic specialists.
- Diagnostic Methods:
- Clinical Examination and Weighted X-rays: A thorough clinical examination and weighted X-rays can help diagnose and measure the extent of flat feet. These diagnostic tools provide a comprehensive view of the foot’s structure and angles.
- VA Care and Custom Orthotics:
- Access to VA Care: Veterans entitled to VA care can seek assistance for pes planus, including the provision of custom orthotics to alleviate discomfort.
- Boot Wear and Standing in Formation: While certain activities such as wearing tight boots or standing in formation may contribute to flat feet, the multifactorial nature of the condition requires a comprehensive assessment of all risk factors.
Understanding the complexities of pes planus and its connection to VA disability ratings is essential for veterans seeking recognition and support for their service-related foot conditions. Whether congenital or acquired, demonstrating the impact of flat feet on overall health and establishing a clear service connection are key aspects of navigating the VA disability claims process often with the assistance of an accredited legal professional. By emphasizing a sustained condition, documenting in-service foot issues, and seeking professional diagnosis, veterans can enhance their chances of securing the disability benefits they rightfully deserve.
Also read: Orthopedic and Veterans Disability Q&A
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