A Comprehensive Guide to VA Disability Ratings

Navigating the VA disability benefits claims process requires a keen understanding of the VA disability ratings for effective protection of veterans’ rights and benefits. This comprehensive guide is crafted to serve as a valuable resource for veterans seeking clarity and understanding of VA disability ratings. 

Understanding the intricate process of how disability ratings are determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can significantly impact the support and benefits you receive. Our team at Bartlett Legal Group aims to empower veterans with the knowledge and insight necessary to effectively navigate the complexities of the VA rating system. 

From decoding rating criteria to exploring options for appealing VA decisions, our experienced veteran disability claims attorneys can offer practical guidance to help you secure the fair and just VA disability ratings you deserve for your dedicated service to our nation. Schedule a free consultation with us by calling (850) 332-6434 or submitting an online contact form.

VA doctor talks to an older male veteran with disabilities while taking notes so she can determine his VA disability rating

Understanding VA Disability Ratings

A VA disability rating is a percentage measurement assigned by the VA to show how a service-related impairment affects a veteran’s efficiency in everyday life. This rating is used to assess the extent of your service-related disability and, hence, determine the level of VA disability benefits you are eligible to receive. 

The VA’s rating system evaluates the impact of each disability on your ability to function in everyday life. For people with multiple disability ratings, the VA uses the individual ratings to calculate what they call a combined VA disability rating. A veteran’s combined VA disability rating includes secondary conditions, as well as their primary service-related disabilities.

It is worth noting that the combined VA disability rating is not arrived at by simply adding your individual ratings. The formula is a bit different, and as such, the combined rating will be different from the sum of your individual ratings. 

Your VA disability rating is vital as it directly influences the amount of financial compensation and healthcare support you can access for your service-connected conditions. Understanding and advocating for an accurate disability rating is crucial to ensure you receive the appropriate resources and assistance to address your unique healthcare needs post-service.

What the VA Considers When Determining Your Rating

When assessing your VA disability rating, several key factors are taken into consideration to determine the extent of your service-connected disabilities and the level of compensation you may be eligible for. The following aspects play a crucial role in this evaluation process:

Evidence Provided: The VA will consider the evidence you have submitted, including medical reports, test results, and any other relevant documentation. You should produce medical evidence showing the physical or mental health condition.. You must also prove that your condition is either a direct consequence of your military service, or was worsened by service. 

VA Claim Exam Results: If the VA deems it necessary, they will also consider the outcomes of your VA claim exam, also known as a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. This exam is conducted by a VA physician to assess the severity of your disability. 

Additional Information from External Sources: The VA may reference data obtained from federal agencies or other relevant sources to supplement the assessment of your disability rating.

Functional Impairment: The VA will assess your evidence and C&P exam to establish how the disability affects your daily life. 

If you have more than one disability rating, the VA uses the ‘whole person theory’ method to determine your combined disability rating. This method ensures that the total VA disability rating does not exceed 100%, which might happen if they were to just add the individual ratings together. The reasoning behind it is that no person can be more than 100% able-bodied. 

Eligibility Criteria for VA Disability Benefits

Veterans who have a service-connected disability resulting from their military service are generally eligible for VA disability benefits. The disability can be either a physical condition or a psychological condition, such as PTSD or anxiety. The process of determining eligibility typically involves the following steps:

Establishing Service Connection: You must establish a direct link between the disability and your military service.

Disability Evaluation: The VA will use your medical evidence and other supporting evidence to assess the severity of the disability and how it has impacted functionality in your daily life. 

Rating Decision: The Department of Veterans Affairs assigns a disability rating based on the impact of the service-connected disability on your daily life. The rating ranges from 0% to 100%. An 0% disability rating simply means that the VA recognizes that you have a service-connected condition, but there is no evidence to show that it is affecting your life in any way. 

Benefit Determination: Once the rating is assigned, you will become eligible for disability compensation and other related benefits based on the severity of your condition.

The VA Disability Ratings System

The VA disability rating system basically indicates how the service-connected disability affects your productivity and functionality in daily life. Disability is rated from 0% to 100% in increments of 10% (i.e. 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% etc.). 

The VA disability ratings system is a critical tool for assessing the impact of service-connected disabilities and determining the level of compensation you are eligible to receive. Each percentage reflects the severity of the disability and its effects on daily life.

Below is an overview of the VA disability rating system. The most important thing to note is that as the rating increases, so does the monetary compensation and additional benefits such as specialized care.

What Each Rating Percentage Means

0% Disability: Indicates the presence of a service-connected condition that does not substantially impair your ability to perform daily tasks or work. With a 0% rating, you will not receive monetary compensation. However, since the VA already recognizes the existence of a service-connected condition, it creates room for reconsideration if your condition worsens.

10% Disability: A 10% rating Implies a mild impairment with minimal impact on your daily functioning. Monetary compensation is modest at this level, but you will have access to VA healthcare services and additional benefits.

30% Disability: With a 30% rating, your monetary compensation will be higher than that of veterans with 10% and 20% ratings. You will also have access to additional benefits including support with getting employment opportunities and vocational rehabilitation. 

50% Disability: A 50% rating basically means that you have lost half your capacity to function in your daily life due to a service-connected disability. This level of disability can make it more difficult to find and maintain regular jobs. Therefore, you are entitled to substantial compensation, comprehensive healthcare services, and additional assistance for your dependents. 

70% Disability: A 70% rating means you have lost well over two-thirds of your functioning capacity due to a service-connected condition. With such a high level of impairment, you are entitled to significant compensation commensurate with the impairment, specialized healthcare and personal care, and any other relevant additional benefits. 

100% Disability: This rating is called a total disability rating, and it is awarded when the service-connected disability has rendered you completely disabled and unable to maintain any substantial gainful employment. Veterans with 100% receive the highest compensation and a wide range of additional benefits, including vocational rehabilitation, specialized healthcare, and more. 

Examples of Common Conditions and Their Ratings

Below are some of the most common service-related conditions and their typical ratings. However, it is important to note that the rating will vary from case to case depending on the unique circumstances surrounding each case.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is the 6th most commonly diagnosed service-connected condition among veterans. PTSD disability rating ranges from 10% to 100% depending on the severity of this mental health condition and PTSD’s impact on your daily life. If you are considering making a PTSD VA disability claim, Bartlett Legal Group PTSD claims attorneys can help you get the compensation and benefits you deserve. 

Tinnitus 10%: Tinnitus is a health condition where the veteran hears sounds in their ear even in the absence of external noise. This condition is common among veterans due to combat circumstances such as explosions. Tinnitus is not curable, but there are ways to manage it. 

This condition receives a 10% rating due to its common occurrence and minimal interference with daily activities. If you have been diagnosed with both tinnitus and hearing loss, you should record these conditions are separate service-related disabilities.

Back Pain 10%-40%: The rate is determined by the extent of mobility restriction, and pain intensity, and how they affect your life. 

Diabetes Mellitus 20%-60%: The rating depends on factors like medication needs, insulin use, and complications associated with diabetes.

By assigning specific percentages to different disabilities, the VA ensures that you receive appropriate compensation and support based on the severity of your service-connected conditions. 

Understanding how the rating scale operates empowers you to navigate the VA claims process more effectively, ensuring you receive fair and adequate benefits in accordance with the impact of your disability.

Middle aged female veteran using her hone calculator to find her combined VA disability rating

Current Compensation Rates for Different VA Ratings

In the following table, you will find the current compensation rates provided by the VA for veterans with various disability ratings. These rates are updated periodically to reflect changes in cost-of-living adjustments and other relevant factors. The table below outlines the compensation rates corresponding to different levels of disability as determined by the VA.

Veterans With A 10% Or 20% Disability Rating

Rating  Monthly Payment

10%    $171.23

20%    $338.49

 Veterans With A 30% To 100% Disability Rating 

1. With Dependents, Including Children

A. Monthly Payment

Veteran with 1 child only/ With 1 child and spouse/ With 1 child, spouse, and 1 parent/ With 1 child, spouse, and 2 parents/ With 1 child and 1 parent/ With 1 child and 2 parents

30% $565.31   $632.31  $682.31  $732.31  $615.31  $665.31

40%  $810.28  $899.28  $965.28  $1,031.28  $876.28  $942.28

50%  $1,144.16  $1,255.16  $1,338.16  $1,421.16  $1,227.16  $1,310.16

60%  $1,444.88  $1,577.88  $1,677.88  $1,777.88  $1,544.88  $1,644.88

70%  $1,813.28  $1,968.28  $2,085.28  $2,202.28  $1,930.28  $2,047.28

80%  $2,106.01  $2,283.01  $2,416.01  $2,549.01  $2,239.01  $2,372.01

90%  $2,366.91  $2,565.91  $2,715.91  $2,865.91  $2,516.91  $2,666.91

100%  $3,877.22  $4,098.87  $4,266.13  $4,433.39  $4,044.48  $4,211.74

 B. Added Amounts

Each additional child under 18 yrs/ Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program/ Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance

30%  $31.00  $100.00  $57.00

40%  $41.00  $133.00  $76.00

50%  $51.00  $167.00  $95.00

60%  $62.00  $200.00  $114.00

70%  $72.00  $234.00  $134.00

80%  $82.00  $267.00  $153.00

90%  $93.00  $301.00  $172.00

100%  $103.55  $334.49  $191.14

 2. With A Dependent Spouse Or Parent But No Children

A. Monthly Payment

Veteran alone/  With spouse/  With spouse & 1 parent/  With spouse & 2 parents/  With 1 parent/  With 2 parents

30%  $524.31  $586.31  $636.31  $686.31  $574.31  $624.31

40%  $755.28  $838.28  $904.28  $970.28  $821.28  $887.28

50%  $1,075.16  $1,179.16  $1,262.16  $1,345.16  $1,158.16  $1,241.16

60%  $1,361.88  $1,486.88  $1,586.88  $1,686.88 $1,461.88  $1,561.88

70%  $1,716.28  $1,861.28  $1,978.28  $2,095.28  $1,833.28  $1,950.28

80%  $1,995.01  $2,161.01  $2,294.01  $2,427.01  $2,128.01  $2,261.01

90%  $2,241.91  $2,428.91  $2,578.91  $2,728.91  $2,391.91  $2,541.91

100%  $3,737.85  $3,946.25  $4,113.51  $4,280.77  $3,905.11  $4,072.37

B. Added Amounts

 Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance

30%  $57.00

40%  $76.00

50%  $95.00

60%  $114.00

70%  $134.00

80%  $153.00

90%  $172.00

100%  $191.14

The VA Disability Application Process

Learning how to navigate the VA disability application process is a crucial step for veterans seeking compensation for service-connected disabilities. Understanding the steps involved can help streamline the claims process and ensure that you receive the benefits they deserve. 

The VA allows five ways to make a disability benefits claim: online, by mail, by fax, in-person, or with the help of a trained veteran service professional. Below, we outline the step-by-step process for making a VA claim, from initial preparation to the VA claim exam.

Step-by-Step Process for Making a VA Claim

Veterans can seek VA disability benefits through the VA claims process.

Preparation: Gather all relevant medical records, military service documents, and supporting evidence for your claim. Consider seeking assistance from a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) or accredited representative, or an experienced veteran disability claims lawyer to ensure your application is thorough and complete.

Submission of Claim: Submit your application for disability benefits online through the VA’s official website, by mail, or in person at a regional VA office. Include all necessary documentation to support your claim. If you intend to make your application by way of a paper form, you will need to submit an intent to file form first. 

Review and Evaluation: The VA will review your application and supporting evidence to determine if you qualify for disability benefits. If further evaluation is needed, you may be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam.

VA Claim Exam: Attend the scheduled C&P exam, where a VA medical professional will assess your service-connected disabilities and provide a report to the VA rating specialists. This exam plays a crucial role in determining the extent of your disability and subsequent compensation.

By following these steps and engaging with the VA disability application process systematically, you can increase your chances of a successful claim outcome and secure the benefits you are entitled to based on your service-connected disabilities.

VA Math and Combined Disability Ratings

For veterans with multiple disability ratings, the VA does not calculate your combined disability rating using the simple addition method. Instead, the VA applies a special formula to calculate how the different disabilities impact the overall functioning and capacity of the veteran. This special formula is often referred to as VA math. 

The VA applies the “whole person theory” and uses the decreasing efficiency method to calculate combined disability ratings. This approach starts by arranging the multiple disability rating from the highest to the lowest. 

An Example of Two Individual Ratings 

Let’s say a veteran has a 10% disability rating for his left knee and a 30% disability rating for a back injury. The VA will use the formula below to calculate this veteran’s combined disability rating. 

The 30% rating for back injury 

The 10% rating for left knee injury

100 efficiency rating x 30% (disability rating) = 30% overall rating

(100-30) = 70 (new efficiency rating) x 10% ( second disability rating ) = 7% rating

New efficiency 70-7= 63%

Combined disability is 100-63 = 37% (This figure must then be rounded to the nearest 10%)

The Combined disability rating is 40%. 

An Example of Three Individual Ratings 

For this example, let’s add a 20% disability rating for left shoulder injury to the two injuries in the example above. 

The 30% rating for back injury 

The 20% rating for left shoulder injury

The 10% rating for left knee injury

100 efficiency rating x 30% (disability rating) = 30% disability

(100-30) = 70 (new efficiency rating) x 20% (second disability rating) = 14 disability

New efficiency is (70-14) = 56 x 10% (third disability rating) = 5.6 disability New efficiency is (56-5.6) = 50.4

Combined disability is 100-50.4 = 49.6 which when rounded up to the nearest 10% becomes 50%.

The combined disability rating is 50%.

If the above VA math seems a bit complex for you, do not worry because your veteran disability claims and appeal lawyers at Bartlett Legal Group will help you calculate the combined disability rate for your case. You can also check the VA combined disability table for more clarification or confirmation. 

Appealing the VA’s Decision

Appealing a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs becomes essential when you disagree with the outcome of your disability claim. It is crucial to appeal if you believe an error has been made in evaluating your disability or if you feel that your entitled benefits are inadequate. 

Understanding the process and knowing when to appeal is vital for veterans seeking fair consideration of their claims.

Steps Involved in Filing an Appeal

There are multiple ways to pursue an appeal for a VA disability claim. 

Request a high-level review: If you disagree with the VA’s decision, you can file for a higher-level review. This is typically a request for a new review of your claim by a higher-level reviewer who will determine whether a difference of opinion or error changes the decision. You cannot submit new evidence for a higher-level review.

Request a Board Appeal: If you are still not satisfied after a higher-lever review, you can request a board review within one year after the receipt of your decision letter. When you take this option, you will be appealing to a Veteran Law Judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in Washington. There are three types of board appeals namely direct review, evidence submission, and hearing. You request a board appeal by filing the Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement) (VA Form 10182).

Common reasons for appeals include an inadequate disability rating, a denied service connection, incorrect effective date, and overlooked medical evidence. If you are not satisfied with the VA decision and want to appeal, Bartlett Legal Group’s VA disability appeal lawyers are here to help you fight for the compensation and additional benefits that you deserve. 

Benefits of Higher VA Disability Ratings

Achieving a higher disability rating from the VA can lead to increased financial compensation, providing you with greater support to manage your service-related disabilities. Additionally, higher disability ratings may unlock access to supplementary benefits. 

For example, vets may be able to access advanced medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, caregiver assistance, and priority enrollment in certain government programs. These additional benefits enhance your overall well-being and acknowledge and address the specific challenges you face due to military service-connected conditions.

Contact Bartlett Legal Group for Help with Your VA Disability Claim

When it comes to understanding your VA disability rating and its impact on your claim, a seasoned veteran disability denial lawyer from Bartlett Legal Group can be your trusted guide. Our experts specialize in navigating the complexities of VA disability benefits claims, ensuring you grasp the implications of a VA disability rating on your benefits eligibility.

If you are considering a VA claim appeal, our team offers comprehensive support to help you navigate this process effectively. If you are ready to take the next step in securing the benefits you deserve, contact Bartlett Legal Group today. You can reach us by calling (850) 332-6434 or submitting this contact form to reserve your free consultation. 

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