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VA Compensation Benefits Rates –“How Much Compensation am I Entitled To?”

Once a veteran is granted service connection for a disability, the next logical question is, “How much money will I receive?”  The amount of compensation benefits a veteran receives depends on the disability rating that the VA assigns to the veteran’s disability.  Disability ratings range from 10% to 100%.  The idea behind these ratings is that the veteran should be compensated according to the impairment that the disability would cause to the average person’s ability to earn a living. Somehow, though, the numbers don’t seem to add up. 

Where a single veteran with no dependents has only one service-connected disability, it is fairly easy to figure out the appropriate amount of benefits according to the VA’s Compensation Benefits Rate Tables.  Even though it is easy to come up with the correct dollar amount, however, the numbers may not always make sense.  For instance, a veteran with no dependents who is 100% disabled currently receives $2673.00 according to the Rate Tables.  A veteran with a 50% disability rating, however, receives only $770.00.  So, even though the veteran with a 50% disability rating is presumed to suffer from about half of the impairment to his ability to work, he does not receive half of the amount of money that the 100% disabled veteran receives—in fact, he receives only about a third.

Another issue with the current Compensation Benefits Rate Tables is that despite the tough economic times in which we find ourselves, the amount of compensation benefits are not keeping pace with the times.  While prices keep rising and the cost of living is going up, the rates for VA benefits have not changed since 2009.  There has been no cost of living adjustment for veterans’ benefits since that time.

Where things become really confusing is when a veteran suffers from two or more service connected disabilities which must be combined according to the VA Combined Ratings Table.  Using what many veterans refer to as “VA Math,” under the Combined Ratings Table, two 50% disability ratings do not add up to a 100% rating as most people would expect.  Rather, two 50% disabilities are combined to give a veteran a 75% disability rating ( which would then be rounded up to an 80% disability rating).

The justification for this combination is that once a veteran’s ability to work is 50% impaired by a disability, any other disability ratings are applied only to the remaining, unimpaired 50%.  In other words, the second 50% disability rating applies only to the 50% of the veteran’s ability to work that is not already impaired.  50% of 50% is only 25%, so the additional impairment only adds 25% to the veteran’s overall disability rating.  So this veteran who has two, service –connected disabilities with a 50% disability rating for each is entitled only to an 80% disability rating which will pay him only $1427.00.  Again, here, $1427 is not 80% of the $2673.00 that the veteran with a 100% disability rating receives.  The veteran with the 80% disability rating receives just over half the amount that the veteran with the 100% disability receives. 

These amounts are affected by numerous other factors.  Veterans can receive additional benefits where they have dependent children, spouses or parents.  In addition, increases may be made to a veteran’s rating if he has a disability which affects both arms or both legs.  Finally, a veteran may be eligible for additional compensation benefits called Special Monthly Compensation where he has certain types of disabilities which include the loss or loss of use of a part of the body.

The amount of benefits to which a veteran is entitled is a complicated issue affected by many factors such as those discussed above.  It is important to make sure that the VA has considered every angle in determining how much compensation you should receive.

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by Attorney Shannon Brewer
November 23, 2011

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