How Can Veterans Earn a 100% Disability Rating & Maximum Compensation?
If you sustained an injury or developed a medical condition following active duty or another type of military service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. However, you will need to meet certain qualifications to earn maximum compensation. This process starts with earning a 100 % VA disability rating for benefits.
There are many factors that go into a VA disability rating and full-time benefits, and the application process can be complicated. This guide will break down how veterans can earn a 100% disability rating and as many monetary benefits as possible.
How Can You Get 100% Disability Rating?
Once an eligible 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.
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. This compensation generally comes as monthly payments.
It can be tricky to earn a 100% disability rating when a veteran has more than one disability. Combining two or more disabilities is a complicated process in which 50% plus 50% does not equal 100% but, rather, 75%. In fact, the closer a veteran gets to a 100 % VA disability rating, the harder it seems to be to obtain this maximum benefit. For example, once a veteran is rated 80% disabled, each additional 10% disability only adds 2% to his total rating rather than an additional 10%. (You can use our disability calculator to better understand these numbers.)
Meeting the criteria for a 100 % VA disability benefits on the ratings schedule, or combining multiple disabilities to obtain a 100% rating, can be very difficult. Failure to meet those criteria, however, does not mean that a veteran is not totally disabled. For this reason, the VA regulations provide for an alternate route to a total disability rating—individual unemployability.
When a service-connected disability, or disabilities, prevents a veteran from being able to secure and follow substantially gainful employment, he is entitled to a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU or IU). In determining whether a veteran qualifies for TDIU, the VA should consider not only whether a veteran is capable of getting a job but also whether he is capable of keeping a job. Any job that the veteran is able to secure and follow must also be a job which is “substantially gainful.” In other words, the job that the veteran is able to do must provide income which places the veteran above the poverty level. Just keep in mind that “substantially gainful employment” does not include working in a sheltered environment such as a veteran’s own family business or a sheltered workshop.
Under the TDIU regulation, a veteran should automatically be considered for TDIU when there is evidence that his disabilities keep him from working and he has a qualifying disability rating. Under those circumstances, the veteran should not even have to ask to be considered for TDIU, but we find that the VA often fails to make a determination as to TDIU unless it’s specifically requested by the veteran. It’s important to note that the VA will probably assign the date that the veteran asks for this increased rating as the effective date for TDIU. Be aware, however, that you may be entitled to an earlier effective date if you became unable to work earlier than the date that you actually requested that entitlement.
For purposes of the VA regulations, a qualifying rating is either a single service-connected disability with a 60% rating or multiple service-connected disabilities and a total rating of 70%. This is a simplified definition of a qualifying rating as there are many exceptions to this basic rule. For example, if the veteran injured his back and knees in a single accident, these could be considered a single disability. Similarly, if the veteran has multiple injuries incurred in a single combat action, these, too, could be considered a single disability.
Regardless of the schedular rating that a veteran has been assigned for his disability or disabilities, if those disabilities prevent the veteran from earning a living wage, he is entitled to a total disability rating based on individual unemployability.
VA Compensation Benefits Rates: How Much Compensation Are You Entitled To?
Once the VA determines a veteran’s disability rating, they will then calculate their specific VA disability compensation. This is the total monetary amount that you would receive as veterans benefits. There are several factors that determine this compensation.
When a single veteran with no dependents has only one service-connected disability, it’s fairly easy to figure out the appropriate amount of benefits according to the VA’s Compensation Benefits Rate Tables. However, the numbers may not always make sense.
For instance, a veteran with no dependents who is 100% disabled currently receives $2,673 according to the Rate Tables (at the time of this writing). A veteran with a 50% disability rating, however, receives only $770. So, even though the veteran with a 50% disability rating is presumed to suffer from about half of the impairment, he does not receive half of the amount of money that the 100% disabled veteran receives—in fact, he receives only about a third.
Have VA Compensation Rates Changed?
Another issue with the current Compensation Benefits Rate Tables is that the amount of compensation benefits don’t always keep up with changes in the economy. While the cost of living continues to rise, the rates for VA benefits haven’t changed since 2009.
Again, when a veteran suffers from two or more service-connected disabilities, they 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).
As another example, a veteran who has two service-connected disabilities with a 50% disability rating for each is entitled only to an 80% disability rating which pays $1,427. Again, here, $1,427 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% VA disability rating receives.
There are several other factors that can affect total compensation, including the number of surviving family members. Veterans can receive additional benefits where they have dependent children, surviving 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.
Many factors affect the VA benefits that a veteran receives, so it’s important to seek help with your disability claim. An experienced veterans lawyer can help you navigate your disability rating and compensation, so you can secure as many benefits as possible.