How Does the VA Rate Veterans’ Disabilities?

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Once a veteran’s disability has been service connected by the VA, the next step is for the VA to give the disability a rating. This rating will determine how much the veteran will receive in benefits.  The VA has created what’s called a “rating schedule” which is used as a guide by the VA to help evaluate how severe a veteran’s disability is. The rating schedule breaks down different disabilities into categories based on the part of the body that is affected. Each category is then broken down into groups that represent different medical issues. Next, each medical issue is broken down into different diagnoses which are given a code. Finally, each diagnostic code lists the possible ratings for the disability.

Here’s an Example: A veteran is suffering from stomach ulcers and has filed a claim for benefits with the VA.

1) The VA would first look under the Digestive System Category;

2) Ulcers is listed as a group under this category;

3) The group ulcers lists “ulcer duodenal” as a diagnosis;

4) This diagnosis is given the code 7305; and finally,

5) Under code 7305 the possible ratings are listed as “60%, 40%, 20%, and 10%” depending on how severe the symptoms are.

What does the rating represent? The rating of a veteran’s disability is expressed by a percentage ranging from 0% to 100%. If a veteran receives a rating of 0% that means the veteran’s disability is “noncompensable.” This means that the veteran will not receive payment for that disability.  The rating represents how much the disability affects the veteran’s ability to work. In other words, the disability rating shows how severe the veteran’s disability is. The more severe a disability is, the higher the percentage will be.

How Does the VA Assign a Rating? The VA will find the diagnostic code that best matches the symptoms described by the veteran. They do this by looking at medical records of recent medical treatment along with the veteran’s statements about their symptoms. It is important for the veteran to explain in detail how their ability to work is affected by the symptoms they are experiencing. Also, the VA must base their rating on a recent and complete medical exam. The medical exam must have enough detail to support the diagnosis given by the VA. If there is not a recent enough medical exam to base their rating on, the VA must provide one. If more than one diagnostic code applies to a disability, the veteran can only get a rating under one code. However, the VA is required to choose the diagnostic code that would give the veteran the highest rating.

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