Compensation for VA benefits is based upon a schedule that assigns a numerical value from zero to one hundred percent to various medical conditions. These values are assigned in increments of 10% and are intended to represent the average amount of impact on the employability of Veterans suffering from service related or service connected conditions. A rating of zero percent is non-compensable and refers to a service connected condition that, although disabling, its effect is so minute that no monetary compensation is awarded. Basically, the system is designed to determine whether or not the condition(s) in question is preventing the Veteran from holding gainful employment.
What do the numbers mean and how does the VA determine if a Veteran’s disability should be deemed 30% versus 100%, and so forth? This is where the confusion comes in or should I say the “special math”. (I almost feel like I am back in grade school when talking about this special math).
Upon reviewing a Rating Decision (RD) for a friend, I was asked to explain how the VA came up with a total disability rating of 80% instead of 110% based upon the individual percentages outlined in the RD he received. The answer is simple and straightforward – the disability ratings are not additive meaning that if the Veteran has one disability rated at 60% and the other at 20%, the combined rating is NOT equivalent to 60% + 20% or 80%. The VA presumes that if the Veteran is 60% disabled, then he is 40% healthy and they (the VA) put the next rating into the remaining portion. So instead of taking 20% of 100%, you take 20% of 40% resulting in 8% for a total disability rating of 68%. This process continues with the final result being rounded to the nearest 10%.
The VA uses a Schedule for Rating Disabilities that can be found in 38 CFR, Ch. 1, §4.25. According to the Schedule, the individual is affected first by the most severe disability and then by those with lesser severity. Without delving into the full science and complexity of the calculations, it will suffice to say that the combined RD for Veterans with more than one disability will be determined based upon severity using this table. This simply means the condition with the “higher” rating will take precedent over any “lower” ratings. Unlike averaging numbers in the real world, the combined value of multiple ratings is plugged into the VA’s special math conversion table.
- A Veteran with both a 50% and a 30% disability — the combined value based upon the special math table used by the VA is 65%. This number, however, is then rounded to the nearest 10%, or in this example up to 70%, which represents the final degree of the disability.
- A Veteran with multiple disability ratings of 60%, 40%, and 20% respectively, the combined value for the first two (the greatest to the least severe) is determined by selecting 60% in the far left column of the table and scrolling over to the 40% column. This combination will result in 76%; however, the 20% rating must also be factored into the calculation. This is determined by taking the 76% in the far left column of the table and scrolling over to the 20% column. The result is 81%; however, this number must be rounded down to 80%.
Here it is in a nutshell…the special math of the VA! We have made the math easier with our VA Disability Calculator.