How VA Math Works
The combined rating is the rating that the VA uses to determine compensation payments and access to other benefits. It’s extremely important to understand how the VA came up with your combined rating so that you can make sure your benefits are being calculated, and to make sure you have access to all of the benefits you are entitled to. For example, the higher combined rating you have, the greater your monthly benefits will be. Also, combined ratings are very important when determining whether you meet the requirements for individual unemployability (IU).
VA math is simple when there is only one rated disability. In that case, the veteran’s combined rating is simply the rating that is assigned to their service-connected disability. Things get complicated when there are multiple ratings. Each service-connected disability is assigned its own rating based on the severity of the veteran’s symptoms. Then, the VA adds the ratings together to get the combined rating. However, the VA does their addition a little bit different than we’re all probably used to. In the world of VA math, 2+2 does NOT equal 4. Instead, the VA likes to add in a few more steps. The process is best explained with an example:
- Consider a veteran with a 30% rating. In the VA’s mind this veteran is 30% disabled and 70% non-disabled. Now, let’s say the veteran has a 30% rating and a 20% rating.
- The VA will consider how the 20% rating affects the non-disabled part of the veteran (20% X 70%). 20% times 70% gives us 14%.
- Add 14% to 30% to get 44%
- Round the 44% down to 40% for the final combined rating
So, the VA looks at how each disability affects the non-disabled part of the veteran. A veteran that does not have a rated disability (or a disability rated at 0%) would be considered 100% non-disabled. The veteran in the above example would be 40% disabled and 60% non-disabled in terms of VA math.
The process of VA math always considers the highest rating first, and then moves through the remaining disability ratings in order of greatest to least. Also, the VA only considers percentages in increments of 10. This is why in the above example, the 44% was rounded down to 40%. Let’s look at another scenario:
- Consider a veteran with a 60% rating, a 40% rating, and a 20% rating.
- Starting with the 60% rating, the VA will consider the veteran is 60% disabled, leaving 40% as the remaining “non-disabled” part.
- Next, the VA will consider how the 40% affects the remaining non-disabled percentage of 40. This is done by multiplying 40% by 40%. This gives us 16%.
- Now, we could look at the veteran as 76% disabled (60% + 16%), and 24% non-disabled (100%-76%).
- Last, the VA will consider how the 20% rating affects the remaining non-disabled percentage of 24. This is done by multiplying 20% by 24%. This gives us 4.8%.
- NOW we can everything together … 60% + 16% + 4.8% = 80.8%. Round this down to the nearest multiple of 10 and you get a combined rating of 80%.
If that wasn’t already complicated enough, there’s another thing to consider when coming up with the combined rating… what’s known as the bilateral factor. The bilateral factor comes into the picture when a veteran has disabilities affecting both arms and/or both legs, or when the disability affects paired skeletal muscles. What’s the purpose of the bilateral factor? The law recognizes that these situations are much more limiting on a veteran. If a veteran has a disability affecting his right arm, and then his left arm becomes disabled, he is severely limited in his ability to function because both arms are affected. The bilateral factor is like having an additional disability with a 10% rating. This 10% isn’t added on to the combined rating of the veteran’s service-connected disabilities, it is added into the mix just like as if it were another disability (using the math in the above examples).
VA Disability Calculator
Overall, VA math is a confusing process that can also become frustrating. However, remember that the combined rating can mean the difference between hundreds or even thousands of dollars in monthly compensation.
Luckily, there’s a way to make the process much, much easier. By using the VA disability calculator found on our website you can easily calculate what your combined rating should be. The calculator also gives you the ability to see how your payments will be affected by such things as your marital status and whether you have any dependents. Let’s look at one last example to show how the calculator works:
- Consider a veteran with PTSD rated at 50%, a left arm condition rated at 30%, and a back condition rated at 20%.
- Click here to get to the VA disability calculator.
- Starting with the PTSD rating, click the button with 50% on it.
- Next, click the button that says “left arm” followed by the 40% button.
- Lastly, click the 20% button
By following the steps above, you should get 72%. Then you have the ability to enter information about dependents. At the bottom of the page, the calculator will automatically round the percentage and show you what your monthly payment from the VA should be.