Chances are, if you are in the process of applying for VA disability, you have probably come across the VA Ratings Table. For many, this tool that the VA uses to determine combined disability ratings is incredibly frustrating and cumbersome.
If you only have one rated disability, VA math can be pretty straightforward. Your rating for that disability and the rating for your total disability will be the same.
However, it is most likely you’ll have more than one service-connected disability, and in that case all of them will need to be considered for your disability benefits.
How does the VA consider all of them? Enter the complicated Combined Ratings Table!
Understanding how the VA comes up with your combined rating is an important piece of filing claims for disability, because it helps you ensure that your VA disability benefits have been calculated correctly and that you are given the compensation you deserve.
Your combined rating is absolutely critical, because the difference between even a small choice of numbers can represent a loss of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in monthly benefits.
What do VA Disability Ratings Represent?
The most important thing to understand when it comes to VA disability ratings and demystifying combined ratings themselves, is what disability ratings actually represent.
In simple terms–the VA takes each individual injury or illness into consideration and gives it a numerical disability rating represented as a percentage (20%, 50%, etc.)
The best way to look at this, is to consider how your disability impacts your day-to-day life, be it something like interacting with family or friends, or being able to go to work. The VA considers how your disability impacts your overall life.
They base your rating on the following:
- The evidence you give them (medical records and test results, personnel records, etc.)
- The results of your Compensation and Pension (C&P)/VA claim exam
- Other information obtained from other sources, like federal agencies, military records.
How does VA Math Work in Simple Terms?
VA Math is the “math” used to combine the disability ratings of multiple conditions to give a veteran a single “combined” rating.
If a person has more than one condition that is rated as a service-connected disability, then each of those ratings are combined (not added) together using VA math to give an overall rating.
Here’s how it works as simple as we can explain it… Each condition is a percentage of the disability of a veteran.
When they are combined together, each percentage is NOT the percentage of the entire veteran, but what is left after the percentages have been subtracted. Are you still confused?
Let’s explain further:
Your entire body is equal to 100%
You have three rated conditions:
- The first is a back injury rated at 30%
- The second is a knee injury rated at 20%
- The third is tinnitus rated at 10%
You would think that the combined rating would be 60%, right? 30+20+10%? Nope, that isn’t the case.
First- you start with the largest rating, your back injury at 30%. That rating is subtracted from 100%
Now, of your total body, 70% remains.
So, now instead of subtracting 20 for the knee injury at 20%, you can only subtract 20% from the 70 that is remaining! Which is 14 (0.2 x 70 = 14). 70 – 14 = 56.
Now, for the last 10% tinnitus related, you again only subtract 10% of what is left of the total body. At this point it is 56 (from the last step), so (0.1 x 56 = 5.6) 56 – 5.6 = 50.4.
Now the combined rating is 30% + 14% + 5.6% = 49.6% (which you would round to the nearest 10). So, 50% total disability.
Make more sense now? It’s confusing, but if you work through it step-by-step it starts to make more sense.
How do I calculate my VA disability rating?
How much you can receive in disability compensation is based on how your service-connected disability is rated. And if you have more than one disability, the compensation and benefits you receive are based on your combined disability rating.
The important thing to remember with combined disability ratings: they are NOT additive. Meaning, if you have a disability rated at 20% and then another rated at 60%, your combined disability rating isn’t necessarily 80%!
Rather than being added together, the VA combines ratings, considering what percentage the veteran is disabled, and what percentage they are not.
How does the VA determine combined VA disability ratings?
Find the full Combined Ratings Table at the end of this article.
Disability ratings are measured on a schedule, called the Schedule of Ratings that classifies various levels of symptoms into percentages of disability.
For example, a veteran’s PTSD can be rated as 0, 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100 percent.
If you have multiple disability ratings, they use what is called the Combined Ratings Table to calculate your combined VA disability rating.
As mentioned previously, calculating your combined disability rating involves more than just adding up your individual ratings.
The Steps For Using the Combined Ratings Table
Your disability ratings are put in order, from highest to lowest percentage.
For example: If you had 2 disabilities rated as 50% disabling and 30% disabling, they’d be ranked 50% and then 30%.
Then, you’d look for your highest rating in the left column of the combined ratings table, and then the next highest rating in the top row of the combined ratings table.
For the same example: You would look for 50 in the left column and 30 in the top row.
Then you would look from the 50 in the left column and down from the 30 in the top row, to find the number that appears where the left column and top row meet. This is the combined value of the two ratings.
In the same example: This would be 65.
If you have 2 disabilities the combined value would be rounded to the nearest 10% to find your combined disability rating. The combined values ending in 1-4 are rounded down, and those 5 to 9, up.
For the same example: Your combined disability rating would be 70%
If you have more than 2 disabilities the process is repeated for each additional disability. Which basically means, the combined value of the first two disabilities (before rounding) is combined with the third highest rating, and so on, until all disability ratings have been accounted for.
The final value is rounded to the nearest 10% to get your combined disability rating.
For example: If a third disability was added at 10% disabling, from the original example, you’d take your combined rating of 65 and then look for the number in the left column of the combined ratings table. You would look for 10 in the top row–and find the number where the left column and the top row meet. In our example, it would be 69.
Higher Disability Ratings Mean a LOT
As you can see from our example, the VA counts the biggest ratings first, and they account for a lot.
Appealing for a higher rating can help substantially if you are trying to combine VA disability ratings, because of how much of a difference there is.
And remember, the higher the rating, the more disability compensation and benefits you will receive, and deserve!
Overall, VA math and combined ratings is a confusing process that can become frustrating when trying to calculate disability percentages and VA rates for your VA claims.
By using our VA disability calculator, you can easily calculate what your combined rating should be, if you didn’t want to use the aforementioned process–we did this to help make the process as easy as possible, because we know how cumbersome it can be!
The Alternative Path to Receiving 100% Disability
The VA makes it incredibly difficult to obtain 100% disability, but there is still hope–using what is called Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
This is specifically for veterans who cannot work but don’t have 100% disability. If you meet the following criteria, you should consider applying for TDIU:
- One service-connected disability rated at 60% or two or more service-connected disabilities, at least one rated at 40 percent or more, with a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
- Unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities
If you meet the above criteria, you should consider applying for TDIU benefits.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you in your claim and determining your combined disability rating percentage.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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