In determining how much compensation a veteran is eligible to receive, the VA utilizes a rating schedule to assign specific ratings to each disability. Once a disability is established as service-connected, than that disability will be rated a specific number, which will be connected to a set dollar amount the veteran will receive. (To determine your potential overall disability rating, you can input your disabilities and ratings into our disability calculator here). However, many service-connected disabilities are defined to be non-compensable, and therefore, will automatically receive a rating of 0% by the VA. Further, if a veteran establishes a service-connected disability which does not include symptoms or injuries required for a higher rating, then the veteran may only receive a 0% non-compensable rating for the specific disability. A 0% rating means that the veteran will not be entitled to any compensation for their disability, although there are several other benefits the veteran will still be eligible to receive.
One way for a veteran with multiple non-compensable service-connected disabilities to obtain compensation benefits is it to establish that the disabilities directly affect the veteran’s ability to work. 38 CFR § 3.324 states “Whenever a veteran is suffering from two or more separate permanent service-connected disabilities of such character as clearly to interfere with normal employability, even though none of the disabilities may be of compensable degree…the rating agency is authorized to apply a 10-percent rating, but not in combination with any other rating.” Specifically, if you have multiple (two or more) non-compensable service-connected disabilities, the VA may assign you a 10% disability rating if the disabilities clearly interfere with your normal employability.
There are many veterans in the United States who have multiple non-compensable service-connected disabilities which affect employability, yet are not receiving any disability compensation that they are entitled to. In addition, there are many disabilities which cannot receive a rating code higher than 0%, and therefore are always non-compensable. Finally, there are many disabilities which can be compensable, but, as explained above, a veteran does not manifest specific ailments or symptoms required for a higher rating than 0%, and therefore, receives a 0% non-compensable disability designation.
If you are a veteran who falls within the above categories, with multiple non-compensable service-connected disabilities, it is important to document and seek treatment for all of your disabilities since the 10% rating to receive compensation under 38 CFR § 3.324 is not automatic. However, the statute makes compensation available for veterans who establish that they are unable to work as a result of the disability. The best way to prove this is to present evidence including but not limited to medical records and employer statements regarding unemployability. It should be noted that a veteran can only receive a maximum of a 10% rating when combining multiple non-compensable service-connected disabilities. If a veteran eventually receives a compensable disability rating at or equal to 10%, the veteran can only receive compensation based on that new rating and the previous 10% rating (based on multiple non-compensable service-connected disabilities) will be removed. The important takeaway from this post is that even if you are disabled with only non-compensable service-connected disabilities, there are still VA Compensation benefits available which you may be entitled to.