What Does Your VA Disability Rating Mean?
After you have filed your claim for VA disability benefits and the VA adjudicators have decoded that your disability is service connected, the VA will assign a disability rating. Essentially, this rating is a percentage based on the level of severity of your service connected condition. For example, your service-connected PTSD may be right at 50 percent disabling. These ratings are only given in increments of 10.
The VA will send you a Rating Decision letter in the mail which includes the ratings for each service-connected disability you have and your combined
rating. The VA calculates your combined rating according to a formula that they use in order to determine how much compensation you will receive each month.
The VA Rating Schedule
The VA has developed a Rating Schedule that guides the adjudicators through rating different disabilities. The Rating Schedule breaks down disabilities into different categories based on the part of the body that was impacted. Each of these categories contains groups of medical issues. Each group of issues contains a list of diagnostic codes, which we will discuss next, that specifies symptoms that are required for various ratings of disability.
What happens when your disability is not listed? The VA will look for a disability that is close to the one that you have and then evaluate your disability based on the diagnostic code for the related disability.
The severity of your service-connected disability may change over time. The VA may decide to decrease your disability rating if they have determined that your condition has improved or the VA may decide to increase your rating if your condition has worsened.
The VA Rating Schedule contains groups affecting different parts of the body. For example, some sections include the Respiratory System and the Musculoskeletal System. Each group contains a list of disabilities or diseases with their own diagnostic code. Generally, each diagnostic code specifies the symptoms that are required for each level of a disability rating.
If you have disability residuals that could possibly be rated under more than once diagnostic code, you will only be rated and compensated under one code. If two or more diagnostic codes apply, the VA adjudicator must choose the code that will give the highest rating.
Here is where VA math comes into play. If you have more than one service-connected disability, the VA will calculate a combined rating to determine how much you will be paid each month. The VA does not add your individual disability ratings together. Instead, the rating specialist will use a Combined Rating Table which uses a formula to determine your combined rating percentage. The number that his calculated is rounded to the nearest 10.
The highest combined rating that you can receive is 100 percent. For example, if you have one disability rated at 40 percent and another rated at 60 percent, your combined rating will not total a 100 percent combined rating. Similarly, if you have one disability rated at 50 percent and another at 60 percent, your combined rating will not equal 110 percent.