A Beginner's Guide to Calculating VA Disability Ratings
One of the most complicated and confusing aspects of filing veterans benefits claims is calculating a veteran's disability rating. This easy-to-use guide will walk you through the basics of calculating VA disability ratings.
The Math Behind VA Disability Ratings
Countless veterans have sustained injuries and disabling conditions as a result of their service. Most are entitled to some form of compensation in the form of benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, many veterans have difficulty determining their disability rating-- a figure that's vital for assessing service-connected compensation claims.
This difficulty is largely due to the fact that these ratings are not determined by simply adding up the numbers. For example, if you have multiple disabilities, the VA does not add up each percentage to get your final rating. Instead, the VA decides upon a combined rating by essentially taking percentages of percentages. This can be confusing for many veterans and can make it nearly impossible to have a 100% disability rating.
As a veteran gets closer to that 100% mark, the system can actually work against him. The combined rating system works in this way: if you have two separate disabilities that each rates at 50% and two others that each represent a 20% rating, the VA does not consider you to be 140% disabled. Rather, you would receive an 80% disability rating. Each disability takes away from your overall non-disabled percentage separately.
Here's the math: 50% of a 100% healthy rating equals 50. Then, 50% of 50 is calculated, which equals 25. That takes care of the two 50% disability ratings. After those are calculated, we're left with the two 20% ratings. The VA then calculates the value of 20% of 25. That comes out to be 5. When you take 20% of 5, you're left with 1. These values are then added together: 50+25+5+1=81. Final combined disability ratings are rounded up or down to the nearest 10%. In this case, 81 would be rounded down to a final rating of 80%.
This rating system is not always an accurate way to assess disabilities. Some disabilities will not even allow for a 100% disability rating -- or if they do, the qualifying circumstances are unreasonably hard to reach. And the compensation difference between a 100% and an 80% disability rating can be quite significant. A single veteran with no dependents and a 100% disability rating may receive nearly twice the monthly amount that a veteran in similar circumstances (but with an 80% rating) might get.
Other Ways to Get the Financial Assistance You Need
Luckily, there are other ways for veterans to obtain the financial coverage they need. Under certain circumstances, it can be beneficial for veterans who cannot work to file for Individual Unemployability, or IU (sometimes known as TDIU). Qualifying for IU can be tricky, but it can provide much-needed benefits for veterans who cannot work due to service-connected disabilities. In order to receive IU benefits, a veteran must either have one service-connected condition that's rated at 60% or higher or a combination of service-related conditions that equals at least 70%. Note that one of these conditions must have a 40% rating.
According to VA rules, these single disability ratings of either 40% or 60% can actually be achieved in a number of ways. If a veteran has disabilities in both legs or both arms, that's considered to be one single disability for IU purposes. If a veteran has sustained several disabling conditions as a result of the same accident or disease sustained during service, all of those conditions can be combined and regarded as one single disability for IU, as well. In addition, if a veteran sustained multiple injuries while in action or during his or her time as a prisoner of war, those conditions can be combined and treated as a single disability. Finally, if a veteran has sustained only one injury that totally prohibits him from working but doesn't give him a high enough rating to qualify for IU, he can file for both an increased rating and IU benefits.
But these specifics are difficult to wrap your mind around if you aren't even sure about your combined rating in the first place. Although combined disability ratings can be determined using old fashioned math, when a lot of factors come into play, doing so can be overwhelming.
Sometimes You Just Need a Calculator
Fortunately, we've developed a VA disability calculator to take the guess work out of the equation. By using the VA disability calculator, veterans can easily combine their ratings to compute a final combined rating. After a final rating is determined, you can input your dependents (if applicable). After factoring in a spouse, children, and/or dependent parents, you'll receive your final disability rating and the monthly compensation you can expect to see from the VA.
Although our VA disability calculator won't change how the VA determines combined disability ratings, it can give veterans a definitive answer about how these ratings are calculated and what they can expect. This can help them plan ahead and file additional claims, if need be.