If you apply for disability benefits for a military service injury from the Office of Veteran’s Affairs and they determine whether or not your disability is, in fact, service related, then the VA will give your disability a rating. This rating places a percentage on how much the disability from active duty affects your life and determines how much financial compensation (disability benefits) you’re entitled to. Here’s a detailed look at how it works.
How Does Schedule for the VA Rating Work?
The VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities is extensive and every disability claim is complicated. Each rating on the schedule is broken down but parts of the body impacted. The ratings of disability compensation are calculated on the impact each disability has on earning capacity. They range anywhere between 0 and 100% in increments of 10%.
For example, the schedule of ratings for the ear includes Meniere’s syndrome (tinnitus), an inner ear disease that can be caused by changes in the fluid in the ear. This is further broken down by severity. If it includes vertigo and certain changes in gait occurring more than once a week, it’s
rated at 100%. If vertigo and gait change occurs between one and four times a month, it’s rated at 60%. If vertigo occurs less than once a month, it’s rated at 30%.
Categories of VA disability compensation are by body part and each category is further broken down into groups of different medical issues affecting that body part or system. Each issue has a list of coded applicable diagnoses. Disability ratings are ultimately determined by the coded medical diagnosis. Each one spells out the symptoms are required for each staging.
If you have a disability that fits into several categories, you will still only be rated under a single code. That said, the VA will assign the code with the highest rating. If you have a disability that isn’t listing within the schedule, they will seek out something that’s as close as possible to representing your symptoms and assign a rating based on that criteria.
Simply put, whether you are suffering from an injury or illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental disorders, sleep apnea, or something physically more obvious like an amputation or total disability, the percent disability rating is somewhat complicated for all disabled veterans. That said, you are still entitled to VA compensation.
It’s important to know that the VA looks carefully at all of the medical evidence you provide them when assigning a rating.
What Do the Percentages Pay?
Currently, here’s what you can expect based on your percentage.
With a rating of 0%, you don’t qualify for disability compensation but it can qualify you for assistance through the VA, including for priority health care.
All other monthly amounts are determined by whether or not the person receiving the benefits has dependents to support. The more dependents you have, the more you’ll be compensated as your ability to support your family will have been greatly impacted.
In 2018, a single veteran without children and a 30% rating, would receive about $430 a month, $620 for 40%, $880 of 50%, and $1114 for 60%. A married veteran with one child would receive $517 a month for a 30% rating, $736 for 40%, $1027 for 50%, and $1290 for 60%.
A single veteran with a disability rated at 70% in this same year would receive $1403, $1632 for 80%, $1834 for 90%, and $3,057 for 100%. A married veteran with one child would receive $1610 for 70%, $1868 for 80%, $2099 for 90%, and $3,352 for 100%.
Addition compensation is factored into all of these figures for living parents that are supported by the veteran and additional children. Living expenses are also considered and an increased cost of living is also taken into consideration.
What about Multiple Disabilities?
Ratings for multiple disabilities aren’t as simple as just adding the individual percentages together. Instead, the VA used a Combined Ratings Table so that no combination can equal more than 100%.
Say, for example, you have two disabilities, one rated at 10% and the other at 60%. The combined rating for these is 64%. They round this to the nearest 10% which happens to be 70% which is the sum of the original ratings.
Now, say you have two disabilities, each rated at 50%. The table puts this combined rating at 75% which would round up to 80%.
Is there Compensation for Pre-Service Disabilities?
Should you experience a pre-service injury and a service injury and it’s impossible to determine what exactly is exacerbating your disability, the VA will generally be in your favor and assume that the service injury is at fault.
Another possibility is that a pre-service injury was made worse by your service. In this case, they VE will attempt to assign your baseline disability a rating as well as a post-service rating to determine how much the original injury was aggravated by your service. For example, if your pre-service disability was rated at 20% and is now at 30%, you would be entitled to compensation at a rating of 10%.
What Are Staged Ratings?
If your condition gets worse while you’re waiting for VA consideration/approval of your application, you can request that they assign different ratings depending on the period of time. Assuming your symptoms worsened, you can submit medical evidence to show that you now meet the set criteria for a higher rating and, therefore, more compensation. Note that if your condition improves, the VA will additionally reevaluate and assign you a lower rating.
This is important to mention because VA claims can take years to be approved so you could be waiting quite a while. If you’re depending on your disability to get by, there’s a good chance that your condition might have worsened.
A Complicated System
While some people may think that the VA Disability Classification is unfair, you have to admit that putting together a fair way to evaluate how much compensation veterans are entitled to—based on their injuries—is a difficult thing to do.
The best way to make sure you get what you’re entitled is to make sure you have as much medical evidence as possible. Also, be patient. This is a long process to go into it knowing that you might be waiting a long time for a result.