In some circumstances, veterans know before filing a VA disability claim that the rating for their disability is capped at 10%. For example, tinnitus with no other symptoms or hearing loss can only be awarded a 10% VA disability rating even when both ears are affected.
The benefits from a 10% VA disability rating might not seem worth the effort. Under the current VA compensation tables, the monthly disability pay is $152.64, which is not insubstantial.
However, more important for many veterans are the additional benefits unlocked by a 10% VA disability rating. A 10% VA disability rating could, for example, eliminate the thousands of dollars per year you spend on travel, copays, and prescriptions to treat your disability, waive some closing costs for a VA home loan, and entitle you to burial benefits.
In This Article About 10% VA Ratings:
- How to Obtain a 10% VA Disability Rating
- What Benefits Do You Get with 10% VA Disability?
- Reasons to File a VA Disability Claim for a 10% VA Disability Rating
- Backpay on a 10% VA Rating can Make it Worthwhile
- Is a 10% VA Disability Rating Worth It?
- Frequently Asked Questions about a 10% VA Rating
How to Obtain a 10% VA Disability Rating
Veterans must file a VA disability claim to obtain a rating. The claim describes the nature of the veteran’s disability and usually includes evidence to support the claim in the form of the veteran’s service records and medical records both during and after service.
The VA reviews the claim and assigns a disability rating based on the type and severity of symptoms that accompany the disability. More symptoms that occur more frequently or with greater severity usually result in higher ratings.
What Does a 10% Disability Rating Mean?
A 10% VA disability rating has a few meanings:
- Your disability impairs your earning ability by 10%: The VA uses a “whole body” disability rating system. A 10% VA disability rating means your earning ability is only 90% of what it would be without the disability.
- Compensable disability: A 10% VA disability rating acknowledges that your disability is compensable, meaning that you are entitled to receive monthly disability payments from the VA. However, 10% is the lowest compensable rating the VA assigns.
- Service-connected disability: By rating your disability, even at 10%, the VA has acknowledged that your disability is service connected. This is critically important if you need to request a rating increase or additional benefits for a secondary service-connected disability later on.
A 10% VA disability rating is not the worst outcome you can receive. The VA can deny a claim altogether if it believes the disability is not service-connected. In that case, you receive no rating.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, the VA can also accept your claim, but grant a 0% disability rating. Specifically, if the VA finds that a disability is service-connected but does not affect the veteran’s earning ability, they can assign a 0% disability rating for the disability. The VA gives two types of 0% disability ratings:
- 0% non-compensable: This means no disability payments, but the veteran is eligible for other derivative benefits, including free medical treatment for the disability.
- 0% compensable: This might seem contradictory, but it is possible to have a 0% disability rating and receive disability payments. Under the VA’s regulations, a veteran with two or more permanent disabilities rated at 0% will be compensated as if the aggregate rating of all those disabilities is 10%. Veterans with 0% compensable disabilities are eligible for the same derivative benefits as veterans with 0% non-compensable disabilities plus burial and plot benefits and the waiver of some closing costs on VA home loans.
Examples of Disabilities that Result in a 10% VA Disability Rating
There are two ways a 10% VA disability rating can be assigned in response to a VA disability claim.
- The rating is capped at 10%: Some disabilities can only receive a 10% disability rating. For example, tinnitus, glaucoma, and alopecia areata cannot be rated above 10% regardless of the severity or impact on a veteran’s earning ability or quality of life.
- The veteran lacks symptoms for a rating above 10%: Many disabilities present a range of symptoms. The VA uses the symptoms manifested to rate the disability. When the symptoms are minor, such as mild cases of osteomyelitis, mental disorders, or eating disorders, the VA can approve the claim, but with a 10% rating to reflect the disability’s relative lack of impact on the veteran’s earning ability or quality of life.
What Benefits Do You Get with 10% VA Disability?
Benefits for veterans with a service-connected disability generally fall into three categories:
1. Direct Payments
The benefit most veterans seek by filing a VA disability claim is disability payments. A 10% VA disability rating will get you $152.64 on the current VA compensation schedule. These payments are not subject to federal or state income tax.
2. Derivative Benefits
Once a veteran has a disability rating, the veteran is eligible for several derivative benefits.
All veterans with a service-connected disability receive free medical treatment and prescription drugs to treat the disability. Since this benefit is limited to the treatment of the rated disability for a 10% VA disability rating, the veteran will likely need to maintain health insurance coverage for other health issues. However, receiving free treatment for the disability may save a substantial amount of money in copays and deductibles on the veteran’s primary health insurance.
The medical treatment and prescription drugs to treat the disability must be obtained from a VA medical facility. To facilitate treatment, the VA provides reimbursement for travel to a VA medical facility for veterans with any service-connected disability, regardless of their disability rating.
The other derivative benefits do not fall into neat categories. However, a 10% VA disability rating qualifies the veteran to:
- Fee-reduced VA home loans: The funding fee for VA home loans is waived for veterans with a service-connected disability.
- Burial and plot benefits: Burial and plot benefits contribute toward burial and funeral expenses and interment and plot expenses. The value of the benefit depends on whether the service-connected disability caused death. For example, if the veteran’s service-connected disability was tinnitus, but the veteran died of a heart attack, the death would be considered non-service-related.
- Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E): VR&E is a job training and career counseling program operated by the VA. It is intended to smooth the transition of veterans with service-connected disabilities into the private sector after discharge.
- Department of Defense (DOD) facilities: Veterans with service-connected disabilities and their caregivers are eligible to shop at commissaries and exchanges. They can also use morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) facilities including hotels, recreation and fitness centers, libraries, entertainment centers, and restaurants.
- Federal employment: Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated at least 10% receive a preference for federal employment. Generally, the veteran preference is applied by adding ten points to a veteran’s score on any civil service examination, thereby boosting the veteran’s score and improving the veteran’s ranking among the job applicants.
3. Other Programs
The VA operates a pension program for veterans with low incomes. For veterans without permanent and total disabilities, a pension would only be available for veterans over 65 or those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
For these veterans, additional assistance is available in the form of aid and attendance or housebound allowance, if the veteran is confined to home because of a disability (service-connected or not). The additional payments are intended to compensate you for the additional assistance with day-to-day activities.
One of our VA disability lawyers talks about Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits.
Reasons to File a VA Disability Claim for a 10% VA Disability Rating
If a veteran knows a claim is likely to receive a 10% VA disability rating, is it a waste of time to file the claim? There is nothing to lose from filing a VA disability claim. There is no application fee or processing fee. So, at worst, a VA disability claim may be rejected, and you remain in the same position — no better, but no worse. If you use us to develop your case, you don’t even pay anything until we win your case.
However, if the claim is granted, you receive many benefits:
As mentioned above, the monthly payment is currently $152.64. However, VA disability claims often take several years to be adjudicated. When a claim is approved, the veteran is paid for the time the application was pending. This means that veterans can receive a windfall payment of several thousand dollars once a claim is approved.
This amount is not based on the veteran’s financial or family status. This means it is always available regardless of the veteran’s employment, income, marital status, or number of children. After retirement, this guaranteed check can provide a steady source of income.
Establish a Service-Connected Disability
Every VA disability claim must show a connection between the disability and the veteran’s military service. This service connection is often one of the more difficult parts of getting a VA disability claim granted because it requires evidence that the disability manifested during service, worsened as a result of service, or manifested after service due to some event that occurred during service.
This evidence can be difficult to come by. However, if you have a solid case for service-connected disability, it may be worthwhile to file a VA disability claim even if you believe the claim will only be rated at 10% for a few reasons:
- Higher rating: The VA might surprise you and rate the claim higher than you expected.
- Worsening condition: If your disability could worsen and the VA allows for higher ratings, a good course of action may be to document the disability and begin an application now. VA disability claims take a long time to adjudicate — up to five years if you need to appeal — and you might regret any delay if your condition worsens while the case is pending. Moreover, it is often quicker and easier to apply for a rating increase from an approved claim than it is to file a new claim.
- Build a case: If the claim is denied by the VA, it will provide its reasoning. This will allow you to gather additional documentation that can support your claim. If you file again or respond to the claim denial, you should be in a better position to gain approval of your claim. Moreover, the fact that you filed previously will counter any arguments that you are seeking compensation for a newly developed medical problem.
- Long-term benefits: Once your disability claim is approved, it will usually come with a reexamination date five years in the future. Since no one can predict what might happen in their life that far into the future, setting yourself up with a steady source of income now might be prudent.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
Claim Secondary Service-Connected Disabilities
If you have an approved claim for a service-connected disability, you have a pathway to link together additional secondary service-connected disabilities. Secondary service-connected disabilities are any disabilities that have a medical link to the primary service-connected disability. Some examples of the types of links that the VA can find sufficient include:
- Causation: When the primary service-connected disability causes a different disability, the resulting disability may be a secondary service-connected disability. For example, if you have a 10% disability rating for a service-connected eating disorder and the eating disorder results in ulcers in your digestive system, the ulcers might be claimed as a secondary service-connected disability.
- Treatment: If treatment of the primary service-connected disability causes another disability, the new disability may be deemed as a secondary service-connected disability. Thus, if the medication for depression rated at 10% by the VA causes hypothyroidism, the thyroid condition may be claimed as a secondary service-connected disability.
If your claim for a secondary service-connected disability is approved, it is rated, and the ratings of your primary and secondary service-connected disabilities are aggregated. This is where every little bit can help you get the highest aggregate rating possible. Even if your primary service-connected disability is rated at 10%, a secondary service-connected disability also rated at 10% gets you an aggregate VA disability rating of 20%, which nearly doubles your monthly disability payment.
However, keep in mind that the aggregation of service-connected disabilities is performed using VA math rather than simple addition. This means that 50% + 10% = 60%, but that 60% + 10% = 60% as well.
Here you can learn how to use our free VA disability calculator:
Backpay on a 10% VA Rating can Make it Worthwhile
Your effective date is often the day that the VA receives your application for VA disability. However, if you’ve applied in the past and it was denied, your appeal could make that original application date your new effective date.
The VA will pay back pay based on when your effective date should have been. That means if you should have been approved 4 years ago but whoever was helping you fill out your claim missed something, your appeal might win your case back 4 years. 48 months of back pay at a VA rating of 10% is more than $7,000! Even if the monthly check doesn’t seem like much, a couple of thousand dollars is a good boost!
Here you can learn more about getting the right effective date on your VA disability claim.
Is a 10% VA Disability Rating Worth It?
For most veterans, the answer is yes. Everyone can use a steady stream of tax-free money. This not only provides a hedge against job loss, medical bills, or other unexpected life events but can help you plan for retirement. If the disability is permanent, like tinnitus, you could receive these payments for the rest of your life.
Moreover, a VA disability claim rated at 10% provides a stepping stone to greater benefits if your medical issues worsen or you develop new medical issues as a result of the disability. Once the VA approves a claim, simple inertia can keep the VA moving forward in approving additional or related benefits.
Finally, the derivative benefits the VA provides above and beyond the disability payments are often just as valuable as the cash. Free healthcare and prescription drugs to treat the disability, plus a preference for federal hiring and reduced closing costs for VA home loans can give you a secure job, health insurance, and a home.
Predicting whether you can obtain a 10% VA disability rating is difficult and will depend on the nature of the disability and the strength of the evidence. Contact a VA lawyer to discuss your VA disability benefits claim regardless of where you are currently located and whether you were deployed.
Frequently Asked Questions about a 10% VA Rating
No, VA disability checks are tax-free. You can see how much veterans get for each rating on our VA disability calculator.
Not at the 10% level. At higher levels, the VA will give you additional money if you have dependent children or parents, but at the 10% level that is not affected.
Not your VA disability check. Other VA benefits can be based on income, especially if you are very poor or a homeless vet, but standard VA disability checks aren’t affected by your other income.