The VA Combined Rating Chart is Confusing
If you are a veteran trying to get 100% disability, the VA Ratings Table can be really frustrating. VA Math can seem like a corrupt mystery designed to keep your benefit amount as low as possible. If you only have one disability rating, you’ve probably never thought about the VA combined rating table.
It is important if you have multiple disability ratings or if you are trying to learn how to increase disability from 80 to 100. One severe disability is going to help you get to the high rating faster than a dozen smaller ratings, as we’ll explain below. The VA disability math can make a little more sense as we look at it as a measure of disability and efficiency.
How Does a VA Disability Combined Rating Work?
Disability ratings are measured on a schedule. They don’t fill the full range from 0 to 100%. The VA has a “Schedule of Ratings” that classifies various levels of symptoms into percentages of disability. Chronic Bronchitis, for instance, carries a rating of 10%, 30%, 60%, or 100% based on your FEV-1. (The FEV-1 is the volume of air that can be forced out in one second after taking a deep breath.) If your FEV-1 is 56%, you get a 30% disability rating. If it is 55%, you are bumped up to a 60% rating, not 31%.
This is only the beginning of big leaps from little numbers.
If your breathing is getting worse, you might want to call us to see if it’s worth an application for a rating increase. You might just be a C&P exam away from a higher rating. Increasing a rating from high to higher is one step towards increasing your rating. Increasing a rating from 0 to 10% might not move it so much as you’ll see below.
How Do You Calculate Your Combined Ratings Yourself?
When you compute your combined rating, you start with your highest single rating. If you have a 60% rating for Chronic Bronchitis, 50% for PTSD, and a 30% rating for a knee replacement. The 60% and 50% ratings are going to get you a much higher rating than you would get for even 7 ratings at the 10% level. (Seven 10% ratings would only add up to a 50% combined rating!)
First, you combine the 60% and 50% ratings to get an 80% rating. It is 80% because starting with 60%, you then take 50% of the remaining 40% that was left. Don’t think of it as 60 + 50. Think of it as 60% of a total plus 50% of the remaining total. Then you take 30% of the remaining amount for your knee. At this point, you are taking 30% of the 20% that is left after your 80% rating. 30% of 20 is only 6, so your rating creeps up to 86%. That is actually good, because it will be rounded from 86% up to 90% which will give you a final combined VA rating of 90%.
How to Compute Your VA Combined Rating with the VA’s Ratings Table
For our example, we’ll combine 60%, 50%, and 30%. (You can print your own 2019 table from Benefits.VA.gov)
- Start with the largest rating
Find the 60 on the left and follow the row across to the 50. You’ll see the result is 80.
- Take the combined rating and continue working your way down
Since 30% is next, find the 80 on the left side and go across to the 30 to get a rating of 86%
- Continue with all of your ratings in decreasing order
An 86% rating combined with a 30% rating will get you up to a 90% rating. Continue working your way down and you can see that it takes a lot to get to a 95% rating (which would be rounded up to 100%)
- Check your VA Math with an online calculator
Higher Disability Ratings Count A Lot
If you combine anything else to that 90%, it’s going to be taken out of the 14% that is left from your 86% rating. You can see that adding large ratings to that would only come out of that 14%. To get from 86% up to 95% (the minimum you’d need to be rounded up to 100%) would take a LOT of 20% and 10% ratings. That’s why the bigger ratings count first and count for so much.
Sometimes Veterans that already have disability ratings and are getting a check can use a lawyer to get a higher rating or additional benefits like A&A and SMC. You might not be able to get more disability from your current ratings, but you might be able to get more help because of the nature of your disabilities. Due to the nature of your disabilities and your ability to work, you might not even need a 100% rating.
Why is VA Math So Crazy?
As Zac explains in the video, the VA doesn’t add up disabilities as much as it compensates you to make up for your missing efficiency. Disability is the economic impact that has been removed from your working capacity due to a service-connected condition. When you make a disability claim, you are proving what you can no longer do. Because you can no longer do something because of a medical condition, you are asking the VA to reimburse you monthly to make up for that loss.
Efficiency is what is left in your working capacity after compensation for what you are disabled from doing. It is the economic representation of what you are still able to do. Since you start from a position of 100% efficient, they count your disability in terms of loss. That also explains why VA disability compensation rates might from from 30% to 50% instead of counting each percentage from 31 to 32 to 33 etc. They lump big changes into percentages to make it easier to settle on a rating.
Social Security Disability Insurance works in a different way, in that they consider all of the disabilities together versus only viewing your service-connected disabilities separately.
The Shortcut to Getting 100% Disability
Since it is so hard to get 100% disability, the VA has set up a system that helps veterans that can still live their lives but just can’t work. The VA defined TDIU (Total Disability Individual Unemployability) benefits for veterans that can’t work but don’t have 100% disability. If you meet these criteria, you should apply for 100% TDIU:
- You must have at least one service-connected disability rated at least at 60%, OR two or more service-connected disabilities at least one disability ratable at 40 percent or more with a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
- You must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities (marginal employment, such as odd jobs, is not considered substantial gainful employment for VA purposes).
If you meet these criteria, our team will work to you get your TDIU benefits which pay as much as 100% disability. In the example of the veteran above with the 86% rating, we would put all of our efforts into a TDIU decision instead of increasing that rating from 86% to 95%. It just isn’t necessary to get the rating higher once TDIU comes into play.
Make Sure You Count the Bilateral Factor
We have written at length about the Bilateral Factor here https://www.woodslawyers.com/how-the-va-disability-bilateral-factor-affects-veterans-ratings but you should make sure the VA didn’t miss it in your ratings. If you have symptoms for some conditions on both legs or both arms, you could get an additional 10% rating because it affects both sides. Disabilities with both arms or legs affected by a service-connected injury are much more difficult, which is why the bilateral factor was introduced.
Even though it is only 10%, it is one of those benefits that is really easy to claim if you have already proven that you have service-connected issues with both arms or legs. In a scale where rounding numbers off can be the difference of a few hundred dollars a month (or tens of thousands of dollars of backpay!) you want to get all that you deserve from the VA.
Get Answers from Our Free VA Combined Rating Calculator
You can use the VA Math Chart https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp or our built-in VA Math Calculator here on our site. Our disability calculator can tell you how much money you’ll get for any VA rating. You can also see how much money you’ll get per month for children under 18 or a spouse that is depending on you. Your monthly payment amount can also change if you have dependent parents or if you have any dependent children aged 18-24.
Other Ways to Get More Money for Your Disability
There are other amounts that can’t be computed with a disability calculator. Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) can also be granted to help you live at your house. https://www.woodslawyers.com/smc-disability-benefits-special-monthly-compensation/ Pay for a person to help you with your laundry or prepare meals with SMC. SMC can also go to help you maintain your personal hygiene or keep your house clean if you can’t do all of it yourself.
A Veteran with a spouse can get more money per month and frankly, help out with the future DIC claim. When a veteran dies and leaves a surviving widow or widower, that surviving spouse can also receive benefits after the veteran’s death. Better to plan ahead to be reimbursed for your spouse’s military service than to start once the money is tight.
First of all, you can call us and we will help you get your appeal or your VA Disability file together for free. If we win your case, we will only charge you 20% of your backpay and case expenses. If we don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay us a thing. Some VA disability lawyers charge up to 33%, but not us.
- The Official VA Disability Ratings Table is here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp You might find it on other websites as a pdf or other format, but this one comes from the VA directly so you know it is up to date with the latest rates.
- You can see the Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) Rate Table from 2018 (the most recent changes) here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/resources_comp02.asp You’ll have to know your respective letter code from the VA in order to see which category you fall into. This will be listed as SMC-L or SMC-M ½ on your letter from the VA.
- Our VA Combined Rating Calculator which can show you how much your monthly compensation would be for any rating as well as spouse and dependent benefits. https://www.woodslawyers.com/va-disability-benefits-rating-calculator-for-veterans/
- Check your claim or appeal status here: https://www.va.gov/claim-or-appeal-status/ If you have been denied or you are afraid of making a mistake on your claim, call us. It takes as long as 7 years to get a decision from the VA sometimes, and you don’t want to get it wrong.
Not at the VA they don’t. Multiple VA ratings are combined rather than added. The process makes it hard for a lot of ratings to finally add up to 100%. Us the VA Ratings table or a ratings calculator to add them up.
You can call us and we’ll compute your combined rating to see what the right rating should be. We can also help you appeal the decision and try to get a higher rating.
You would have to add a lot of additional ratings to go from a 70 to a 100% VA disability rating. There might be other ways to raise your monthly check or even change your effective date back to earn more back pay. Talk to a lawyer to get a free case review.