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How to Get a 100% VA Disability Rating?

July 31, 2019
disability rating

What is a VA Disability Rating?

A VA disability rating is a percentage assigned to a service-connected disability based on the severity of the condition.  VA uses the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to assign diagnostic codes and disability ratings for service-connected conditions.  The VASRD is located in Part 4 of Title 38 in the United States Code of Federal Regulations.  The VASRD explains how conditions will be evaluated for purposes of receiving a VA disability rating.  Each rating criteria will describe symptoms and/or treatment for the specific condition, and VA will assign a percentage, ranging from 0 to 100, according to each set of criteria.  Overall, VA disability ratings are meant to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity caused by their service-connected condition(s).  Generally, the more severe a disability is, the higher the VA disability rating will be.

A 100 percent disability rating, or a total disability rating, is the highest percentage that can be given for service-connected compensation purposes.  This rating is reserved for veterans with extremely debilitating service-connected conditions that typically make them unable to work and mostly unable to care for themselves.  There are several ways in which veterans can obtain 100 percent disability ratings from VA.

Ways to Get a 100% Disability Rating from VA

100% Schedular Disability Rating 

As indicated above, VA uses the VASRD to assign disability ratings for service-connected conditions.  If a veteran has a single service-connected condition that meets the requirements for a 100% disability rating, VA should assign it accordingly.  However, veterans can also receive a 100 percent schedular disability rating if they have multiple service-connected disabilities that add up to 100 percent.  Specifically, when a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, each with its own disability rating, VA combines them together using “VA Math.”  To calculate a combined disability rating, VA starts with the veteran’s highest disability rating, and then works down the list of disabilities, combining them from highest to lowest.  Once VA has combined all of the disabilities, it will round up to the nearest 10 and the veteran will receive the level of monthly compensation associated with that rating percentage.  Therefore, veterans can get a 100 percent disability rating if their multiple disability ratings combine to 100 percent.

Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

Veterans can also receive a 100 percent disability rating if they qualify for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) – a disability benefit that allows for veterans to be compensated at VA’s 100 percent disability rate, even if their combined disability rating does not equal 100 percent.  TDIU is awarded in circumstances in which veterans are unable to secure and follow substantially gainful employment as a result of their service-connected conditions.  There are two ways in which veterans can qualify for TDIU under 38 CFR § 4.16(a):

  • The veteran has one service-connected disability rated at 60 percent or more; OR
  • The veteran has two or more service-connected disabilities, one of which is rated at least 40 percent disabling, with a combined rating of at least 70 percent.

Importantly, if a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, there are five ways they can be combined to reach the qualifying 60 percent or 40 percent for TDIU purposes:

  • A disability of one or both of your upper extremities OR one or both of your lower extremities can be combined into one rating.
  • Disabilities stem from “common etiology or a single accident” can be combined into a single rating.
  • Disabilities that affect a single body system can be combined into one rating.
  • A number of conditions incurred in action can be combined into one rating.
  • Former prisoners of war who incurred multiple disabilities during their time in captivity may combine those disabilities into a single rating.

If veterans do not meet the requirements listed above, they may still be considered for TDIU under 38 CFR 4.16(b).  Here, VA will determine if your case should be referred to the Director of Compensation Service for extraschedular consideration.

Temporary Total Ratings

Veterans who are rendered temporarily incapacitated due to a service-connected condition may be entitled to receive a temporary 100 percent disability rating.  VA offers three forms of temporary total ratings:

Prestabilization

Prestabilization ratings are temporary, immediate disability ratings assigned to veterans who have recently been discharged from military service with a severely disabling and unstable condition that is expected to continue for an indefinite period of time.  These veterans are assigned disability ratings in increments of 50 percent and 100 percent over a period of 12 months following their discharge date.  According to 38 CFR § 4.28, VA will only assign a prestabilization rating of 100 percent if substantially gainful employment is not feasible or advisable.  Prestabilization ratings are not assigned if veterans are immediately eligible for a 100 percent schedular disability rating under the regular provisions of the rating schedule, or 100 percent based on TDIU.

Hospitalization

Temporary 100 percent hospitalization ratings are assigned to veterans who have been hospitalized for over 21 days as a result of a service-connected condition.  The veteran must be receiving treatment at a VA medical center or other VA-approved hospital.  Benefits will continue until the last day of the month in which the veteran stopped receiving treatment for the service-connected condition.  If the veteran is hospitalized for more than six months, their service-connected condition should be evaluated under the VASRD for consideration of a schedular 100 percent rating.

Convalescence

The third and final form of temporary total ratings assigned to veterans by VA is convalescence.  This temporary 100 percent disability rating is assigned to veterans who underwent treatment or surgery for a service-connected condition at a VA medical center or VA-approved facility.  To qualify for a temporary and total convalescence rating, a veteran must have:

  • Undergone treatment or surgery with a convalescence (i.e. recovery) time of at least one month; or
  • Experienced severe postoperative residuals that resulted from surgery (e.g. surgical wounds are not completely healed, the veteran is rendered housebound, there is need for continuous use of crutches or wheelchair); or
  • Experienced the immobilization of one or more major joints “by cast without surgery”.

Other Benefits for Veterans with 100% Disability Ratings

Veterans who qualify for 100 percent disability ratings from VA may also be eligible for housing, healthcare, education, and other benefits.  For example, veterans with 100 percent disability ratings are eligible to enroll in Health Care Priority Group 1 through VA, with no co-payments required.  Additionally, veterans may be entitled to a grant from VA to help build a new specially adapted house, adapt a home they already own, or buy a house and modify it to meet their disability-related requirements.  Veterans with total ratings may also qualify for military identification cards.