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Veterans Law

How to Increase VA Disability Rating from 70% to 100%

February 10, 2020

What Are VA Disability Ratings?

VA disability ratings are percentages assigned to service-connected conditions based on the severity of the conditions.  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.  These ratings are assigned at 10 percent increments.  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.

Each percentage increment corresponds to a dollar amount.  In other words, the higher the veteran’s disability rating, the more compensation they will receive each month.  When a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, each with its own individual rating, VA does not simply add them together – they are combined using “VA Math”.

VA Math Overview

VA starts with the premise that a veteran is 100 percent efficient, or not disabled.  If a veteran has a disability rating of 20 percent, VA will see them as 80 percent non-disabled and 20 percent disabled.  To include another disability rating of, say 10 percent, VA will take 10 percent of the 80 percent non-disabled portion, and add it to the existing 20 percent rating, bringing the veteran to a 28 percent disability rating.  This process continues with each disability rating the veteran has.

Note: Always begin with the highest rating a veteran has first, followed by the second highest rating, and so on.  Disability ratings are rounded to the nearest increment of 10, so for example, this rating of 28 percent will be rounded to 30 percent.

Increasing Your 70% VA Disability Rating

Under certain circumstances, VA may increase your disability rating in light of new evidence that your condition has worsened.  If you think your service-connected condition warrants a higher disability rating than the one it is currently assigned, there are two routes you can take depending on which best fits your situation: (1) file an appeal; or (2) file a claim for an increased rating.

File an Appeal

If you think the 70% disability rating VA has assigned is too low, you have one year from the date of the notification letter you received with the decision to file a Notice of Disagreement for an increased rating in the legacy appeals system.  When you file an appeal under the Appeals Modernization Act (AMA), you will have three review options to choose from: (1) higher-level review lane; (2) supplemental claim lane; or (3) Notice of Disagreement lane (i.e., appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals).  Similar to the legacy appeals system, veterans have one year to choose one of the three above-mentioned lanes in order to keep the effective date of their claim.

File a Claim for an Increased Rating

The disability rating VA assigns in its initial rating decision may be satisfactory at the time; however, your condition may worsen years later.  This is another way to increase your VA disability rating from 70% to 100%. If you are outside of the one-year period to file an appeal with VA’s decision, you will likely have to file a new claim for an increased rating.  You can submit any new documentation or evidence you have supporting that your service-connected condition has worsened.

VA will treat this as any other claim and issue a rating decision in response.  In the legacy appeals system, the evidence must be “new and material”, whereas under AMA, it must be “new and relevant”.  Under AMA, if you wanted to file again for an increased rating after the previous appeal period expired, VA has been unclear in whether you need to file a supplemental claim or a VA Form 21-526 (initial claim).  The Regional Offices have accepted both, reflecting an inconsistency in both adjudication and accepting forms.

Going from 70% to 100%

When trying to go from a 70% disability rating to a 100% disability rating, veterans should be mindful of the rating criteria for each service-connected condition for which they are seeking an increase.  Veterans can read through the rating criteria and determine how their symptomology lines up with what is listed.  Furthermore, veterans can have private doctors opine on the severity of their conditions in relation to what is listed in the rating criteria.  This may be beneficial in developing a more convincing case for a higher (i.e., 100 percent) disability rating.

Veterans should also keep the above-mentioned VA math process in mind.  If veterans are trying to get a 100 percent VA disability rating, and they do not have a 100 percent rating for any one service-connected condition, the only way to get there is to reach a combined disability rating of 95 percent or higher according to VA math.  Therefore, veterans may consider filing claims for additional conditions they believe may be due to service in the event that such conditions might combine for a higher rating.

TDIU vs. 100 Percent Schedular Disability Ratings: How a 70% Rating Comes Into Play

As indicated above, the process of going from a combined 70% disability rating to a combined 100 percent disability rating can be difficult to do.  That is why VA offers an alternative path to 100 percent – total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).  This path allows veterans to be compensated at the 100 percent rate even if their combined disability rating is less than 100 percent.  A 70% VA disability rating may qualify you for this benefit.

Here, veterans must demonstrate that they are unable to work as a result of their service-connected conditions.  Therefore, the biggest difference between TDIU and a 100 percent schedular disability rating is the impact TDIU has on a veteran’s future employment status.  Veterans who are capable and wish to continue working for additional income may prefer to pursue a 100 percent schedular disability rating versus TDIU, as there are no work restrictions with a 100 percent schedular rating.