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Veterans Law

How to Increase VA Disability Ratings from 90% to 100%

July 1, 2020

What are VA Disability Ratings?

VA assigns disability ratings based on the severity of a veteran’s service-connected condition(s).  A 90 percent VA disability rating is generally assigned in instances where the condition is particularly severe.  Specifically, VA uses its Schedule for Rating Disabilities to determine 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 in 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.

VA then uses your disability rating(s) to determine how much compensation you will receive each month, as well as your eligibility for other VA benefits.  If you have multiple disability ratings, VA will use them to calculate your combined VA disability rating.  Calculating your combined disability rating involves more than adding up your individual disability ratings.  According to VA, determining combined disability ratings involves the “whole person theory.”  Essentially, it ensures that your total VA disability rating does not add up to more than 100 percent.

Benefits to Appealing Your 90% VA Disability Rating

There are many reasons why appealing your 90 percent VA disability rating may be beneficial.  For starters, if you are successful in appealing your 90 percent disability rating, your monthly compensation amount will increase by over $1,000, as indicated below.  Furthermore, veterans that obtain a 100 percent VA disability rating are eligible for additional benefits from VA, including:

  • Health Care Priority Group 1 status—Veterans who are in Health Care Priority Group 1 are in the highest priority group. Priority groups have differing copays for health care, ranging from group to group.
  • VA Dental Care Benefits—VA offers dental care benefits to certain qualifying veterans. Veterans who are rated at 100 percent may be entitled to dental care.
  • Specially Adapted Housing Program Benefits—This program offers grants to veterans who have severe service-connected disabilities. The grants may be used to assist with building, remodeling, or purchasing a home which has special accommodations.
  • Dependents’ Education Assistance Program (DEA)—Veterans who are receiving treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability may be eligible for the DEA program.
  • Commissary and Exchange Benefits—Veterans with Commissary and Exchange benefits may present their VHIC, or Veteran Health ID Card, to gain entry to commissary stores and other on-base locations.
  • Property tax waivers*—In some instances, veterans rated at 100 percent VA disability rating may be eligible for property tax waivers.
  • Vehicle registration*—Similar to property tax waivers, some veterans rated at 100 percent may be eligible for vehicle registration.

*Note: Each state may have different qualification requirements.

Potential Barriers to Appealing Your 90% VA Disability Rating

Although there are many benefits to appealing your 90 percent VA disability rating, there are also several barriers.  Specifically, the VA disability appeals timeline can be very lengthy and difficult to navigate.  Additionally, in limited cases, VA may be able to reduce your disability rating if you appeal.  That is, if VA reviews your condition again and finds that it has improved, there may be grounds for a rating reduction.

A VA-accredited representative may be able to help prepare a case to overcome some of the potential barriers to appealing a 90 percent VA disability rating.

How to Appeal Your 90% VA Disability Rating

Under certain circumstances, VA may increase your 90 percent VA disability rating without prompting.  Here, it is likely that VA evaluated new evidence supporting the fact that your service-connected condition has worsened.  If you think your service-connected condition warrants a higher disability rating than the one 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.

Tips for Going from 90% to 100%

When trying to go from a 90 percent disability rating to a 100 percent 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 evaluate the severity of their conditions in relation to what is listed in the rating criteria.  Veterans can then submit their private doctors’ opinions to VA.  This may be beneficial in developing a more convincing case for a 100 percent disability rating.

How to Increase Your VA Disability Rating

Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability

Veterans whose VA disability ratings do not combine to a schedular 100 percent rating could qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), a program that compensates veterans who are unable to obtain and maintain a substantially gainful occupation due to a service-connected disability at the 100 percent rate.  Veterans can appeal their 90 percent VA disability rating or file for an increase in order to be considered for TDIU.

2020 VA Compensation Rates

As of December 1st, 2020, the VA disability rate benefit amounts are as follows:

  • 0 percent disability rating: $0.00 per month
  • 10 percent disability rating: $144.14 per month
  • 20 percent disability rating: $284.93 per month
  • 30 percent disability rating: $441.35 per month
  • 40 percent disability rating: $635.77 per month
  • 50 percent disability rating: $905.04 per month
  • 60 percent disability rating: $1,146.39 per month
  • 70 percent disability rating: $1,444.71 per month
  • 80 percent disability rating: $1,679.35 per month
  • 90 percent disability rating: $1,887.18 per month
  • 100 percent disability rating: $3,146.42 per month

It is important to note that veterans may be eligible to receive additional compensation for qualifying dependents, including the following: a spouse, child under the age of 18, child between the ages of 18 and 23 and still in school, a child who was permanently disabled before the age of 18, and dependent parents.