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Veterans Law

VA Disability Ratings and How They Work

April Donahower

October 25, 2017

Updated: June 20, 2024

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The VA Rating Schedule is designed to compensate disabled veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity. It’s intended to give veterans compensation – a dollar amount – for how severely they’re disabled.

For each condition found to be service connected, veterans get an assigned rating that represents the severity of their condition. The ratings range from 0 to 100 percent, in multiples of 10 (e.g. 0%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and so on). A 0% rating means the condition is service connected, but not severe enough for the veteran to receive monthly compensation. Veterans receive greater amounts of compensation for higher disability ratings. Dollar amounts range from $0 to around $3,000 per month.

The VA assigns a rating each condition based on diagnostic codes. The diagnostic codes provide guidelines for rating the severity of different conditions, based on the symptoms and limitations the veteran experiences. For example, Type II Diabetes and chronic knee pain each have their own diagnostic codes that list levels of severity specific to that condition. Each level corresponds to a different rating percentage. If a veteran has a condition that doesn’t have its own diagnostic code in VA’s guidelines, the VA will “rate by analogy,” meaning they will find the most similar condition that does have a code and use those guidelines to rate that condition.

A veteran can be rated for multiple service-connected disabilities.  But VA does NOT simply add up the ratings in cases where veterans have more than one service-connected condition. Instead, VA uses a different formula (see below) to calculate a “combined rating” that then determines how much compensation the veteran will receive each month.

Luckily, you can calculate your combined rating using the VA’s Combined Ratings Table. But for those interested in how VA gets to the final combined rating… an example is the best way to explain it.

Combined Ratings Example

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A veteran has Post Traumatic Stress, rated 50%, tinnitus rated 10%, and bilateral hearing loss rated 10%. One might assume that that veteran’s combined rating would be 70% because 50 + 10 + 10 = 70, but this is not the case. Instead, the rating is calculated like this:

Look at the highest rating (PTS at 50%) first. If the veteran is 50% disabled, then (according to VA) he/she is 50% NON-disabled.

100% – 50% disabled = 50% NON-disabled

So, according to VA’s rules, the next rating (tinnitus at 10%) only comes out of the remaining 50% that is NON-disabled.

10% of 50% = 5%   [OR .1 x .5 = .05]

We then add that 5% to the 50% to get 55% disabled. The remaining, NON-disabled percentage than becomes 45%.

5% + 50% = 55% disabled

100% – 55% = 45% NON-disabled

The next rating (bilateral hearing loss at 10%) only comes out of the remaining 45%.

10% of 45% = 4.5%   [OR .1 x .45 = .045]

We then add 4.5% to 55%, getting 59.5%. Since there are no more disabilities to combine, we can round to the nearest multiple of 10 to find the veteran’s final combined rating. Because it is greater than 55%, we round up to 59.5% (if it was 52% or 54.5%, for example, we would round down) and the veteran will receive compensation at the 60% level.

4.5% + 55% = 59.5% 60% disabled

Unfortunately, this means it becomes increasingly difficult to reach a rating of 100% with each new service-connected condition.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RATINGS? Check our detailed blog post about the VA Rating Schedule and what your rating means.  

About the Author

Bio photo of April Donahower

April joined Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick in August of 2016 as an Associate Attorney. She currently serves as the Appellate Supervisor in our Veterans Law practice. April’s practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about April