Many veterans are familiar with the unusual way in which VA combines multiple disability ratings to come up with the veteran’s combined rating. VA uses a combined ratings table to determine a veteran’s overall rating, which then in turn determines how much monthly compensation the veteran will receive.
VA Does Not Add Ratings, They Combine Them
The secret to understanding combined ratings is this: VA does not add each of a veteran’s ratings together, it combines them to determine what percentage of the veteran is disabled, and what percentage is not disabled. When a veteran applies for disability benefits, VA considers them 100% not disabled until they assign the veteran a disability rating, or ratings, for their disabilities.
For example, a veteran who is service connected for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at 30% would be considered 30% disabled by VA, and 70% not disabled, or “whole.” If the veteran is later service connected for other conditions, the disability percentages would be taken from the remaining “whole.” Each additional rating will reduce the percentage that the veteran is “whole,” and increase the percentage that the veteran is disabled.
To use a quick example, if a veteran is rated at 50% for an anxiety disorder, VA will consider that veteran 50% disabled, and 50% not disabled. If the veteran is then service connected for tinnitus at 10%, VA will take that 10% from the percentage of the veteran that is not disabled. So, 10% of 50% is 5%. VA will then add the 5% to the 50% of the veteran that is disabled, coming out to 55%.
If the veteran is later service connected for another condition at 10% in addition to the 50% for anxiety and 10% for tinnitus, VA will take that other 10% out of the 45% that the veteran is not disabled. So, 10% of 45% is 4.5%, and then the 4.5% will be added to the 55% that the veteran is disabled. The 4.5% and the 55% will then come out to 59.5% and rounded to the nearest increment of 10 for a combined rating of 60%.
How Does VA Calculate Combined Ratings?
VA uses a combined ratings table to determine a veteran’s overall combined rating, which then corresponds to the rate at which the veteran will receive VA disability benefits. To calculate a combined rating, VA starts with the veteran’s highest rating, and then works down the list of disabilities, combining them from highest to lowest. The table does not round up to whole numbers in increments of 10, so when VA has combined all of the disabilities, they will round up to the nearest 10 and the veteran will receive compensation at that rate.
Using the example above, if the veteran who is service connected for PTSD at 30% is later service connected for headaches at 30% and hearing loss at 10%, their overall rating would not be 70%. Instead, VA would combine the 30% for headaches with the 30% for PTSD, coming out to 51%. It would then combine the 10% for hearing loss with the 51%, which would come out to 56%. VA would then round the 56% to the nearest 10, which would be 60%. The veteran’s overall combined rating would be 60% and he would receive monthly compensation at that 60% rate.
How to Use the Table
Veterans can use VA’s combined rating table to calculate their overall combined rating. First, it can help if the veteran lists their disability ratings from highest to lowest. As mentioned, start by using the veteran’s highest rating, and then going down the list from the second highest rating down to the lowest.
The veteran will take their highest rating and identify it in the left column of the chart. Then, the veteran will take their second highest rating and identify that in the top row of the chart. Where the row and the column intersect is the combined value for those disabilities.
If a veteran has more than two disabilities, they would take the combined value of the first two (which they got from following the above step), and locate that on the left side of the chart (without rounding to the nearest 10). They will then locate their next-highest rating on the top row, and find where the row and the column intersect. That is the combined rating for those three disabilities.
The veteran would repeat this process for every disability they are rated for, following from highest to lowest. Then, when the veteran is finished combining their rating, they will round that final number to the nearest 10. For example, if the veteran’s final combined rating is 56%, they will round that up to 60%. If their final combined rating is 54%, they will round down to 50%. For reference, a 55% would round up to 60%.
How Can I Get to 100% Combined with VA Math?
When it comes to combined ratings, achieving a combined 100% rating can be extremely difficult. The higher a veteran’s combined rating, the harder it is to achieve that 100% because the percentage that the veteran is “whole” becomes smaller and smaller as the veteran’s overall rating increases. For instance, if a veteran is at an even 90% for their combined disability rating, they will need another rating of at least 50% in order to increase their combined rating to 95%, which would then be rounded up to 100%.