FAQ Friday: The Bilateral Factor
Q. What is the bilateral factor?
Bilateral disabilities are recognized by the VA as severely limiting to a veteran’s ability to function, and thus warrant a higher rating percentage. According to Code of Federal Regulations C.F.R. § 4.26, the bilateral factor is:
“a partial disability results from disease or injury of both arms, or of both legs, or of paired skeletal muscles, the ratings for the disabilities of the right and left sides will be combined as usual, and 10% of this value will be added before proceeding with further combinations.”
Q. What makes my condition bilateral?
Bilateral means affecting both sides. In order for your condition to be considered bilateral, you have to have two service-connected disabilities with one on each side (i.e. left wrist and right elbow); you do not need to have the same injury on each side in order to qualify, but your conditions must affect either both upper extremities, or both lower extremities (not one of each).
A veteran is considered more limited in daily life due to a bilateral disability because they cannot use the partnering disabled limb, hip, hand, etc. to assist the other side’s disability.
Q. How much does having a bilateral disability increase my rating?
VA math can be confusing, and often times the language used in calculating percentages can be unclear. Here is an example:
A service-connected right shoulder at 20% disabling and a service-connected left elbow at 10% disabling combine to equal 28%. The bilateral factor calls for you to take 10% of that 28, yielding 2.8, and adding that to the 28%, which equals 30.8, or 31%. Because VA ratings are in increments of 10, your combined rating would round down to 30%.
However, if for example, have a 0% rating for your left wrist, and a 40% rating on your right shoulder, no bilateral factor will be included in your rating because one of your disabilities is considered non-compensable and therefore ineligible for bilateral benefits.
Q. How are my other service-connected disabilities factored into my bilateral rating?
The additional 10% only applies to the bilateral disabilities. Any other service-connected disabilities will be combined with the total bilateral rating (after adding 10%) in the traditional combining method. If you need assistance calculating your disability rating, try using our free VA disability calculator, or check out our video on VA Disability Ratings and how they work.
Category: Veterans Law