What is a VA Disability Rating?
A VA disability rating is a percentage assigned to a service-connected condition based on the severity of the condition. 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 U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. The schedule contains the disabilities for which veterans can be rated, divided into 15 categories depending on the bodily system to which the disability pertains. For instance, there are separate categories for the digestive system, respiratory system, and the musculoskeletal system, among others. Each bodily system’s list contains diagnoses that can occur within that system with its corresponding diagnostic code (i.e. a numeric code that corresponds to the disability). The VASRD explains how disabilities 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 according to that. VA will also consider evidence such as medical records, Compensation and Pension examinations, and lay statements when assigning a percentage. 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 for it.
After each service-connected condition is assigned a VA disability rating, all of the ratings are then combined using VA math to get a total combined disability rating. Importantly, a veteran’s combined disability rating determines the amount of monthly compensation he or she will receive.
How Does VA Notify You of Your VA Disability Rating?
VA disability ratings are typically implemented through Rating Decisions. A VA Rating Decision is the first decision veterans will receive after filing a claim for service-connected compensation. However, veterans will also receive a Rating Decision if the Board of Veterans’ Appeals grants service connection or an increased rating. Rating Decisions are almost always issued in conjunction with a VA award letter, which indicates a veteran’s disability ratings along with the corresponding amount of monthly compensation. At the end of a VA Rating Decision, there is a final document called a rating code sheet. This document is another resource that veterans can use to find out what their specific disability rating is for each condition. The rating code sheet will display all of the veteran’s conditions that are subject to compensation. In doing so, it will also provide the diagnostic code of each condition used to assign the disability rating. Below the name and diagnostic code for each condition will be information about the effective date of both past and current individual disability ratings.
What to Expect After You Are Assigned a VA Disability Rating
After veterans receive a decision from VA confirming a disability rating, they may begin receiving disability compensation and benefits. According to VA, if your decision shows at least a 10 percent disability rating resulting in a retroactive award, you should receive this payment within 15 days, either by direct deposit or check. If you do not get a payment after 15 days, VA instructs veterans to call the Veterans Help Line at 1-800-827-1000 or speak to their representative.
Under certain conditions, VA may reduce your disability rating. The idea is that some service-connected conditions will improve over time or with treatment and VA wants to make sure it is compensating each veteran according to his or her present level of disability. However, there are some general rules VA must follow when reducing disability ratings under any circumstances:
- A proposed rating (as well as a final decision) must be based on a review of the veteran’s entire medical history
- VA must show that there has been an actual change in the disability since the last Rating Decision
- VA must show that change in the disability reflects material improvement in the veteran’s ability to function under the ordinary conditions and stressors of life and work
- Examination reports must be based on thorough examinations
Importantly, VA is required to send a letter proposing the reduction of benefits if the decrease will affect the amount of monthly compensation you receive. You have 60 days from the date of the letter to submit evidence if you believe the reduction is not warranted.