VA assigns disability ratings to veterans with service-connected conditions. A disability rating is based on how severe the veteran’s condition is and how the disability impairs his or her earning capacity. Veterans receive a disability rating by filing a claim for service connection with VA. If VA grants service connection for the disability, it will also assign a percentage rating ranging from 0 to 100 percent using VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). Veterans with disabilities that are not listed within the VASRD will be assigned an analogous rating. An analogous rating is a rating assigned based on what condition most closely matches the symptoms of treatment the veteran is experiencing. To assign these, VA looks at the bodily functions affected, the anatomical location of the body, and the symptoms that are produced to match the condition most similar to the one being experienced.
Combined Disability Ratings
When a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, each with its own disability rating, VA combines them together using “VA Math.” Importantly, a veteran’s combined disability rating determines the amount of monthly compensation he or she will receive. VA starts with the premise that a veteran is 100 percent efficient, or not disabled. If a veteran has a disability rating of 20 percent, VA will see him or her as 80 percent not disabled and 20 percent disabled. If he or she then receives another disability rating of 10 percent, VA will take 10 percent of the 80 percent non-disabled portion, and add it to the existing 20 percent rating. In this case, it would bring the veteran to a 28 percent disability rating. This process continues with each disability the veteran has.
To calculate a combined disability rating, VA starts with the veteran’s highest disability rating, and then works down the list of disabilities, combining them from highest to lowest. Once VA has combined all of the disabilities, it will round up to the nearest 10 and the veteran will receive that compensation rate. In the example above, the veteran’s 28 percent combined disability rating would be rounded to 30 percent. Overall, each additional disability rating reduces the percentage that the veteran is “whole” or non-disabled, and increases the percentage that the veteran is disabled.
To calculate combined disability ratings, veterans can use VA’s combined ratings table, or our 2019 VA disability calculator. This tool will generate an estimate of your combined disability rating and the corresponding amount of monthly compensation.
How Does VA Calculate Bilateral Disabilities?
Before combining ratings, it is important that VA first looks at any bilateral disabilities (i.e. affecting both sides) the veteran has. Bilateral disabilities are two service-connected conditions affecting the upper extremities or two service-connected conditions affecting the lower extremities and, are considered to be severely limiting in a veteran’s ability to function, according to VA. To account for bilateral ratings, the two disabilities are combined through the process described above, and then an additional 10 percent of the combined rating is added. For example, a left shoulder disability is rated at 20 percent and a right elbow disability is also rated at 20 percent. These bilateral disabilities are combined to yield a 36 percent rating. The bilateral factor then adds 3.6 percent to the 36 percent rating, resulting in a 39.6 percent rating, which is then rounded to a 40 percent combined disability rating.