100 Percent VA Ratings: What It Means To Be a 100% Disabled Veteran
Kayla D’Onofrio: Welcome to CCK Live. My name is Kayla D’Onofrio and I’m joined today by my colleagues Francis Padula and Rachel Foster. Today, we’re going to be talking about 100 percent disability ratings and what they mean.
So, we’ll just start by generally talking about what a VA disability rating is. A disability rating is the percentage that’s assigned to a service-connected disability based on the severity of that condition. Disability ratings are meant to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity based on their service-connected condition. So, what that basically means is, how much it impairs the veteran’s ability to work.
VA uses the VA schedule for rating disabilities which is in the regulations, to assign a diagnostic code and a corresponding disability rating for each service-connected condition. Each rating criteria will describe symptoms and different treatments for a specific condition, and then based on the criteria within that diagnostic code, VA will assign a disability rating between 0 and 100 percent. Each diagnostic code does have their own range of disability ratings that can be assigned for that condition. So, generally speaking, the more severe disability is, the higher the rating the VA will assign for that disability.
So Rachel, can you talk about what a 100 percent rating is and what that means for a veteran?
Rachel Foster: Sure. So, a 100 percent disability or a total disability rating is the highest percentage that can be given for service-connected compensation purposes. As Kayla mentioned, the rating scale is intended to compensate the veteran for the average impairment in earning capacity. So, a 100 percent rating is reserved for veterans with extremely debilitating service-connected conditions that typically make them unable to work. 100 percent ratings also provide the highest amount of disability compensation on the rating schedule.
So, as of 2021, a single veteran who is compensated at the 100 percent rate would receive $3,146.42. That’s the rate for a single veteran with no dependents. That’s a pretty significant amount and also just to kind of show how difficult that is on the rating scale, that’s about $1,250 more than what a 90 percent rating would pay on a monthly basis.
Some veterans can get additional compensation beyond the 100 percent on the rating scale through something called special monthly compensation that we have blogs and other videos about.
Generally, special monthly compensation is something that is payable if the veteran’s disabilities are so severe that they result in something, such as loss of use, or loss of limb, or amputation, just as examples. There’s a few different avenues that someone could get special monthly compensation on top of their 100 percent rating.
Kayla: Thank you, Rachel. Frank, can you talk about some of the different ways that a veteran can obtain a 100 percent rating?
Frank Padula: Definitely. So, there are several ways that veterans can obtain a 100 percent rating. First, there are schedular ratings. This means that a veteran can be rated at a 100 percent level for a single service-connected disability or for multiple service-connected disabilities.
Second, there is the Total Disability rating based on Individual Unemployability, or just TDIU for short. This is a benefit that allows veterans to be compensated at a 100 percent level, even if their combined ratings do not equal a 100 percent rating, and if they can show that their service-connected disabilities preclude them from securing and following substantially gainful employment.
Third, there are permanent and total ratings, and those are synonymous with 100 percent disability ratings. You can secure a permanent and total rating with the 100 percent schedule rating, or with the TDIU benefit. This is a benefit that means that the severity of the disability or disabilities is expected to continue throughout the veteran’s life with no improvement. Therefore, those ratings cannot be reduced.
Fourth, there are temporary total ratings. Those are awarded when a service-connected condition renders the veteran temporarily incapacitated. Finally, VA will award a 100 percent disability rating for active cancers that becomes service-connected. VA will rate the cancer at a 100 percent level as long as the cancer is active and then for a period of at least six months following the successful completion of a treatment program, such as chemotherapy or surgery.
Kayla: So, just something to keep in mind, for that permanent and total rating, it’s not an automatic determination that VA will make just because you’re at a 100 percent. That is something that they’ll evaluate at the time that they assign the 100 percent rating. If, however, you have had a disability rating that’s in place for 20 or more years, it is a little bit harder for VA to reduce that rating. VA can’t reduce that rating unless there’s evidence of fraud in the initial rating that was assigned. If you do have a disability rating that’s been in place for less than 20 years, they can still pursue a rating reduction. But there needs to be evidence of both material improvement and Improvement under the ordinary conditions of life, meaning just your day-to-day activities, would have to show that your condition doesn’t improve as your performing those different activities.
Again, having the rating in place for 20 years doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to be a permanent rating. It just does make it a little bit harder for VA to reduce it at that point in time. But, there are a lot of other benefits that might be available to a veteran who has a 100 percent disability rating.
So Rachel, can you talk about some of the health care benefits and CHAMPVA?
Rachel: Yes. So, there are benefits for a veteran who is in receipt of a 100 percent disability rating for healthcare purposes. So, when a veteran applies for VA Health Care, VA will generally assign to them one of 8 priority groups. Factors that they consider that will determine which priority group that you’re in is military service history, your VA disability rating, your income level, whether or not the veteran qualifies for Medicaid, and other benefits that they might be receiving, such as VA pension benefits. Those are just some factors that play into which priority group that you could be in.
Veterans with the 100 percent VA disability rating meet the rating criteria for healthcare priority group 1, which is the highest priority. This group does include a lot of health care coverage benefits, such as dental care. Very comprehensive and includes things like regular cleanings, restorative care such as fillings, and crowns, and x-rays. This is actually one of the things that our clients are most interested in once they do receive a 100 percent disability rating. The coverage can also include things like hospitalization, some inpatient services, and of course, preventative care. You could be eligible in group 1 priority for medical or automotive adaptive equipment, medically-related travel benefits, vision care and hearing aids, and also health care benefits potentially for your dependents as well. So there, this is not an exhaustive list. There are more benefits out there for the priority group 1, but they’re definitely beneficial once a veteran reaches that 100 percent status.
Another health benefit is something called the Civilian Health and Medical Programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is CHAMPVA, for short. It’s a Health Care Program in which VA shares the cost of certain covered healthcare services that exist for the spouse and the children of disabled veterans with 100 percent disability ratings. So, this is health coverage that extends beyond just the veteran themselves. It is specifically tailored for their spouses and their children, which is a really significant benefit.
Kayla: Okay, thank you, Rachel. Frank, can you talk a little bit more about some other programs or benefits that might be available to veterans rated at 100 percent?
Frank: Definitely. There’s another program called the Dependents Educational Assistance Program, or just a DEA, for short. This is a program that offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are rated at the 100 percent disability level and is also deemed permanent and total; veterans who are receiving TDIU benefit, also deemed permanent and total; and a veteran who might have passed away while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected condition. DEA benefits are monetary benefits that could be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, or other on the job trainings.
There’s also another program called Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment benefits. This benefit allows for eligible dependents to pursue vocational rehabilitation and other employment services. What this means is that they have access to career counseling, guidance on how to access various other VA benefits, and personalized academic training.
Finally, there’s commissary and exchange benefits. This means that 100 percent disabled veterans can present their Veteran Health identification card to gain entry to the Department of Defense and Coast Guard installations, some commissary stores and other exchanges, and even to receive discounted rates of the morale, welfare, and recreation retail activities.
Kayla: Great, thank you. I think that’s a good place for us to close out today. Thank you so much for joining us. If you believe that your VA rating should be higher, please contact our firm and we can see if there’s anything we can do to assist you with your appeal.
For more information about VA benefits and other ways to obtain a 100 percent disability rating, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel on YouTube and check out our other videos on our website for additional information.
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