Bilateral Factor VA Ratings for VA Disability Claims
Bethany Cooke: Hi. Welcome to CCK Live Under 5:00. I’m Bethany Cooke, and today I’m going to go over the bilateral factor, what it is, and how it might affect your disability rating.
The bilateral factor refers to when a veteran has service-connected disabilities that affect both arms, both legs, or paired skeletal muscles. So, it’s meant to recognize the limitations caused by these disabilities and how having disabilities in both legs, both arms, or paired skeletal muscles can additionally impact a veteran.
So, an example where the bilateral factor would apply would be a veteran who has a condition limiting the use of their left leg and then develops a condition in their right ankle as well. Because this veteran has service-connected disabilities in both legs, then the bilateral factor applies.
So, for the bilateral factor to apply, it’s important to know that you must have service-connected disabilities, with one on each side. For example, the bilateral factor would also apply if a veteran has a service-connected left wrist disability, as well as a service-connected right elbow condition.
In any example, the veteran doesn’t have to have the same injury on each side. So, in that example that I just said with a left wrist condition and a right elbow condition, it can be left wrist arthritis and right elbow fracture residuals. They don’t have to be the same disability, they just have to be on each side in order to qualify for the bilateral factor.
The conditions do have to affect either both upper extremities or both lower extremities, not one of each. So, an example where it wouldn’t apply would be if a veteran has a service-connected left leg injury, as well as a service-connected right arm injury. In this case, the veteran wouldn’t qualify for the bilateral factor, as it does not apply to a combination of a lower and upper extremity condition.
So, we’ve talked about when the bilateral factor applies, so now I’ll go over what it means. If the bilateral factor applies to your service-connected disabilities, then it results in a slight boost to your combined disability rating, which might affect your compensation payment. Essentially, the bilateral factor serves to account for the additional limitation, having both your upper or lower extremities impacted causes.
According to VA’s regulation, they state about the bilateral factor, that the ratings for the disabilities of the right and left sides will be combined as usual. And 10 percent of this value will be added before proceeding with further combinations.
So, VA math can get pretty complicated but essentially a 10 percent rating gets added to the existing rating for the bilateral condition using VA’s math. So, to put that in an example, if a veteran has a service-connected right shoulder condition, rated at 20 percent disabling, and a service-connected left elbow condition at 10 percent disabling, before the bilateral factor applies, those conditions combine to a combined rating of 28 percent.
The bilateral factor would then call for you to take 10 percent of that 28 percent, because in this example, you have two upper extremity conditions service-connected on each side. So, you would get 2.8 percent by taking 10 percent of that 20 percent. And then, you add that to the 28 percent you got before. So, that would equate to your combined rating being 30.8, rounded up to 31 percent.
Once you’ve done that, ratings for other service-connected disabilities will be combined to the total bilateral rating after the 10 percent increase has been calculated.
That is all I have today on the bilateral factor. Thank you for tuning in and I hope this information was helpful. But for more information on VA benefits, you can check out our website or our other videos.
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