Does VA Math Ever Help You Get a Higher VA Rating?

Many veterans have multiple disabilities as a result of their military service.  Unfortunately, VA math for combined ratings often punishes these veterans since the combined rating that they receive is almost always less than the sum of their individual ratings.

But, one part of VA’s rules allows veterans to actually use math in their favor.  TDIU is an area where VA recognizes that a veteran may be entitled to a 100 percent disability rating even though their individual ratings do not add up to 100 percent.  In this article, I will talk a little bit about why VA does that in TDIU claims.

Female doctor with older man showing xray of spine and back at hospital Why does VA assign the ratings that they do?

VA uses a part of the Code of Federal Regulations to assign ratings for disabilities.  These regulations discuss all sorts of different medical conditions as well as the different ratings levels that may be assigned for those conditions.

The basic idea behind the rating system is that the rating reflects how a particular condition affects your ability to earn money.  So, VA is really looking at economic impairment when it assigns a rating.  TDIU is a fundamental part of that rating system because it assesses what happens when service-connected disabilities make you unemployable.

How does TDIU make VA math work in my favor?

Most of the time, VA math works against you.  For example, you might have the following ratings:

  • 40%
  • 20%
  • 20%
  • 10%
  • 10%

If you add up those ratings, you get to 100 percent.  However, VA math does not work that way.  Using VA’s math for combining ratings, those 5 ratings give you a 70 percent rating.  So, VA math really seems to hurt you.

But TDIU allows you to use VA math in your favor in a couple of ways.  Consider those ratings again.  A veteran who has at least one rating of 40 percent and a combined rating of 70 percent can potentially qualify for TDIU if the veteran meets VA’s definition of unemployable.  If the veteran qualifies for TDIU, the veteran receives benefits at the 100 percent rating level.

Why does VA’s math make sense in a TDIU claim?

One of the things I see a lot is the combined effects of disabilities.  What I mean by that is that multiple disabilities can cause a greater degree of earnings impairment than individual disabilities would alone.

Let me explain a little bit more about what I mean.  Consider the situation of a veteran who has a back disability and service-connected PTSD.  I mentioned this situation in a previous article because I see it fairly often.

Taken alone, these two disabilities might not impair the veteran’s earnings significantly.  But, together they can rule out almost all work because the veteran is restricted from doing physical jobs by the back injury and the PTSD often prevents the veteran from doing less physical work because that less physical work often involves more stress and interaction with people.

So, when you are a veteran that suffers from two or more disabilities, you may often suffer greater earnings impairment than VA’s rating indicate.  Unfortunately, VA math for combined ratings usually assumes exactly the opposite.  They assume that your second disability is not as disabling as your first and your third is not as disabling as your second and so on.  So, you end up with a lower overall rating in most cases.

Will VA automatically realize this and give me a rating that reflects how my service-connected conditions affect me?

No.  There are a couple of things working against veterans when they try to use VA math in their favor:

  1. VA really only uses the “sum can be greater than the parts” math in TDIU claims.  In pretty much all other claims, they are going to use their regular VA math and say that the sum is less than the parts.  So, you will need to be a veteran with a 60 percent individual rating or a veteran with a combined rating of 70 percent and a least one individual rating of 40 percent to take advantage of this.
  2. Veterans will likely have to provide VA with evidence showing the combined effect of their conditions because VA’s system of evaluation does not usually take into account the combined effect of your conditions

Man with injured back walking with cane Let me talk in more detail about that second point.  Lots of times, VA sends you to a doctor for one particular condition.  Let’s say they have you evaluated by a cardiologist for your heart condition.  Then, they send you to an orthopedic doctor to have your knees evaluated.

The orthopedic doctor will likely only look at the knees and not consider your heart.  The cardiologist will likely only consider your heart but not your knees.  For TDIU purposes, VA should consider the combined effect of these two conditions.  While each individual condition may not make you unemployable, you should qualify for TDIU is if your service-connected conditions combine to make you unemployable.

Because of this, you may need to develop your own evidence.  You could need a medical expert of conduct a general evaluation which considers all of your service-connected conditions.  Another way is to get the input of a vocational expert, who is someone that looks at the limitations imposed by your disabilities and then looks at the combined effect of those from a vocational or job standpoint

You need to make sure that VA considers the combined effect of your disabilities to make sure you have the best chance of succeeding in a TDIU claim.

What should I do if I need help?

TDIU is one of the most complicated areas of VA law.  You need to make sure that you file the write documents to apply for it and that you have the evidence to show VA that you meet its definition of unemployable as a result of your service-connected disabilities.

I have seen many veterans with serious service connected disabilities struggle to keep a job.  Because of that, our veterans disability team has made it a focus to help veterans with their TDIU claims.

If you would like us to review your TDIU claim to determine if we can help you, you can do that for free.  If you have questions about how our firms free consultation process works, just read this short article to find out more.

If you would like to go ahead and start our free consultation process, there are two easy ways to get started.  Just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit our free consultation request form.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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