Combined Ratings in Veterans Disability Claims
Combined ratings in veterans disability claims result in strange results. Don’t worry if you are confused by the rating decision you receive from VA. Many veterans are. One cause of confusion is what as known as “VA math”.
You may notice VA math if you have more than one service-connected disability. Suppose you have a thirty percent (30%) rating for diabetes and a thirty percent (30%) rating for Parkinson’s disease. Most people would assumed that you just add the two ratings together and end up with a sixty percent (60%) rating. But this is not usually how it works.
How does VA math work in combined ratings?
Using the example of a 30% rating for Parkinson’s and a 30% rating for diabetes, VA math would probably assign you a combined rating of 50%. Why is that? Because VA does math works differently.
The first rating is treated as a regular 30% rating. So, things seem pretty normal so far. However, the second rating is where things get different.
The second 30% rating is not treated as a 30% rating. Instead, it is treated as a rating of 30% of the 70% of your body that is remaining (since you were already 30% disabled by the first rating). So, VA says that the second 30% rating is really a 21% rating. This 21% number represents 30% of the 70% of your body that is remaining.
Because of this math, you end up with a 51% rating (30% plus 21%). VA rounds this rating to the nearest 10% so your rating ends up being 50% (instead of the 60% you would have received if the two rating were just added together).
How does VA math regarding combined ratings affect my VA benefits?
Combined ratings can have a significant effect on the benefits you receive. First, the higher the rating you have, the greater the monthly benefit you receive from VA. Even more importantly, there are some situations where a 10% higher rating can make a significant difference in the type of benefits for which you are eligible.
One such situation is eligibility for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU or IU) benefits. If you have a combined rating of 70% and have at least one rating of 40%, then you have a much better chance of qualifying for TDIU. This is very important because TDIU benefits pay you at 100% rating. This means your monthly benefit is more than twice as it would be with just a 70% rating.
If your combined rating adds up to less than 70%, then you usually need to have at least one individual disability rating of 60% to have a good chance of getting TDIU. Many veterans may not satisfy these requirements.
VA math can make it very difficult to get your combined rating up to 70%. If you are close to a 70% combined rating (or a 60% individual rating), it is a good idea to have an attorney review your case. The attorney can check to make sure VA’s math is correct. The attorney can also review the ratings you have been given by VA to see if you may qualify for an increased rating. You may also be able to prove you have another service connected condition. Also, as if it was not confusing enough already, there are also a few situations where VA math works a little bit differently than described above.
This means it is almost always worthwhile to have an attorney review your case if you have more than one service-connected disability. If you would like to discuss your cases with one of our attorneys for free, just complete the “Free Consultation” form on this page to schedule a free consultation. You can also schedule one by calling the phone number at the bottom of this page.
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.