The “Bilateral Factor” in VA Ratings

When you receive a disability rating from VA, you need to make sure the rating has been calculated correctly.  One of the oldest tricks in VA’s book is to give a veteran a rating that is not as high as it should be.

Many times, the veteran is so happy to finally have some good news on his long-delayed claim.  This causes many veterans not to look at the VA rating closely enough.  Because of that, they do not receive all the VA benefits they should.

Cubes with numbers and percentagesYou especially need to consider the possibility of an incorrect low rating if you have disabilities that affect either both arm or both legs.  If you do have disabilities on the right and left side, you may be entitled to a “bump” in your rating based on what is known as the “bilateral factor.”

What is the Bilateral Factor?

In the context of your VA disability claim, the bilateral factor is an increase in the standard rating.  The law recognizes that a disability that affects both arms or both legs limits someone more than each of those disabilities considered alone.  In other words, if you already have a disability to your right arm, a disability to the left arm causes even more limitations than it otherwise would since you need the second arm to compensate for the first bad arm.

So How Much Is the Additional Rating for the Bilateral Factor?

Regardless of the body part in question, the bilateral factor is an additional 10% of the combined rating for the disability to each side.  To be clear, it is not a straight 10% additional rating.

To best illustrate, let’s look at an example.  Let’s say you have a left knee condition that VA rated at 30%, a right knee condition rated at 10%, and another 10% rating for tinnitus.  VA should consider the left and right knee conditions together for a combined rating.  A 30% left knee rating and a 10% right knee rating equal a 37% combined rating.  (If you don’t understand how 30% + 10% = 37%, you can read our previous article to learn how VA math is not like regular math since disabilities ratings are combined together).

Because both the right and left sides are affected, the veteran should receive an additional 10% of the 37%, which is an additional 3.7%.  What is the big deal about an extra 3.7%?

Why Does The Bilateral Factor Matter?

When added to the 37%, that gives a new combined rating of 41% (40.7% rounded up to 41%).  The 41% for the left and right knees is then combined with the 10% for tinnitus.  This gives an overall combined rating of 47%.  VA should round that 47% up to 50%.

In this particular example, that extra 3.7% was just enough to push the overall combined rating increased to 50%.   Without the additional benefit for the bilateral factor calculation, the veteran would have been stuck at 40%.  For a single veteran with no dependents, that is about a $245 per month difference.

Sometimes though, the bilateral factor may not push you to the next combined rating level.  But, it may come into play if you later have additional service-connected disabilities or get increased ratings on the ones you already have.

How Do I Know if VA Gave Me Credit for the Bilateral Factor?

The ratings decision should lay out how VA calculated the ratings.  It should also acknowledge the additional 10% for the bilateral factor.

Of course, there is a (small) chance that they gave you this additional 10% but did not explicitly state that they were doing so.  In that case, you have to be able to do “VA math” accurately to check their combined rating.

Bilateral factor ratings and combined ratings are not easy to understand. It may be difficult to comprehend VA’s math since it is not like regular math.  That is why we suggest having one of our knowledgeable veterans disability attorneys look over your ratings decision to make sure you get the full benefits you deserve.

We will check to make sure you got credit for the bilateral factor.  We will also look to see if the VA shorted you on the appropriate rating for any of your disabilities.

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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