VA Disability Ratings can be confusing and complex.
After submitting your VA Disability Claim and waiting months for the results, you get your Rating Decision only to find different ratings for each of your conditions and a Total Combined Rating that doesn’t seem to relate to the other ratings at all.
So what do these VA Disability Ratings really mean? Let’s break it down by first discussing what VA Disability Ratings are, then we’ll discuss the individual condition ratings, followed by the Total Combined Rating, and finish with how the ratings translate into VA Disability Benefits.
What are VA Disability Ratings?
VA Disability Ratings are percentages assigned to each service-connected condition claimed for VA Disability.
The percentage is intended to reflect the severity of the condition—how significantly the condition interferes with the veteran’s ability to work, function in daily life, etc.
A 0% rating indicates that the condition affects the veteran’s functioning very little if at all. The VA Disability Ratings then increase in 10% increments (10%, 20%, 30%, etc.) until they reach 100%. A 100% rating means that the condition makes the veteran entirely unable to work or properly care for themselves.
VA Disability Ratings are determined by the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (the VASRD), a federal regulation that assigns detailed requirements for the rating levels for each condition based on how the condition presumably limits your earning capacity.
After you submit your claim, the VA adjudicator will use the VASRD and the information from the medical records and other evidence you submitted to assign each of your service-connected conditions a VA Disability Rating.
VA Disability Ratings for Conditions
VA Disability Ratings are given for every service-connected condition you have.
After determining which of the conditions on your claim qualify as service-connected, the VA adjudicator will assign a rating based on the rules of the VASRD.
Every condition will receive its own rating as long as the Pyramiding Principle is obeyed. The Pyramiding Principle states that no disability can be rated more than once, so if two different conditions cause the same symptoms, then they cannot be rated separately.
The VASRD has various other circumstantial rules that limit whether conditions can be rated separately as well as a few exceptions to the Pyramiding Principle. These can all be found throughout our discussion of the ratings for each condition on our site.
When deciding the VA Disability Rating for a condition, the adjudicator will compare the details of your condition found in the evidence you submit along with your claim to the rating requirements for that condition.
Every condition is rated differently. Some are rated on current symptoms, others on symptoms over time, others on treatments, others on current test results, etc.
When preparing your claim, it is very important that you get and submit the exact evidence necessary to properly rate your conditions. If you submit test results for a condition, but that condition is actually rated on a different test, then it isn’t going to be rated correctly.
You can Find Your Condition on our site to see the current rating requirements for your condition. Once you understand how it is rated, you will be able to ensure that the correct evidence needed to rate your condition is submitted along with your claim.
Once you receive your Rating Decision, you will find a list of your conditions, their service-connected status, and the ratings the VA adjudicator assigned for each one. If you disagree with any of the decisions, you can submit an appeal.
VA Disability Ratings can change over time, so if your conditions worsen and now qualify for higher ratings, you can apply for an increased evaluation. The VA will also call you in for periodic examinations to track the progress of your conditions and may adjust your ratings accordingly if your conditions have changed.
You now understand the individual VA Disability Ratings, but there is one more percentage on your Rating Decision that you need to understand: the Total Combined Rating.
What is the Total Combined Rating?
After each of your service-connected conditions are assigned a VA Disability Rating, the ratings are combined using VA Math to get the Total Combined Rating.
VA Math is rather confusing, so check out our VA Math page to get a full understanding of how it works. Just know that the ratings are not added together, they are combined. Thus 30% combined with 30% does not equal 60%, but 50%.
The Total Combined Rating is used to determine the amount of monthly benefits you will receive. You can find all of the current amounts for each Total Combined Rating in our VA Disability Chart.
What benefits will I receive for my VA Disability Rating?
The VA pays monthly benefits based on your Total Combined Rating.
For a 10% and 20% rating, there is a set monthly amount you will receive regardless of how many dependents you have.
For a 30%-100% rating, the amount changes based on the number of dependents you have. For example, currently a 30% with no dependents receives $467.39. With one child, however, the amount increases to $504.39.
You can find all of the current rates on our VA Disability Chart.
In addition to the monthly payment, each of your rated conditions is eligible for full medical care from the VA.
But what if your condition will only be rated 0%? Should you even bother to submit a claim?
If you have a Total Combined Rating of 0%, then you will not receive a monthly payment. A 0% rating does, however, mean that the VA acknowledges that the condition is service-connected, and as long as a condition is service-connected, it will qualify for medical care.
So even without a monthly payment, a 0% rating is far better than no rating at all. With it, the condition will receive full medical care, and it will be simpler for the VA to increase the rating if your condition worsens in the future.
In the end, our advice is to always claim your conditions, even if you know they will only rate 0% right now. It’ll make life much easier in the future.