VA Disability Math

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One of the most confusing things about getting disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs is understanding the VA’s “fuzzy math”. VA fuzzy math applies when a veteran has more than one disability for a combined rating. As a veteran who has disability, I was always incredulous when I was told that my 30% disability and my other 30% disability added up to a combined rating of 51% instead of 60%. In a world where 30+30=51 it is important to understand how the VA arrives at its combined ratings and to work with a seasoned veteran attorney who can help you get the highest possible disability rating, even with the fuzzy math. 


What are combined ratings?


If a veteran has more than one service-connected injury, for which the VA can rate them, the two ratings are combined into a single percentage of disability. This is the simplest way of understanding combined ratings. It is important to remember, however, that just because you are rated for multiple disabilities – the VA does not add the two together to get your combined rating. Instead, it is a complicated formula that leaves many veterans confused and angered. 


So how does VA calculate combined ratings? 


The easiest way to understand the combined ratings is that the VA views the veteran’s body, as a whole and in the absence of any disability, as being 100% whole. As the VA assigns a ratable disability it removes a portion of that 100%. For example, if a veteran is rated 30% for asthma then the VA views that veteran as being 30% disabled and 70% able bodied. So far so good. 


If there is more than one disability the VA subtracts that disability from the remaining portion of the veteran’s percentage of ableness. For example, in the case above, the veteran could have a second disability, a right knee injury, that is rated at 30%. The VA takes the 70% ableness (100% - 30% for Asthma = 70%) and removes 30% from the 70%. So, 30% of 70% is 21%. 


The VA then adds this new percentage rating (21%) to the old rating (30%) to come up with a combined disability rating of 51% (30% + 21% = 51%) with them being 49% able bodied. 


Now, just to understand multiple ratings, say the veteran has an additional ratable injury that is 10% disabling.  Of this the Department of Veterans Affairs is going to calculate what 10% of 49% able is, coming up with 4.90%. Add the third rating to the prior two we get 55.9% (30% + 21% +4.9%). In this case, the 55.9% will be rounded up to 56%. According to the VA, the veteran will then be 56% disabled and 44% able (where ordinary math would have the veteran listed at being 70% disabled). 




When calculating compensation, the VA always rounds to the nearest 10. Therefore, a rating of 51% will get compensated at the 50% rate whereas the 56% will get compensated at the 60% rate. 


The Bilateral Factor 


When a veteran has a disability (disabilities) that affect both arms or both legs, the VA adds a bilateral factor or 10% to the combined rating decision (of both limbs). This is even more complicated math and I found it best to discuss it with a veteran lawyer – which I am more than happy to do with you as we go over your case and if you have a potential claim.