How to Calculate VA Disability Ratings

Information on How Disability Ratings are Calculated

When veterans return from service, many face challenges related to disabilities incurred during their military duties. One crucial aspect of navigating life post-service is understanding and securing the benefits they are entitled to, particularly disability compensation. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plays a pivotal role in this process through the assignment of VA disability ratings. These ratings are not just numbers; they represent a measure of how much a disability decreases a veteran's overall health and ability to function. The VA expresses this as a percentage, which then becomes the cornerstone for determining the amount of monthly compensation a veteran is eligible to receive. Furthermore, these ratings are also instrumental in determining a veteran's eligibility for other benefits, like VA health care.

This guide will delve into how VA disability ratings are calculated, the significance of individual and combined ratings, and the tools available for veterans to understand and estimate their ratings. Our aim is to demystify the process and provide veterans with the knowledge they need to navigate the system effectively.

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Individual Disability Ratings

The VA disability system utilizes the concept of individual disability ratings. These ratings, expressed in percentages divisible by 10 (e.g., 10%, 30%, 50%), reflect the severity of each of a veteran's disabilities. The VA considers how these disabilities impact the veteran's ability to work and perform daily activities. This assessment is crucial in determining the overall efficiency of the veteran, which is presumed to be 100% in the absence of any major service-connected injuries or illnesses.

The process of deciding these ratings is meticulous and evidence-based. The VA relies on several types of evidence to assign an individual disability rating:

Medical Evidence: This includes doctor's reports, medical test results, and any other relevant healthcare documentation.

VA Claim Exam (C&P Exam): If deemed necessary, a veteran might have to undergo a compensation and pension exam, which plays a significant role in determining the disability rating.

Other Sources: Sometimes, additional information from federal agencies or other reliable sources may be considered.

The accuracy and completeness of the submitted evidence are paramount. Veterans need to provide comprehensive and detailed medical records to convey the severity of their condition effectively. This is where the support of organizations like Veterans Disability Aid can be invaluable, helping veterans gather and present their medical evidence in a manner that accurately reflects their disability.

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The 'Whole Person Theory' and Combined Ratings

When determining the combined disability rating for a veteran with multiple disabilities, the Veterans Affairs (VA) uses a unique method known as the "whole body theory." This approach is grounded in the principle that a veteran's disability rating reflects their capacity to work, rather than their quality of life or a compensation framework. It's important to remember that this system differs significantly from workman's compensation, focusing on employment capacity rather than standard of living adjustments.

How is the Whole Person Theory calculated?

Imagine a pizza representing the veteran's total work capacity.


This pizza can never grow larger; it can only be divided. When the VA calculates disability ratings, it doesn't stack percentages on top of each other in a simple, cumulative way. Instead, it looks at how much of the pizza each disability takes away.

For instance, let's say a veteran has a disability rated at 50%. This means that half of their work capacity "pizza" is affected by this disability.


If they receive another 50% rating for a different condition, this doesn't mean all of their capacity is gone. Rather, this second 50% rating applies to the remaining half of the pizza, effectively consuming another 25% of the original whole. Thus, instead of adding up to 100%, these two disabilities combine to a 75% rating, which would be rounded up to 80%.


This method ensures the combined disability rating never exceeds 100%, emphasizing the concept that a person's ability to work cannot be reduced to less than zero. The calculation begins with an assumed full work capacity (100%) and decreases with each added disability, but in a way that is progressively harder to reach the next level of disability rating. The more slices of the "pizza" that are taken away by disabilities, the smaller each subsequent "slice" taken by a new disability becomes.

Moreover, the final combined disability rating is rounded to the nearest 10%. This rounding is an important step in determining the final rating, which further complicates the journey to reaching higher levels of disability rating as it emphasizes the diminishing returns of adding new disabilities.

Understanding this process clarifies why a veteran's combined disability rating might not simply be the sum of their individual disabilities. It's a reflection of the cumulative impact on their ability to work, calculated in a way that recognizes each additional disability erodes a smaller portion of the remaining work capacity. This approach illustrates the VA's method in assessing the overall effect of multiple disabilities on a veteran's employment capabilities, highlighting the intricate balance between recognizing the severity of service-connected conditions and the concept of total work capacity.

We provide a calculator available here that takes these factors into account and can provide you with your current combined rating.

Step-by-Step Guide to Calculating Combined Disability Ratings

How Do You Calculate a VA Disability Rating?

Calculating combined VA disability ratings can seem daunting at first, but understanding the steps involved can make it more approachable. Here's a simplified breakdown:

Starting Point: Always begin with a 100% efficiency rate.

Descending Efficiency Scale: Order the disabilities by their severity (highest to lowest percentage).

First Calculation: Start with the highest disability rating. Multiply this rating by 100 and subtract from your original efficiency rate to find your new efficiency rate.

For example, with a 30% disability: 100 - (30% of 100) = 70. Your new efficiency rate is 70, and your disability rating is 30%.

Subsequent Ratings: Repeat the process for each additional rating, using the new efficiency rate as the starting point.

Continuing the example: Next disability is 20%. Multiply 20% by 70 (new efficiency rate), resulting in 14. Subtract this from 70, getting 56. Your combined disability rating is now 44%.

Rounding: The VA rounds the final rating to the nearest 10% (56% would round to 60%).

Using the Combined Ratings Table: This table simplifies the process by listing combined ratings for various combinations of individual ratings.

Bilateral Factor: If disabilities affect both sides of the body (e.g., both knees), the bilateral factor comes into play. The VA combines these ratings and adds an extra 10% to the combined percentage. This adjusted rating is then used in the overall combined rating calculation.

By following these steps or using the combined ratings table, veterans can get a clearer idea of what their combined disability rating might be. However, it's also beneficial to use online calculators for more accurate estimates.

Tools and Resources

Understanding and calculating your VA disability rating is a critical step, but thankfully, there are tools and resources available to assist veterans in this process:

Online VA Disability Ratings Calculators: These calculators take into account the various factors discussed earlier, providing veterans with a more straightforward way to estimate their combined disability rating. You can view our calculator here.

VA's Combined Ratings Table: The VA provides a combined ratings table on their website, which is a useful tool for manually calculating your combined disability rating. It simplifies the process by allowing you to find the intersecting points of your individual ratings.

By leveraging these tools and resources, veterans can gain a better understanding of their disability ratings and take an active role in their claims process.

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You Fought For Your Country, Let Us Fight for You.

If you're a veteran struggling with joint pain, such as flat feet or other conditions, and your disability claim has been denied, don't lose hope. Appeals are common, and with the right support, you can successfully navigate the process to secure the benefits you deserve. At Veterans Disability Aid, our experienced team is dedicated to guiding you through every stage of the appeals journey. We understand the challenges you face and the importance of obtaining a fair disability rating that accurately reflects the impact of your joint issues on your daily life. You fought for your country, let us fight for you.

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