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How Does the VA Disability Rating System Work?

Published on October 2nd, 2019

When you apply for veterans disability compensation, much of your case will be about your disability rating. The disability rating is a percentage that the VA uses to determine your monthly compensation and to see whether you qualify for other benefits. For this reason, getting a disability rating that accurately reflects your condition is essential to getting the veterans benefits you deserve.

Unfortunately, the VA disability rating system is confusing and many veterans feel that they receive bad ratings decisions. In these cases, a veterans benefits lawyer can help. At Jackson & MacNichol, we can step in if you think you got a bad Compensation and Pension exam (“C&P” for short) or if the VA gave you a lower disability rating than you deserve. Call us today at 1(800) 524-3339 for a free consultation about your case.

The VA Disability Rating System Does Not Follow Simple Math

The VA awards ten possible disability ratings ranging from 0% to 100% for every service connected condition. When you apply for disability compensation, you need to demonstrate that you have medical conditions that interfere with your ability to earn a living. If your application shows that your conditions effectively reduce your earning potential to zero, the VA should award you a 100% disability rating. If the VA considers that your earning ability is around half of what it could be if you didn’t have your conditions, your rating would be closer to 50%.

The VA determines your disability rating based on a list of criteria for each medical or mental health condition. For example, if you have back pain, your rating will depend on the range of motion you have in different parts of your back, how much pain you experience, and the frequency of debilitating episodes. A VA doctor notes this information during the compensation and pension exam and then writes a report that describes to what extent your back pain meets each criterion.

When you have several service related conditions, the VA assigns each one a disability rating and then combines them to give you a final rating. But a 30% rated condition and a 20% rated condition will not add up to 50%. Instead, the VA uses a ratings table, which in this case would put your disability rating at precisely 44%, which the VA would then round down to 40%. If you had two 30% rated conditions, your final, rounded down rating would be 50%.

Good Evidence and Documentation Is the Key to the VA Disability Rating System

The C&P exam report is a big part of your case, but you should also submit evidence from your own doctor, along with your complete medical history. Independent evidence becomes even more important if you are seeking total disability for individual unemployability, otherwise known as TDIU or simply IU. With TDIU, you may get paid at the 100% disability rate because you cannot work even if your individual conditions don’t add up to a 100% rating under the usual rating system.

Properly filling out the application, retrieving your records, attending your C&P exam, and properly documenting all of your medical conditions is essential if you want a good rating decision from the VA.  However, if you feel that the final rating is not correct, you can appeal with the help of a veterans benefits lawyer. For more information about appealing an unfair ratings decision, call Jackson & MacNichol today at 1(800) 524-3339 for a free consultation. Jackson & MacNichol can help you get justice.


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