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How the VA Assigns Disability Ratings

Posted by Gregory M. Rada | Disability Compensation

Proving one has a disabling condition is only half the battle when seeking Veteran’s Administration (VA) disability compensation benefits. Unlike SSDI, the amount of compensation a claimant receives is not based on earnings alone but is directly linked to the disability rating assigned, which represents the level of social and occupational impairment the VA believes the veteran has. The higher the disability rating, the more compensation a veteran is awarded, which has huge financial implications for a person struggling to make ends meet because of an inability to find or keep employment.

Since disability ratings are assigned based upon the severity of the disabling condition, evidence from multiple sources must be collected and submitted, with a rating of 100 percent, or total disability, is the goal. This number signifies the impact of the disability on the claimant’s earning capacity and is assigned in 10 percent increments. There are multiple ways to achieve the 100 percent rating, but the complexity of the VA system calls for the help of an experienced VA disability benefits attorney to navigate this process. A discussion of some options to reach the 100 percent rating, and additional factors that increase the amount of compensation a complaint may be entitled to receive, will follow below.


Reaching 100 Percent

The easiest way to obtain a 100 percent disability rating is to have a single impairing condition that severely inhibits one’s ability to maintain employment and function socially. This is the ideal situation, but it rarely occurs. Many veterans suffering from service-related disabilities have multiple conditions that individually do not result in total disability, but when put together may make an individual totally disabled. Thus, most veterans will look to a combined disability rating to reach 100 percent. The VA uses a schedule to assign disability ratings, which are calculated after evaluating the claimant’s medical records, results of VA examinations, if ordered, and information from other sources, such as federal agencies.

Even those with less than a 100 percent rating can still qualify for this level of compensation if the claimant can prove he/she is unemployable, meaning that earnings are below the poverty level due to service-connected disabilities. Although VA regulations require at least one disabling condition be rated at 60 percent or combined disabilities add up to 70 percent, with at least one rated at 40 percent, for a scheduler total disability rating based on individual unemployability (a TDIU), a veteran can be awarded an extraschedular TDIU even if they don’t meet the schedule rating requirements. In addition, while the VA will periodically reevaluate veterans to determine if they still qualify for compensation, including whether a rating should be reduced if no reasonable expectation of improvement exists, the VA can assign a claimant permanent and total rating, which means no further evaluations are necessary to retain benefits.


Additional Sources of Supplemental Compensation

The veteran’s combined disability rating will determine the base level of monthly compensation a veteran will receive, but there are other factors that can increase this amount. Namely, if the veteran has a spouse, minor children, or dependent parents, and he/she has a disability rating of at least 30 percent, the monthly payment rate will be higher. Further, a spouse with a severe disability qualifies for higher benefits, as does a claimant having an extremely severe disability or the loss of a limb. These additional benefits must be requested, and are not part of a standard disability evaluation. A VA disability compensation attorney can help get the appropriate documents filed.


Call for Legal Advice

Suffering from a disability is devastating, and if you have a service-related condition, talk to Gregory M. Rada, After Service LLC about your right to VA disability compensation benefits. Interacting with the VA is known to be highly complicated and should not be attempted alone. If you have questions about your situation, work with an attorney who truly understands the obstacles you face. Contact me at (844) 838-7529 for a free phone consultation.