How VA Disability Rates Are Determined
After you apply for Department of Veterans Affairs Disability compensation benefits, the VA will make a determination regarding whether or not your disability or disabilities are indeed service connected. Once a decision has been made regarding your service-connected status for your disability, the VA then assigns your disability a rating. Disability ratings are meant to reflect the severity of impairment caused by your disability or disabilities, and its affect on your ability to hold a job or earn income. The purpose of ratings is to make a formal determination of how much your monthly compensation should be based on your loss in ability to earn a living due to injuries or illnesses sustained as result to your military service.
As a rule, the less severe a disability the lower the rating, and the greater the severity of a disability the higher the rating. The established system used to make decisions regarding veterans disability rates is called the Schedule of Rating Disabilities, often referred to by the acronym VARSD for short. Ratings in VARSD are based on the calculated impact on earning capacity that specific disabilities have on jobs in civilian life. The range for ratings can be anywhere from 0% to 100%, and are divided by 10% increments.
VARSD and Determining Disability Ratings
Disabilities are all subdivided into various categories dependent upon which part or system of the body is affected. Categories contain collective groups of medical issues, and each group is made up of diagnoses. Diagnoses each receive a separate code to differentiate them from each other. Codes specify the symptoms associated/required for varying levels of disability ratings.
Take the Digestive System category for example, which is made up of four groups: ulcers, postgastrectomy syndromes, weight loss, and coexisting abdominal conditions. For the ulcers group, there are three potential diagnoses, primary of which is “Ulcer, duodenal”, designated by diagnostic code 7305. For this code, there are four potential ratings: sever (60 percent), moderately severe (40 percent), moderate (20 percent), and mild (10 percent).
Each rating level has specific symptoms that comprise the criteria for each specific rating level. A severe rating for duodenal ulcers requires that an individual applicant suffer from periodic vomiting with only minimal relief from ulcer therapy.
VA Ratings Assignment Process
In order to assign your disability rating, the VA begins by assessing which body system category or categories are affected, find your specific diagnosis, and determine the diagnostic code that coincides with your symptoms. A careful review of all medical evidence in your file follow, as the VA must ensure that all medical information is complete and accurate.
One lesser known yet very important fact about disability ratings is that even if your condition can satisfy the criteria of more than one diagnostic code, you are only rated (and compensated monetarily) under one specific goce. When the criteria of two or more diagnostic codes are met, the VA must choose the diagnostic code that will give you the highest possible disability rating.
On occasion, the VA does not apply their own rating criteria correctly. In other cases, many veterans feel that their level of disability should be higher because they feel their disability is more severe than the VA’s assigned rating, but by and large the majority of ratings are correct according to VARSD.
What To Do If Your Disability is Not Listed in VARSD
Should an individual and their medical treatment team discover that their disability is not listed in VARSD, the VA will then look for a diagnostic code with criteria that is most closely related to your symptoms, and then make a determination based on the that code for the related disability.
Many veterans are often confused by the 0% diagnostic, as it does not carry a monthly compensation payout. However, it is vital to qualifying for many VA benefits and other healthcare. A 0% rating basically means that you don’t currently qualify for compensation benefits, but the VA is formally acknowledging that you have a service-connected disability that could potentially affect you in the future and may entitle you to certain non-compensatory benefits now. Also, if your condition worsens in the future, you can request the VA to evaluate your and assign a new rating.
Monthly payment ratings are divided into 10% or higher rating scores that vary dependent on a veterans marital status and number of dependents.
Single veterans with no dependents receive the following monthly benefit depending on their rating:
-$395 for a 30% rating
-$810 for a 50% rating
-$1,503 for an 80% rating
Married veterans with one dependent child are compensated differently:
-$476 for a 30% rating
-$946 for a 50% rating
-$1,720 for an 80% rating
A complete listing of current VA compensation rates is available here .
Ratings are also not permanent, and you can be periodically re-evaluated should your condition worsen or improve. This is extremely important for those with chronic conditions requiring long term treatment, or that can be aggravated by other factors.
Multiple Disability Ratings
If you suffer from more than one service-connected disability, your rating will be calculated according to a specific formula developed by the VA. Your rating will increase with combined disabilities, but cannot exceed 100%.
Service-Connected and Nonservice-Connected Disabilities
The VA must evaluate each of your service-connected disabilities independently and assign each a rating. It becomes more complicated when you have both service-connected and nonservice-connected disabilities as it becomes extremely difficult to determine which disabling condition is the root cause of your symptoms. The rule that the VA uses in these cases is called “benefit of the doubt”, which means that the VA is unable to differentiate which disability is the cause of your symptoms, so they assume that your service-connected disabilities are the cause, which results in a higher disability rating and greater compensation every month.