The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses disability ratings to determine how much compensation disabled Armed Forces veterans will receive for their service-connected disabilities.
What is the VA Disability Rating System?
Veterans with service-connected disabilities may be entitled to veterans disability benefits through the VA. When a veteran files his application, the VA evaluates the applicant’s medical records and reports and makes a decision. If the VA finds the veteran is entitled to benefits, then it will assign disability ratings based on the impairments. This rating determines how much compensation the veteran will receive each month due to his disease or disability.
VA Disability Ratings
When the VA determines that a veteran qualifies for disability benefits, it will list each condition for which there is disability. It will then assign each condition a disability rating. That is why one claim can have multiple VA disability ratings. The disability rating corresponds with the severity of the medical condition – and is meant to show how detrimental that condition is to the veteran’s earning capacity.
Ratings are assigned in 10% increments, on a scale from 10% to 100% disabled. The higher the rating, the more severe the disability and the greater the monthly compensation payment. Under the current rates for veterans with no dependents, a 100% disabled veteran is entitled to more than $2,600 per month. Usually compensation rates are adjusted annually to reflect increases in the cost of living.
The compensation rate may be adjusted upward if the veteran suffered a specific injury or disability. The VA provides special compensation rates for injuries and conditions such as: loss of a hand; loss of a foot; blindness; hearing loss; loss of ability to speak; loss of both hands; loss of both feet; or, being bedridden permanently. By statute, the VA may pay as much as $4,667 per month for veterans disability benefits.
Disability Ratings for Multiple Conditions
What if the veteran has more than one injury or condition that is found disabling? Then the VA will issue multiple disability ratings. These ratings are not added together to determine the veteran’s total disability. Rather, a formula is used to determine total disability. The disabilities are ranked from most severe to least severe, then the VA determines the veteran’s percentage of efficiency considering the most severe disability.
Next the VA will examine the second most severe disability. The rating for that condition is applied to the veteran’s remaining efficiency. And so on. If you have a question about multiple ratings, call a vet disability lawyer for help.
Changes to VA Disability Ratings
A veteran’s disability rating is not permanent. It may change. The VA can require a veteran to undergo medical reexamination periodically. The VA does this to verify that the vet remains disabled. Sometimes the VA will find that the vet is more disabled than he was before, and increase the rating. This leads to an increase in the veteran’s monthly disability payment.
A veteran receiving benefits may request a new evaluation if he develops a new condition connected to his service, or if his medical condition is getting worse. This is done by filing a VA Form 21-4128. The VA will review the medical records and reports, and may increase the veteran’s disability rating and compensation.
Can My Veteran's Disability Benefits be Reduced?
There are some situations where the VA cannot reduce a vet’s disability rating. For example, the VA cannot reduce a 100% disabled rating without a medical examination or evidence that shows the vet can maintain employment for 12 consecutive months and has had a material improvement in his physical or mental condition. Also, a veteran’s benefits cannot be reduced if he has been found to have permanent and total disability and has received benefits for 20 years or more.