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VA Math 101: How the VA Combines Disability Ratings

Tucker Law Group
October 12, 2020

If you’re a veteran and have more than one disability rating from the VA you may be wondering how the VA actually calculated your overall disability rating. It all seems so confusing and it makes no sense mathematically…sound familiar?

If so, you will find this video extremely informative.

The first thing you need to remember is that the math used by the VA is not based on simple addition. It’s really more of a combination of percentages and rules that can get quite confusing if you try to do the math in your head. Another thing to keep in mind, is the VA will always start with your highest rating, and will calculate from there.

When you first enlisted into the military – you were considered 100% able-bodied. Basically, you are as fit as you can be when the military enlisted you, what is known as 100% ability. If, when you left the military you received a disability rating, that rating percentage is going to come out of your 100% ability.

For example, if a soldier had a rating for PTSD of 70% – the VA will look at this soldier as 70% disabled, which means he’s now has 30% ability.

If that soldier were to file another claim for a back condition, and the VA rated that back condition at 10% – they will calculate that 10% rating based on that percentage of the 30% ability.

Here’s the math… 10% of 30% is 3%. That 3% combined that with the 70% disability from before is 73%. However, the VA only pays in increments of 10% – and they round down sums of 5 and under. So in reality, this veteran is considered 70% disabled.

It’s not easy to keep track of this so there is a chart in The Code of Federal Regulations in section 4.25.

For more real-world examples of VA Math calculations, watch this informative video to learn even more.

At Tucker Law Group we understand VA Math and we handle these cases every day. If you have any additional questions regarding how the VA combines multiple disability rating percentages or on your VA disability claim, call Tucker Law Group at (866) 233-5044, or review our videos and media library for more information.

Video Transcript
VA math 101, how the VA combines ratings. I'm John Tucker. I'm a VA disability attorney and I represent veterans all over the United States. You're probably watching this video because you have more than one rating from the VA for your disabilities and you're wondering how they added two ratings together and came up with a number that doesn't make any mathematical sense. Well, VA math is not addition. That's the first thing you need to remember.

The second thing to keep in mind is that VA is always going to start with your highest rating. Keep those two things in mind as I describe this, and I'm going to try to make it easier to understand. We know it's complicated, but keep this in mind. When you went into the military, the military considered you 100% able bodied and VA takes that as an assumption, you were 100% able bodied when you entered the military. When you left the military, if you received a rating that was a disability rating, that's going to come out of your 100% able bodied self.

So let's use an example. Phil came to me and he had a rating for PTSD of 70%. If we take Phil's situation, the VA is looking at Phil as 70% disabled, and now he's 30% able bodied. So he still has 30% ability. In Phil's case, he filed another claim for a back condition and VA rated that back condition 10%. Now it's not 10% of 100% in VA's eyes. VA is looking at Phil as a 30% able bodied person and they're going to calculate that 10% rating based on his remaining 30% of ability. The math works like this. 70% comes out of 100. There's 30% left. The new 10% rating, because it's lower, is evaluated based on that 30%. 10% of 30% is 3%. So Phil actually is 73% disabled because the VA adds his 70 with the 3% he got for his second rating.

Now VA has another rule. They round down under five and as you probably know, VA only pays in 10% increments. So 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and so on. If Phil is at 73%, he's actually just at 70. He doesn't go up because he didn't get past 75%. If Phil had gotten a 20% rating, 20% of the remaining 30% of ability is 6%. That would have put him at 70 plus six, 76%. Phil then would have been rounded up to 80%. I understand it's complex. It's not easy to keep in mind and figure out in your head all the time and there is a chart in the Code of Federal Regulations in section 4.25, but that doesn't necessarily help you when you're trying to do it on the fly.

Let me give you another example that may help describe a different situation. Another client came to me, his name was Carlos and Carlos had a 20% rating for diabetes. He had been in Vietnam and gotten a service connection based on a presumption with agent orange. He later developed diabetic neuropathy that got pretty bad, moderately severe, in fact, according to the doctor. So he got a 40% rating. So in Carlos' situation, the VA then will reorder his ratings, look at the highest first, the 40%, and they're then going to determine he's 60% able bodied before they look at his second rating for diabetes, 20%. Now what's 20% of 60%? That's 12. So in his situation, VA adds the 40 and the 12 to get 52. So he has a 40 and a 20. You'd think that would be 60%, right? No, it's 52%, which rounds down to 50.

Now in his situation, he also had tinnitus, so they go on to his next rating, which is 10%. Now remember, Carlos is at 52%, so that means he has 48% left of ability. The VA is going to take the 10%, look at the 48% and say, "Well, that's 4.8% of that remaining ability." Add the 4.8 to 52 and you have 56.8, which rounds up to 57 and in Carlos' situation, that means he's 60% disabled according to the VA. So he has a 40, a 20 and a 10, which you think is 70%, but it's not. It's only a 60%. I know it's confusing and you're trying to figure out if VA combined your ratings properly. We understand these things are not straightforward math and we handle these cases every day. Call us at the number on your screen if you have questions. We represent veterans in all 50 States. I'm John Tucker. Thanks for watching.