How the VA Determines Your Disability Rating

Military service brings with it a complicated and often dangerous set of tasks, responsibilities, and experiences. The job usually takes a toll on a service member’s physical and mental health, creating lifelong problems. For this reason, service-disabled veterans can file a claim with the VA for compensation.  

Based on the severity of your illness, syndrome, or injury, the VA will assign a disability rating to your particular situation. The ratings start at 0% and go up to 100% in 10% increments. They can be added together (although unlikely) but your overall rating can not go beyond 100%.  

The first step in obtaining your VA rating is to submit an initial claim with all of your medical and military documentation. This includes your military medical records, service records, results of an independent medical exam, and personal statements from you and possibly others. You may be required to submit documentation of any conditions you had before entering the service. 

Once reviewed, the VA will issue you a disability rating (the percentages I explained above).  Some veterans are flatly rejected and no rating is issued at all. Others receive a rating much lower than what they were expecting. Sometimes these instances occur because of an error in the filing process. Unfortunately, even a small error in the filing process can lead to a denial which can take months or years to undo. 

Can you add VA disability ratings together?  

The idea of combining ratings is not a straightforward path. If you have one rating at 30% and another disability at 40% your total rating may not add to 70%. The VA has a process that includes listing your conditions in order of severity and then making a determination using a combined ratings table. 

If you have been denied the rating you expected we can help you understand the VA’s process and develop a plan to move forward with an appeal. There are several things that might have happened with your original application:  

  1. A clear connection to service was not established. You must provide a direct link between your service and a particular disability. This can be very hard in some cases.  
  2. Your records are incomplete. If you are claiming that exposure to chemicals caused a particular cancer, your service records must show a job responsibility that caused this exposure.  
  3. Your condition is not viewed as chronic. Your condition must be chronic such as arthritis, IBS, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or ALS. 
  4. The VA made a mistake and denied your claim due to an error by the reviewer or it was mishandled through the process.  

If you think or know that you meet all of the conditions to receive compensation, but have been denied, more than likely your application was incomplete or incorrectly processed. If you have received a response that is not in your favor, it is very important to have a plan to move onto the next steps.  

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