How VA Disability Rates Affect Your Benefits: What Is Your VA Disability Rating Worth?

For disabled veterans, receiving VA benefits can be a true lifeline. However, the amount of assistance a vet gets depends on their VA disability rating. A veteran must have at least a 10% disability to qualify, but the determination of rating is a complex calculation. Ultimately, however, the current VA disability rates, plus your personal disability rating, determine the financial assistance you may be due.

So how much is your VA disability rating worth and what compensation does that entail? Keep reading to better understand how VA disability rates affect your benefits.

What is Your VA Disability Rating? Key Takeaways

Your VA disability rating is how the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs defines the effects of your disability. The VA will look at the ways your disability impacts your daily life and then assign an impairment percentage. That VA disability rating hugely affects the amount of compensation you may receive as well as eligibility for other benefits. With that in mind, here are some of the key points you’ll want to remember.

  • Purpose. The point of a VA disability rating is to quantify how much your illness or injury diminishes your life. This number helps when determining the appropriate compensation for benefits.
  • Benefit Eligibility. To be eligible, veterans must demonstrate a current disability with a direct cause or aggravation from active military service. 
  • Qualifying Conditions. There are a wide range of illnesses and injuries that the VA counts as acceptable. These include both physical conditions (such as paralysis or cancer) and mental conditions (like PTSD).
  • VA Disability Ratings Calculations. The VA calculates ratings on the basis of condition and severity. It uses a VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to assign a percentage to each disability. These range from 0% to 100% disabled in 10% increments. Less severe disabilities will have lower percentages. 
  • VA Disability Rates. Current 2024 disability compensation rates range from $171.23 monthly (for 10% disability) to $3,737.85 (for 100% disability). The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has online VA compensation calculators to help veterans determine their potential rate. 
  • Benefit Amounts. Once a veteran has their VA disability rating, then they can look at the current VA rate charts. Their total disability percentage will influence how much their monthly payment will total.

What Are VA Disability Ratings?

VA disability ratings represent how much a disability decreases a veteran’s overall health and ability to function. To reflect this impairment, the VA assigns each veteran a percentage of disability. This number becomes the basis for the veteran’s disability rating and also determines benefit rates.

To determine a VA disability rating, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs considers the following:

  • Evidence supplied by the veteran, including medical/hospital records and test results.
  • The results of a veteran’s VA claim exam (an official examination by the VA some applicants must undertake for objective verification).
  • Information from other government sources, like federal agencies.

VA Disability Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for VA disability in the first place, a veteran must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Proof of service. An applicant for VA disability benefits must be able to show their past service on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
  • Discharge status other than dishonorable. The terms of each service person’s discharge matter. Every individual who serves in the military with discharge for any reason other than dishonorable may qualify. Minimum duty requirements vary for each situation and branch, so it’s helpful to contact a VA-accredited attorney for guidance. 
  • Evidence of disability. To be eligible for a VA disability rating, the service member must have a current condition that affects the mind and/or body. A 10% VA disability rating is a requirement for any benefit awards.

Survivors of deceased veterans, including parents, may also qualify to receive benefits.

What Conditions Qualify for a VA Disability Rating?

There are a multitude of conditions that qualify a veteran for a VA disability rating. These include both mental and physical illnesses or injuries. The caveat is that the disability must be service-connected, meaning that its cause or aggravation was being in the military.

Some of the conditions that will qualify a veteran for VA disability rating if they can demonstrate their affliction include:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Conditions (like cancers) stemming from contact with toxic chemicals or other dangerous substances
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
  • Severe hearing loss
  • Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current back disability 
  • Loss of range of motion (i.e. inability to effectively move body parts)
  • Ulcers
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Mental or physical health conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST)
  • Scar tissue or nerve damage

How Are VA Disability Ratings Calculated?

The calculation of a VA disability rating depends on how disabled a veteran is on the whole. Less severe disabilities will have lower percentages than more debilitating injuries or illnesses.

To help standardize calculations, the VA has put together a Schedule of Rating Disabilities (VARSD). They use this manual to give a percentage rating to each disability.

The VARSD breaks down disabilities according to the part of the body or system, such as cardiovascular musculoskeletal, and respiratory. From there each group of issues lists different conditions along with diagnoses. Every diagnostic code includes symptoms that must be present for various ratings of disability within that category.

To rate your disability, the VA will look first at the body system category, then it will locate your diagnosis. After that it will consider your symptoms to find the best-matching diagnostic code in your category. If your disability isn’t in the VARSD, the VA will look for the disability that’s closest to yours.

How Is Your Combined VA Disability Rating Calculated?

If you have more than one disability, the calculations get infinitely more complicated to work out. However, the VA does have a system in place to determine combined VA disability rating and VA disability pay.

To begin with, VA disability ratings are not additive. Meaning, if a veteran has one 40% disability rating and a second at 30%, the combined rating is not 70%. Instead, the VA uses a Combined Ratings Table to calculate a combined disability rating.

If a veteran has two disability ratings, find the highest percentage number on the left side of the table. Then look for the second rating along the top row of the table. The combined disability rating will be where the two ratings intersect in the chart. However, the VA doesn’t deal in partial percentages. So, the last step is to take the chart combo number and round up or down to the nearest 10%. That will provide the final combined rating for that individual and their subsequent VA disability pay.

To further illustrate, let’s consider our initial example. If you look at the chart, the intersection of a 40% disability rating and a 30% disability rating is 58%. But you’ll need to round up in this case, so 60% would be this individual’s VA combined rating.

If the VA finds that a veteran has multiple disabilities, the process is the same but with more steps. Use the two highest VA ratings in the chart to find the first combined number. Then, take that number and locate it on the left side of the chart. Find the next disability percentage on the top of the chart and look for the intersection. Repeat until you account for all disabilities, and then round up or down to the nearest 10% mark for your final combined rating and VA disability pay amount.

Can a VA Disability Rating Change Over Time?

It is possible for a VA disability rating to change over time.

However, you don’t have to worry about the VA suddenly decreasing your benefits without telling you. This can only happen after a reexamination that shows major improvements in condition. And this improvement must also lead to an increase in the veteran’s ability to function in life and work. Plus, the VA must review a veteran’s entire medical history before instituting a disability rating reduction. So, it’s not that easy to cut benefits.

Additionally, there are protections in place for certain VA disability rating categories. If a veteran shows the same rating for 5+ years, there can’t be rating reductions unless there’s marked sustained improvement. If a veteran shows the same VA disability rating for 20+ years, only claim fraud can lead to rate reduction.

It’s also very difficult for the VA to reduce the rating of someone with a 100% VA disability rating. This is especially true if they’re unable to work owing to their condition, even if it improves somewhat over time.

On the positive side, however, if a disability worsens over time, a veteran may apply for a VA disability increase.

How Much Does My VA Disability Rate Pay in Benefits?

How much your VA disability claim pays depends on several different variables, not just your combined rating.

To begin with, anything below 10% will not be eligible for monthly VA disability compensation. However, it may still be useful since it allows a veteran to access other benefits like applying for VA healthcare.

Payment for VA ratings of 10% and higher will scale up depending on whether the veteran has any dependents.

Current compensation rates for a 10% VA disability rating in 2024 are $171.23 monthly, and for a 20% rating, it’s $338.49. There are no increases for a dependent spouse or children.

After that, rates will increase depending on marital status and number of children.

For example, single veterans with no dependents can expect the following VA disability rate monthly payment amount per 2024 parameters:

  • 0% disability rating: $0.00 per month
  • 10% disability rating: $171.23 per month
  • 20% disability rating: $338.49 per month
  • 30% disability rating: $524.31 per month
  • 40% disability rating: $755.28 per month
  • 50% disability rating: $1,075.16 per month
  • 60% disability rating: $1,361.88 per month
  • 70% disability rating: $1,716.28 per month
  • 80% disability rating: $1,995.01 per month
  • 90% disability rating: $2,241.91 per month
  • 100% disability rating: $3,737.85 per month

But a married veteran with two dependent children under 18 would receive the following:

  • 30% rating = $648.31
  • 60% rating = $1,610.88
  • 90% rating = $2,614.91

Dependent parents, special school parameters, and a spouse receiving aid may also increase VA disability rates.

VA Ratings Chart

Since VA disability rates depend on many different factors, the VA has a chart for that too.

The VA ratings chart works by looking for a veteran’s VA rating on the top and their single/marital/dependent status on the side. Once again, the intersection point between these is the estimated monthly payment a disabled veteran can expect.

Get Help From a VA-Accredited Lawyer

Understanding VA disability rates and how they impact your benefits is crucial for maximizing your compensation. Navigating this complex system can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. At LegalQuestions.co, we can connect you with experienced VA-accredited lawyers who will guide you through every step, ensuring you get the benefits you deserve.

VA Disability Ratings Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What evidence do you need to support a VA disability claim?

Anyone applying for VA disability benefits will need to show evidence. This includes proof of military service and discharge. They’ll also need to supply private medical treatment reports, federal/state records, and supporting statements from individuals corroborating their disability. Applicants can upload all these records via the VA Claim Status tool.

How long does it take to receive a VA disability rating decision?

The current wait time to receive a decision on your VA rates after filing is 147.2 days.

How does a VA disability rating affect other benefits like Social Security?

SSDI and VA disability compensations do not affect each other, so you may be eligible to receive both. However, you must apply for each program separately. SSDI can even expedite your case if you’re also receiving VA disability benefits, but it doesn’t require you to have service connected disabilities to apply.

Can I work while receiving VA disability benefits?

Yes, you are generally able to work while receiving VA disability benefits. However, if your condition totally prevents you from working, you may petition for 100% VA disability rating due to unemployability.

What is the difference between a VA disability rating and a VA pension?

A VA disability rating has to do with a service-related illness or injury that impedes a veteran’s ability to work and live. The VA pension program provides monthly benefits to wartime veterans who meet financial, age and/or disability requirements.

How can I increase my VA disability rating?

Veterans have one year from the date of the VA notification letter to appeal a claims decision. If you don’t think your VA disability rating is high enough, then you may gather more evidence and request re-adjudication. A claimant may also write their regional VA office to request an increase if there’s evidence their condition is worsening.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes toCosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit:www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann