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How Can I Increase My VA Disability Rating?

Increase VA Disability Rating

Increase VA Disability Rating

How Can I Increase My VA Disability Rating? When discussing VA Disability rates, one must distinguish between the Compensation and Pension rates.  Both involve monthly payments from VA, but they have very different requirements. Pension is a needs-based program similar to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). VA will grant pension benefits to veterans with wartime service, low income, and total and permanent disability. The total and permanent disability does not need to be “connected” to their military service. 

Maximum VA Pension

VA Pension rates are based on income.  The maximum pension rate is an annual amount set by Congress. A veteran’s pension is determined by how much income his family generates. 

VA Compensation Rating

VA Compensation is NOT based on need or income.  It pays a veteran for disabilities incurred in or aggravated during their active duty service. A veteran may not receive both pension and compensation at the same time.  Compensation is generally paid at a much higher rate, most veterans opt for compensation.  The following will focus on disability compensation rates.

Increase VA Disability Rating, Schedule of Ratings

Congress directed VA to, “adopt and apply a schedule of ratings of reductions in earning capacity from specific injuries or combination of injuries.” In other words, a veteran’s disability rating must reflect how much that disability impairs the veteran’s ability to work.  VA law also requires that the Schedule of Ratings “provide 10 grades of disability and no more.”  Under the schedule, VA assigns disability ratings of: 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, and 100%.  The higher the disability rating, the higher the monthly compensation VA will pay to the veteran. 

Why VA Ratings Differ

Some medical conditions are more disabling than others.  How does VA figure out the right disability rating?  The Schedule of Ratings breaks down disabilities into different categories based on the affected part of the body.  Each category contains groups of medical problems.  Each group contains a list of disabilities, and each disability has its own diagnostic code.  Every diagnostic code specifies the symptoms required for various ratings.  For example, many veterans suffer from a hearing loss disability known as tinnitus.  In-service exposure to loud noise – such as on the deck of an aircraft carrier – is a common cause of tinnitus.  Under the Disease of the Ear category, tinnitus has the 6260 diagnostic code.   Under code 6260, the maximum disability rating is 10%.  The rating is the same whether tinnitus affects one or both ears.

VA Diagnostic Codes and Ratings

Understand the VA diagnostic codes to increase your VA disability rating. Not every diagnostic code is as simple as 6260.  For example, the 9411 code applies to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Depending on the symptoms, a veteran may receive either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%.  A 100% rating for PTSD reflects total impairment of occupational and social skills.  Symptoms in the 100% range include persistent suicide attempts.  However, a veteran with very mild PTSD controlled by medication will probably receive 10%.  VA is bound by the diagnostic code criteria.  If your service-connected disability satisfies the criteria for a higher rating, then VA must grant that rating.

Disability Help Group VA Team

We have helped thousands of veterans win higher VA disability ratings. One veteran in particular came to us with a 50% rating for his PTSD.  During development, we discovered that he had more than 10 psychiatric hospitalizations within the past 5 years.  He was involuntarily hospitalized under the Baker Act.  He required 300 mg of Lithium twice daily to simply maintain a baseline of suicidal ideations.  After several years of our advocacy, VA agreed to assign a 100% rating all the way back to his first hospitalization.  Thanks to our work, VA paid him a lump-sum of over $200,000.00.

Increase Your VA Disability to 100%

The maximum VA rating permitted by law is 100%. If you have one disability at 70% and another disability at 50% ?  Does that mean you really have a 120% overall rating?  No.  To avoid exceeding the 100% cap, VA uses a Combined Ratings table.  A rating is not added to another rating to determine the VA rating. The VA uses the Combined Ratings table to determine the rating VA first considers the most disabling condition – that is, the one with the highest rating – then less disabling conditions in order of severity.  This method captures the residual efficiency of a veteran with more than one service-connected condition.  The formula will never result in a rating higher than 100%.

Combined VA Rating

If the combined value ends in a number from 5 through 9, VA rounds up to the next highest multiple of 10.  When the combined value ends in 1 through 4, VA rounds down to the lower multiple of 10. If the combined value ends in 0, then rounding is unnecessary.  For example, a veteran with 70% and 50% rating has a combined value of 85%.  An 85% value rounds up to a 90% combined rating.  A veteran with a combined value of 84%, rounds down to 80%.  A veteran with two separate disabilities rated at 10% each has a combined value of 19%, which rounds up to a 20% combined rating.

Some helpful links that provide additional information are, https://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/current_rates_veteran_pen.asp, and https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/resources_comp01.asp.