VA disability percentages for conditions are ratings that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns to disabilities as a way to indicate how greatly they affect a veteran’s ability to work. VA disability percentages, which occur in 10% increments up to 100%, determine a veteran’s monthly disability benefit.
What is a VA disability rating?
Veterans who have a service-related disability can qualify for compensation from the VA. To calculate the benefit, the agency assigns a disability rating. This rating represents the severity of the disability and how much it affects a veteran’s health, daily activities and ability to earn money in a civilian industry.
You can receive a disability rating for a condition diagnosed before serving in the military, known as a preservice disability. The rating is based on the level of aggravation — how much your military service worsened your condition — instead of how much the condition affects you as a whole.
What is a VA disability rating based on?
The VA reviews several sources when calculating a veteran’s disability rating. Documents the VA might review include:
Private medical records that discuss your diagnosis.
Military records pertaining to your service and injury.
Compensation and pension exam results if the VA requires you to complete an exam for your claim.
Government records from other agencies if needed to validate your claim.
How does the VA calculate disability ratings?
The VA looks at your records to determine if your symptoms affect your ability to work. The specific diagnosis code that your doctor uses in your records tells the VA information about your condition.
The VA uses this information to compare your symptoms to those that qualify as slight, moderate, moderately severe and severe to determine which level of disability rating your condition warrants.
A veteran with severe symptoms will have a higher disability rating than someone with moderate symptoms. For example, within the musculoskeletal system, there is a diagnosis code for each type of disability within each muscle group. Diagnosis code 5305 is for a disability that affects elbow supination. A veteran with a moderate disability because of this condition will receive a rating of 10% regardless of whether it affects their dominant or nondominant hand. However, if the veteran’s disability qualifies as moderately severe, the disability rating will be 30% if it affects their dominant hand and 20% if it affects their nondominant hand.
Did you know…
If your condition fits under multiple diagnosis codes, the VA will use the diagnosis code that gives you the highest disability rating.
What is a VA combined disability rating?
Veterans who have multiple qualifying disabilities will have a combined disability rating. This rating represents the combined limitations you experience because of all of your qualifying disabilities.
The VA uses a formula to calculate combined disability ratings. However, the VA doesn’t simply add all of a veteran’s disability ratings together. For example, a veteran with a rating of 50% for one disability and 30% for another is not considered 80% disabled.
The VA doesn’t publish their formula for calculating combined disabilities, but it does provide a calculator that estimates your combined disability rating based on your individual ratings.
How to apply for VA disability benefits
If you believe you are eligible for veteran’s disability pay, you’ll need to file a claim. Here are the steps to apply.
Choose an application method. Apply online, by mail, in person at a VA office or with the help of an accredited representative. If you are applying by mail, download and complete VA Form 21-526EZ. Regardless of how you apply, you’ll need to submit supporting documentation. If you need help filling out the application or providing supporting evidence, call your regional VA office.
Gather documentation to support your application. This can include medical records from the VA or from your private doctors and hospitals, as well as statements from people who are familiar with your disability.
Submit documentation. You don’t have to submit your supporting documentation and your claim at the same time, but submitting everything together can speed up the process. If you filed an Intent to File form or submitted your claim without evidence, remember to gather the documentation later and submit it to support your claim.