Calculating the combined disability rating is a process that can confuse and stress even the math-savvy! The formula for coming up with this rating seems a bit opposite of what you’d intuitively think when you first look at it, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Once you see the step-by-step process for how to get the accurate rating, you can figure it out with less hair pulling!
For a veteran with one service-connected disability, no tricky math is involved. But for those with multiple service-connected disabilities, we’ll break down the formula for getting to the combined disability rating number.
Some Tips to Remember
- The biggest misconception is that the VA adds up your separate ratings to get your combined disability rating. Please keep in mind this is not how it works. For example, if you had 4 separate disability ratings of 40%, 20%, and 10%, your combined rating would not be 70%.
- Your combined disability rating is based on efficiency. Efficiency is the ability to function at work, daily life, social situations, etc. The more disability ratings you have, the more your efficiency decreases.
- Efficiency decreases are calculated by the VA one disability at a time.
For this to make the most sense, we’ll use an example. For our calculations, this particular veteran is rated as follows:
40% for PTSD, 30% for back pain, and 10% for tinnitus.
The misconception and confusion would set in if this particular veteran thought the VA would combine those percentages for the combined disability rating of 80%. Remember that this is not how the combined disability rating is calculated.
Step 1: Use your highest disability rating first, then move in descending numerical order to the lowest.
40% for PTSD is the highest individual disability rating from our example above, so we start with that. Remember that the VA calculates based on how these disabilities affect efficiency. Start with 100% efficiency and subtract the 40% disability from that. 100-40=60. So with this first disability rating, the efficiency is reduced to 60% (from 100%, which is if no disabilities were present).
Step 2: Our next highest disability rating is 30% for back pain.
We go to our current efficiency, which is 60% (remember in Step 1 it was reduced due to the PTSD rating). We use the 30% (for back pain) and calculate that 30% of 60%=18. Then we subtract; 60 (current efficiency) – 18% = 42%. (42% is now our current efficiency as of this step.)
Step 3: The last, and lowest, disability rating is 10% for tinnitus.
We start with our current efficiency, which is 42%. 10% of 42% is 4.2. Subtracting 4.2 from 42 gives us 37.8. Efficiency is now at 37.8%.
Step 4: Determine combined disability rating
We have finished calculating the efficiency level based on all individual disability ratings. We take the efficiency number we have, 37.8, and subtract it from 100. 100-37.8 = 62.2.
Step 5: After getting this number, round to the nearest 10%.
62.2 rounded to the nearest 10% is 60. This gives us the combined disability rating.
To recap, the example we used above was: 40% for PTSD, 30% for back pain, and 10% for tinnitus. This particular veteran would have a combined disability rating of 60%, based on our combined disability rating math above.
The Bilateral Factor
The bilateral factor can further increase your combined disability rating. The bilateral factor refers to a veteran having a disability that affects both arms, both legs, or paired skeletal muscles. It does not have to be the exact same disability on each side, but a veteran must have two service-connected disabilities, with one on either side. When a veteran is affected by the bilateral factor, the ratings for those extremities are combined and 10% is added to the rating. This is ONLY for the bilateral conditions and doesn’t apply to any other disabilities the veteran may have. The 10% is added just to the bilateral condition and the rest of the disabilities are calculated as shown above in the examples.
Bilateral Factor calculation example:
A veteran has 20% disability on the left wrist and 10% on the right elbow. We start with the highest disability of the bilateral factor, which is the 20%. 100-20 = 80. 80% is the efficiency of those limbs just from the left wrist. Now we take 10% (from the right elbow disability) of 80%, which is 8. You subtract the 8 from 80, which gives you 72. Now to figure out the combined disability rating just for the bilateral factor, we subtract the 72 from 100. The result is 28. Here is where we add in the 10%. 10% is added to the 28 for it being a bilateral disability. 10% of 28 is 2.8. Adding 2.8 to 28 gives us 30.8. Remember again that VA disability is rounded to the nearest 10, so we round 30.8 down to 30. The combined disability rating for the bilateral factor of the left wrist and right elbow is 30%.
Let’s face it. Even with it being broken down that way, it’s still confusing and takes time to figure out. This is why we recommend working with someone who is on your side and in your corner to make sure you are getting what you have earned and deserve when it comes to your disability ratings and compensation. Connect with a member of our team for a free consultation and get the peace of mind you need.