VA Disability Rating Math Explained

A lot of people criticize the math used by the Department of Veterans Affairs when calculating the final disability award of veterans. Here I will explain the math in simple and clear terms. The math used is easy to calculate yourself once you understand how it works.

First, make a list of all your separate disabilities and the awards from most to least. For the sake of calculating your final award, disabilities that award 0% won’t matter.

After this, you’re going to need to tally points. You take the first disability’s award amount in points and add each subsequent disability percentage to the remaining points from 100. The final point total will be your final rating after it’s rounded to the nearest 10 (up at 5 or more, otherwise down).

Here are four examples that will illustrate how to do this:

Example #1

  • 30% for PTSD
  • 10% for bilateral tinnitus
  • 10% for acne
  1. Turn the first number into points (in this case, 30 points).
  2. Take 10% of the remaining 70 points (100 – 30), which is 7 points.
  3. Add that 7 to 30, which you end up with 37.
  4. Take 10% of the remaining 63 points (100 – 37), which is 6.3.
  5. Add that 6.3 to 37, which gets you 43.3.
  6. 43.3 ends in a number less than 5, so you round down to 40.

Therefore, when you have three disabilities awarding 30%, 10%, and 10%, your final total disability rating will be 40%.

Example #2

  • 50% for sleep apnea
  • 30% for Major Depressive Disorder
  • 10% for bilateral tinnitus
  1. Start with 50 points.
  2. Take 30% of the remaining 50 points (100 – 50), which gets you 15.
  3. Add that 15 to 50, which gets you 65.
  4. Take 10% of the remaining 35 points (100 – 65), which gets you 3.5.
  5. Add 3.5 to 65, which gets you 68.5.
  6. 68.5 ends in 5 or more, so you round up to 70.

Therefore, when you have three disabilities awarding 50%, 30%, and 10%, your final total rating will be 70%.

Example #3

  • 70% for PTSD
  • 10% for bilateral tinnitus
  • 10% for acne
  • 10% for athlete’s foot
  1. Start with 70 points.
  2. Take 10% of the remaining 30 (100 – 70), which gets you 3 points.
  3. Add 3 to 70, which gets you 73.
  4. Take 10% of the remaining 27 (100 – 73), which gets you 2.7.
  5. Add 2.7 to 73, which gets you 75.7.
  6. Take 10% of the remaining 24.3 (100 – 75.7), which gets you 2.43
  7. Add 2.43 to 75.7, which gets you 78.13.
  8. 78.13 is rounded up to 80.

So, having four disabilities that award 70%, 10%, 10%, and 10%, you end up with a final rating of 80%.

Example #4

  • 60% for paralysis of the sciatic nerve
  • 50% for PTSD
  • 50% for sleep apnea
  1. Start with 60 points.
  2. Take 50% of the remaining 40 points (100 – 60), which ends you up with 20.
  3. Add 20 to 60, which gets you 80.
  4. Take 50% of the remaining 20 (100 – 80), which gets you 10.
  5. Add 10 to 80, which gets you 90.

So, having three disabilities that award 60%, 50%, and 50% will end in a total rating of 90%.

Why the funny math?

It has to do with how debilitating all the conditions are combined. Someone with ten 10% disability rating isn’t considered unable to work because each specific condition is relatively mild. (This is the VA’s reasoning, not mine.)

Individual Unemployability

If you have a single disability that awards 60% or you’re at a total of 70% or higher, you might qualify for Individual Unemployability. You will still be whatever rating you were, but be paid at the 100% rating and receive all the benefits associated with it. This is what my dad did.

Disclaimer

Some disabilities, such as PTSD, start at a certain percentage and go up depending on the severity of the condition. For example, sleep apnea can award different amounts. Other disabilities are usually set, such as bilateral tinnitus, which I’ve never heard anyone be awarded anything other than 10% for.

This is intended to show how VA math is done. As you can see in example #4, someone with what would otherwise be 160% total is actually 90%.

That’s VA math for you!

Here’s a VA disability rating calculator that will do all of this for you: