Veterans Disability Info Blog

How to Do the “VA Math” for Multiple Disabilities Found in Your VA Award Letter

In a previous blog about your VA Award Letter, we discussed using the disability rating charts the Veterans Administration publishes to combine multiple disabilities into an overall disability rating. In this blog, we will attempt to explain the mathematical basis for those charts. Contrary to appearances, the VA hasn’t just pulled numbers out of the air. There is logic behind the layout of the charts, and we’re going to try to break that down for you, step by step.

Let’s take an example where a Gulf War veteran has three rated disabilities involving different parts of the body:

  1. Lumbar spine injury, degenerative disk. Service Connected. 40 percent.
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) Service Connected. 30 percent.
  3. Left-foot peripheral neuropathy. Service Connected. 10 percent.

VA Math is not simply an additive process. If it was, our Gulf War vet would be 80 percent disabled. VA Math is a process of diminishing returns, starting with the whole body, then taking a percentage of what remains after each step. Observe.

Starting with the whole body, our Gulf War vet begins at 100 percent fit. However, he has suffered a 40 percent disability, leaving him 60 percent fit, as follows:

100% – (40% of 100%) = 100% – 40% = 60%

Now, in the second step, instead of beginning with 100%, we must start with the 60% remaining, to which we apply the 30% disability.

60% – (30% of 60%) = 60% – 18% = 42%

So, after the second disability is factored in, our Gulf War vet would be 42 percent fit, and would have a 58 percent disability rating, which the VA would round up to 60 percent.

Now, we’ve got the left-foot peripheral neuropathy to consider, as follows:

42% – (10% of 42%) = 42% – 4.2% = 37.8%

Recall that we’ve been subtracting the disability from the 100 percent whole body rating. This means we’ve got a body that is 37.8 percent fit, or 62.2 percent disabled, as follows:

100% – 37.8% = 62.2%.

The VA would round this number down to 60 percent. This means that the third disability failed to move the needle. At this point, our vet might feel a bit cheated, because the third condition made no difference at all in the total disability rating. So, why consider it? Well, those points get lost on the rounding might become important if he or she were to develop another service-related disability.

Let’s say our vet is diagnosed with tinnitus at 10 percent. The VA would start again at 37.8 percent, thus:

37.8% – (10% of 37.8%) = 38.3% – 3.78% = 34.52%

Now our vet is 65.48 percent disabled:

100% – 34.52% = 65.48%

This time the VA would round the rating up to 70 percent. So, we find that the addition of the tinnitus made a 10 percent difference in the disability rating.

The VA is generally good about getting this math right. However, mistakes are made in assigning ratings to the individual conditions based upon the data submitted. VA examiners are trained to recognize certain terminology for qualifying conditions. If your doctor has not used the “buzz words,” you might not get the full credit you deserve. That is why, if your disability rating seems low based on your day-to-day struggle, you might have to appeal the rating.

Showing your VA Award Letter to a knowledgeable veterans benefits attorney can clarify the situation. We have served thousands of vets who were not getting the full benefits they were entitled to. We can assess your situation to determine if something is amiss, and if an appeal is worth pursuing.

About The Author

Charlotte M. Sardiña obtained her Juris Doctor from the Pontifical Catholic University in Ponce P.R. and since then has dedicated her career to assisting the disabled community obtain benefits they deserve. She currently serves as the Intake Director at Gang & Associates, where she passionately assists Veterans with their VA Disability Compensation benefits process. Having a family full of Veterans has made her endeavor to assist Veterans even that much stronger.