100 Percent VA Disability Benefits
Veterans who are suffering from a current condition or disability as a result of service-related injuries, illness, or other events are entitled to VA disability benefits. If you think you qualify, you must file a claim for benefits supported by evidence. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will carefully review the evidence you have provided to determine if it should be service connected and what your disability rating is on a scale of 100, increasing in 10 percent increments.
A total disability rating of 100 percent allows you maximum benefits and compensation and can be achieved in different ways depending on your unique circumstances. For example, when a veteran has multiple service connected conditions, with one at a minimum of 40 percent disabling by itself, and a combined rating of 70 percent, with evidence that the service connected conditions prevent the veteran from maintaining a gainful occupation, then they will be eligible to receive 100 percent disability compensation in the form of total disability individual unemployability (“TDIU”). The other way would be to combine various ratings such that they equal 100 percent under the VA’s combined rating table or have a severe disability that provides for a 100 percent rating by itself, such as a mental disability.
For assistance putting together your claim and gathering the evidence needed to support it, connect with a VA benefits lawyer from our firm.
Understanding the 100 Percent Disability Rating
It is important to understand that your VA disability rating is a percentage assigned to you for a service-connected condition or disability. The number assigned to your condition is based upon the severity of your disability and ranges from 10 to 100, increasing in 10 percent increments. The purpose of the disability ratings is to compensate victims for the average impairment in their earning capacity that results from the service-related condition. Keep in mind that most disabilities have a ceiling on how high the rating can go for any single disability. Only certain types of disabilities have the potential to be rated as high as 100 percent by themselves. For example, tinnitus has a maximum rating of 10 percent.
The VA uses the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), through which diagnostic codes and disability ratings for service-connected conditions are assigned. The rating criteria describe the symptoms of the condition and potential treatment pathways for that condition. In most instances, the disability rating you receive will be higher when your condition is more severe, but this requires sufficient medical evidence and an effective VA benefits application to achieve.
If you have a 0 percent VA disability rating, you are not eligible to receive compensation in the form of tax-free monthly payments; however, you could still qualify for other benefits such as healthcare. If you have a 100 percent disability rating, you will receive the maximum monthly benefit as compensation. When your combined rating is between 10 and 100 percent, the monthly benefit that you are eligible for increases with each 10 percent increment in your VA combined disability rating. The amounts of monthly compensation you may be entitled to are listed below. Keep in mind that the VA does not simply add disability ratings in simple math. They use a combined rating formula.
Receiving a 100 percent disability rating from the VA means that you are classified as totally disabled. This means that you will receive the maximum compensation available through the VA, generally including tax-free payments and other benefits. You must meet strict criteria to receive the 100 percent disability rating and to be able to collect full benefits.
VA Ratings Officers Assign Your Rating
You will generally receive your VA disability rating from a Rating Officer at the Regional Office level. When your initial claim is denied, you may ultimately appeal and have your VA rating reviewed at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). The BVA was created in 1933 and given the authority to render final decisions on appeal concerning decisions related to VA benefits. Even if the Board of Veterans Appeals decides the issue of your rating on an appeal, the Regional Office will still be the one who implements any assigned rating given by the Board.
The rating official responsible for reviewing your case will depend upon what level your claim is in within the process. To rate each individual service-related condition, the VA officers use the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to review your conditions and the related diagnostic criteria. Each disability has a specific diagnostic code, and is rated in increments of 10 percent.
VA Disability Ratings Can Be Temporary
While some service-related conditions result in long-term and life-altering disabilities, others may result in temporary issues. A veteran can receive a 100 percent disability rating after being discharged temporarily. What matters is whether whether or not the condition impacts the veteran’s ability to engage in steady and gainful employment.
A veteran qualifies for a temporary 100 percent disability rating after being hospitalized for 21 or more days for a service-related disability or condition. When mobility is limited following hospitalization, temporary disability benefits can persist throughout recovery. This applies to recovery following surgeries, rehabilitation programs, and other measures linked to a service-related injury, illness, or incident. In other words, the VA regulations provide for a temporary 100 percent disability rating following a surgery to account for the convalescence period. In addition, active treatment for service-connected cancers are also time periods where there is often a temporary 100 percent rating.
Some Disabilities Do Not Have Diagnostic Codes
The VASRD is not all-inclusive, meaning that there are many conditions that veterans are impacted by that are not listed on the VASRD. Should your service-related condition not be listed on the rating schedule, the VA will do its best to rate your condition by analogy. This means that the VA will review the rating schedule for a condition similar to what you are experiencing.
The VA will look for conditions producing similar symptoms and levels of impairment, which will lead to the VA assigning a disability rating based on the criteria for the condition that most closely resembles yours. Your disability rating, when your condition does not have a diagnostic code, can be more difficult to determine accurately and highlights the importance of solid medical evidence supporting your case.
In other situations, you may find that your symptoms are not included in the VASRD. This happens when your condition results in medical issues that the VA does not recognize as generally being a part of a particular disability. When this happens, you can still receive a rating for your symptoms, although through a different pathway. You may need to consider other diagnostic codes and their symptoms to find a separate rating for your symptoms.
Determining exactly what category your symptoms fall under and what disability and resulting rating should be applied to your situation can be difficult. Your application must contain sufficient medical information to support your condition and a strong nexus letter that links your current condition to your service-related illness, injury, or other event.
Criteria for Reaching 100 Percent VA Disability
The 100 percent disability rating is a total disability rating that entitles you to the highest compensation rates available from the VA, with the exception of special monthly compensation.. This rating is available only to veterans with debilitating service-connected disabilities and conditions. Generally, a veteran with a 100 percent disability rating cannot work and often cannot care for themselves.
You can receive a 100 percent disability rating based on the VASRD in three ways:
- You receive a 100 percent disability rating based on just 1 disability, or
- Your combined disability rating is equal to 100 percent, which means that the combination of your service-related conditions under VA guidelines become 100 percent.
- Your service connected conditions do not equal 100 percent under the combined rating table, but your service connected conditions prevent you from maintaining a gainful occupation and you meet certain percentage requirements, then you may be eligible for total disability individual unemployability (“TDIU”), which pays you at the 100 percent rate even though your combined rating is less than 100 percent.
Keep in mind that your disability ratings are not added together through simple addition, with the percentage numbers simply being added together. Instead, the VA employs its own equations to determine your overall disability when combining disability ratings for different conditions.
The VA will consult with the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disability (VASRD), which contains over 800 diagnostic codes linked to particular medical conditions. The diagnostic code that is relevant to your situation has criteria that must be met to generate your percentage rating. The requirements will generally be symptoms, meaning that if there is a condition with five symptoms and a veteran has two, their disability rating would be lower than a veteran with the same condition who is demonstrating all five symptoms.
To qualify for a 100 percent Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating, the veteran must either:
- Have 1 disability that is rated at 60 percent or higher, or
- Two or more disabilities that have a combined rating of 70 percent or greater, with one condition rated at least 40 percent or greater.
- Qualify for extra schedular TDIU based on the fact that your condition has severe symptoms that are not accounted for by the rating code and it prevents you from working.
Severity of Service-Connected Disabilities
Your VA disability rating may be from a single severe condition or through a group of conditions. The 100 percent disability rating is often awarded to veterans with two or more limbs that have been amputated or paralyzed or for veterans with active service-related diseases such as cancer, severe cardiac conditions, or psychiatric conditions such as PTSD, bipolar, depression, or schizophrenia. Conditions can be temporary, as we’ll consider below, which can impact your ongoing ability to collect compensation.
The Importance of the Nexus Letter in Connecting Your Condition to Service
The success of your VA benefits claim depends upon the quality of the evidence you submit to prove the severity of your condition and that it is service-related. Your case will be supported by a nexus letter supporting the link between an injury, illness, or another event during your active service and your current condition. A medical expert evaluation is also important in many cases for establishing the presence of the requisite symptoms to support the highest possible rating.
The nexus letter helps to provide you with an essential element of your VA benefits claim, which requires the following three elements to be approved:
- An event during service that may have caused a disease or condition or aggravated one that existed pre-service
- A current diagnosis of the existence of the disease or condition related to service
- An expert medical opinion that links number 1 with number 2.
The required medical opinion is known as the nexus letter and is used to prove your right to collect benefits. The medical opinion will present the degree of likelihood that your service-related event caused your current condition, ranging from “not likely,” to “at least as likely as not,” to “more than likely,” and ending at the top with “and highly likely.” The standard of proof that a medical expert must address is essentially 50 percent probability that the in-service event caused your current disability. Generally, when the finding is “at least as likely as not,” the outcome is considered favorable to the veteran and you can collect compensation.
Inability to Maintain Gainful Employment – Individual Unemployability
When your service-related disability makes you unable to work, you may qualify for what the VA terms “Individual Unemployability” or TDIU. If you qualify for individual unemployability, you receive disability compensation or benefits at the same amount as a veteran with a 100 percent disability rating.
To be eligible for VA disability benefits under the individual unemployability classification, both of the following must be true:
- You have a minimum of 1 service-connected disability that is rated at 60 percent or more disabling, or 2 or greater service-connected disabilities, with 1 rated at a minimum 40 percent or more disabling, with a combined rating between the 2 of 70 percent or more, and
- You are unable to maintain a steady job that supports you financially, termed “substantially gainful employment”, as a result of your service-connected disability.
In addition to filing a traditional disability claim, you’ll also need to file the following forms for Individual Unemployability benefits:
- VA Form 21-8940 – Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability
- VA Form 21-4192 – Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits
It is helpful to know that odd jobs, termed “marginal employment”, do not count in terms of individual unemployability. Benefits available through individual unemployability include health care, as well as tax-free payments based on the disability rating scale.
As explained by the VA, in order to access these disability benefits, you must:
- File a claim for disability compensation
- Provide evidence with your claim that demonstrates your disability prevents you from maintaining a steady job
- You generally must also include your work and education history for review
The evidence that you provide with your claim will determine whether or not your application is approved, denied, or in need of further evidence or review. To support yourself throughout the entire process, reach out to a VA benefits attorney from our firm.
Benefits and Compensation
Receiving a 100 percent disability rating entitles you to the maximum compensation available through the VA for tax-free monthly payments and other benefits. If you are admitted into a hospital for more than 21 days for a condition that qualifies as a VA disability, you will generally qualify for 100 percent disability compensation.
Following are your monthly benefit compensation amounts, based on the 2023 veterans’ disability compensation rates published by the VA, with the following numbers for single veterans:
- 10 Percent Disability Rating – $165.92
- 20 Percent Disability Rating – $327.99
- 30 Percent Disability Rating – $508.05
- 40 Percent Disability Rating – $731.86
- 50 Percent Disability Rating – $1,041.82
- 60 Percent Disability Rating – $1,319.65
- 70 Percent Disability Rating – $1,663.06
- 80 Percent Disability Rating – $1,933.15
- 90 Percent Disability Rating – $2,172.39
- 100 Percent Disability Rating – $3,621.95
The amounts presented above are for veterans alone with no dependents. Veterans with a disability rating of 10 or 20 percent cannot receive additional compensation amounts for other parties. Once your combined rating is 30 percent or more, then you can receive additional compensation for dependents. The amount that you receive for VA disability benefits over 30 percent disability increases when you are part of the following categories:
- With spouse, but not dependent parents or children
- With spouse and 1 dependent parent, no children
- With spouse and 2 dependent parents, but no children
- With 1 parent, no spouse or children
- While 2 parents, no spouse or children
- A specified amount for each child under the age of 18
- Added amounts for a child over 18 who is in a qualifying school program
When you qualify for and collect Aid and Attendance coverage, your benefits will also increase when your spouse receives Aid and Attendance compensation.
The VA explains that you can find your basic rate by consulting the basic monthly rates table. You will need to identify your disability rating, and then your dependent status in terms of the number of dependent parents and/or children you have. Consider additional added amounts in the Added amounts table that you might qualify for.
Knowing exactly what benefits you could be entitled to requires a careful review of your service-related conditions and disabilities, and also a thorough knowledge of how the VA determines disability ratings and awards and related compensation. Working with a VA benefits law firm like ours helps ensure you collect the full amount you are entitled to without missing out on compensation you might not otherwise claim.
Example: This example is for a veteran with 0 dependent parents, 3 dependent children, 1 spouse, and the need for Aid and Attendance. If you are a veteran with that family composition and a disability rating of 70 percent, the total monthly payment that you receive would be as follows:
- Basic Rate for 1 spouse, 1 child – $1,907.06
- +$70 for a second child under 18
- +$70 for a third child under 18
- +$130 for spouse who receives Aid and Attendance
- TOTAL: $2,177.06 tax-free compensation per month
The amount in cash compensation you are entitled to will also be complemented by healthcare coverage.
Veterans with service-related health conditions can turn to the Veterans Health Administration. The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, with 1,298 healthcare facilities. These facilities are comprised of 171 medical centers, in addition to 1,113 outpatient care sites known as VHA clinics, which together serve more than 9 million veterans each year.
To apply for VA health care, you’ll need to fill out VA Form 10-10EZ, the Enrollment Application for Health Benefits. VA health care provides care for both physical and mental health. It can include a broad range of services from regular checkups to surgeries, and can also include home care. Veterans who receive health benefits will also receive coverage for medical equipment and prescriptions.
To apply for VA Health Benefits, move through the following steps:
- Check to make sure that you are eligible – the VA has eligibility requirements that you are advised to check before applying.
At Least Some Mental Health Care is Available in All Instances
The VA takes time to highlight the fact that all veterans will receive help from the VHA to be connected to mental health care. Regardless of your service history, discharge status, or eligibility for VA care, the VHA will assist you in receiving mental health care.
VA mental health services are available for veterans suffering from:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- The psychological effects of military sexual trauma (MST)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Other mental health needs
Some of the mental health services offered by the VHA are available to all Veterans, regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in VA health care.
If you are a veteran experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call 988 or text 838255, 24 hours a day any day of the year to connect with the Veteran Crisis Line, or click here to begin a confidential chat with the Veterans Crisis Line. Should you have hearing loss, the TTY number is 800-799-4889. When you make the call you will be connected with a qualified Veterans Crisis Line responder, and receive confidential help. Many of the responders are also veterans.
If you are not interested in reaching out to the Veterans Crisis Line, the VA advises that you:
- Call 911
- Make your way to the nearest emergency room
- Go straight to your nearest VA medical center. Your discharge status or enrollment status at VA healthcare does not matter when you are in a mental health crisis, and the VA advises you to immediately find you nearest VA medical center.
Receiving the mental health support you need is a key focus of the VHA, and your VA disability rating and compensation can include ongoing mental health services to help protect against the need of emergency crisis services.
Compensation for dependents is provided for the veterans’ spouse, as well as dependent children and parents. The amount in compensation that a veteran is entitled to will depend upon how many children under the age of 18 they have, whether they have a spouse and if that spouse receives Aid and Attendance, and also any dependent parents. Having some children over the age of 18 may still result in you being compensated if they are in a qualifying educational program.
Identifying which members of your family qualify for compensation is not necessarily difficult, but it does require paperwork. With one of our VA benefits lawyers helping with your claim, we’ll make sure that you collect the benefits you deserve for your dependents, and handle all the paperwork for you.
You may be eligible for VA education benefits, which are meant to assist veterans, service members, and qualified members of their family with the costs associated with college, training, or career counseling. To collect VA education and training benefits or benefits from the GI bill, you’ll need to determine your eligibility, and then apply for the benefits.
You could be eligible for VA education and training benefits or education coverage under the GI bill if:
- You served on active duty for 90 days or more, whether they were continuous or interrupted, after September 10, 2001. These are benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- Generally, you will use the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty for benefits if you served prior to the dates covered under the Post-9/11 GI Bill
Determining what education benefits are available to you, and how to access them, depends upon your eligibility. To be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, you must:
- Have served at least 2 years on active duty, and
- You were honorably discharged, and
- You’ve got a high school diploma, GED or a minimum of 12 hours of college credit, and
- You meet all other requirements outlined by the Bill
If you served in the Reserves of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or in the Air National Guard, or Army National Guard, you could be eligible for education benefits through the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) if you meet the following requirements:
- You had a 6-year obligation or agreed terms of service in the Selected Service, or
- You are an officer in the Selected Reserve who agreed to serve 6 years in addition to the initial agreed upon service obligation, and
- You meet other requirements outlined by the Bill
VA education benefits include a maximum of 48 months of benefits. These do not include Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) benefits, and the VA notes that many applicants are eligible for only 36 months of education benefits.
How to Access Your Benefits
To access your VA disability benefits, you will need to apply for your VA benefits by doing the following:
Prior to ending your military service you can file a pre-discharge claim, if you are on active duty in the armed forces or serving full-time on National Guard duty:
- You may apply for Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits for service members and veterans through an online application, or by going to your local regional office and turning in a paper application to be processed;
- You may file VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, to begin the process of collecting on the VA disability benefits that you might qualify for.
Your application for VA disability benefits must include specific information in support of your claim. Central to this is evidence of your present medical condition, and the nexus letter that clearly links your current condition to an injury, illness, or event that you experienced in the military. You should also make sure that your service records document that something happened in the service.
The disability benefits that you apply for can be due to the following types of conditions:
- Primary conditions – these are injuries or illnesses that were caused by specific events during your active service, such as a knee injury that leads to partial paralysis.
- Secondary conditions- these conditions are either due to the primary condition that you experienced during active service, such as a back injury resulting from a knee injury, or could be a pre-existing condition that was magnified by your service-related event.
Identifying which benefits are most appropriate to your situation requires a careful review of your medical information, as well as an understanding of what the VA is looking for in the applications that they approve.
Continuing Eligibility and Review
The VA disability ratings that you achieve following the lengthy application process are unfortunately not always permanent. If your disability is not recognized as permanent by the VA, you will need to undergo regular reviews for the VA to evaluate your disability rating. This happens each two to five years, unless the ratings that you have been assigned are protected or permanent.
Maintaining Eligibility for 100 Percent Disability
Following your active service you will be examined within six to 12 months, and then future reexaminations are scheduled each 2 to 5 years thereafter for non-permanent disabilities. For disabilities that are permanent, you will not need to engage in reevaluation. You’ll need to provide current medical evidence in support of your benefits, as many conditions that are non-permanent by the VA can fluctuate in severity. The purpose of your reevaluation is to ensure that your benefits are accurately assigned to your present condition.
Tips on How to Navigate Your VA Benefits Review
Your VA benefits review can be a stressful experience as your compensation depends on the outcome. To effectively navigate your VA benefits review, it is helpful to:
- Be prepared – working with an experienced VA benefits attorney will provide you with the opportunity to learn what will be asked of you, and how to best respond with information relevant to your case
- Provide substantial evidence – one of the best ways to support a positive VA benefits review is by providing significant evidence in support of your position ahead of time, which you can refer to throughout the review
Working with our VA benefits law firm will ensure that you are properly prepared for your VA benefits review, and have all the information you need to maintain your ongoing eligibility.
Connect with a VA Benefits Law Firm for Assistance
To learn how a VA benefits lawyer can help you achieve and maintain an appropriate VA disability rating for your present condition/s, give us a call at 888-495-5774, or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.