The VA has a massive listing of medical conditions and disabilities, along with rules and conditions that ultimately result in the assignment of a disability rating. You can see the entire list online at www.warms.vba.va.gov/bookc.html. The Schedule for Ratings Disabilities can be found in Part 4 of Title 38.
The ability to overcome a disability varies widely among individuals. The VA rating schedule is based primarily on how much the earning capacity is reduced due to the disability. The VA does not consider the veteran’s personal ability to overcome the disability when it determines employability and compensation.
Sometimes the disability rating schedule calls for a disability rating of less than 100 percent disabled, but due to individual circumstances, the VA determines that the veteran is unemployable. In such cases, the VA may award disability compensation equal to 100 percent. This can be done only under certain circumstances, however. The basic rules are:
In the VA’s opinion, the veteran’s service-connected disability must prevent him from landing or keeping a decent-paying job.
If a veteran has only one service-connected disability, it must be rated at 60 percent or more.
If a veteran has two or more service-connected disabilities, at least one of the disabilities must be rated at 40 percent or more, and the combined disability rating (see the next section) must be at least 70 percent or more.
It is possible to have more than one service-connected medical condition or disability, each with its own rating. Rather than simply adding the two numbers together, the VA has a system to determine the total rating.
According to the VA, a person cannot be more than 100 percent disabled, even with multiple disabilities each rated at 100 percent. The VA rates a disability or combination of disabilities based on how it would affect the average person’s employability. A person with 100 percent disability is considered completely unemployable.
The VA uses a chart that, when properly used, results in a combined disability rating.
Combined Disability Rating
If you have a disability rating awarded by the VA for a service-connected condition (see “Determining Your Disability Rating” earlier in the chapter), you are eligible for monthly (tax-free) disability compensation from the government. The amount of basic benefits paid ranges from $117 to $2,527 per month (2008 rates), depending on how disabled you are.
Unless you’re rated as 10 or 20 percent disabled, you receive higher compensation for dependents (spouse, children, and dependent parents), and even more if your spouse is seriously disabled and requires special aid and assistance (A/A) in the home.