Author’s Note: Click this link or visit the very bottom of this blog’s home page to use my online Disability and Bilateral Percentage Calculators. This tool is still in development, and the bi-lateral calculation functionality is brand new. I would appreciate any feedback or compatibility issues you may have.
A very common complaint that I hear from my clients is regarding the lack of transparency in the math that is employed when creating a composite disability percentage rating. The reason for much of this confusion centers on disability percentages not being added together, but rather applied sequentially to the residual capacity that the Veteran retains. The law that governs the calculations of these numbers may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 38 CFR 4.25.
Intuition might tell us that if a Veteran is 50% disabled from heart conditions, and 50% disabled from a back problem that he or she would be 100% disabled, but this is not the case. When applied sequentially to the Veteran’s remaining capacity, the heart condition would leave the Veteran with 50% remaining capacity to work, and then the back problem would remove 50% of the remaining capacity. As such, the composite disability percentage would be 75%, which would then be rounded up to the nearest “10”, rendering a rating of 80%. In the example above, the math works as follows:
100% - Capacity before disability
x 50% - Heart Disability
=50% - Remaining Capacity
x 50% - Back Disability
=75% - New Remaining Capacity
=80% - Composite Disability Rating (Rounding 75% to the nearest “10”)
In the context of applying for a rating increase or TDIU (Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability) knowing these numbers is vital to Veterans. Due to the rounding that occurs in the final step of the process, certain ratings increases or achieving new ratings may unlock additional health benefits, but will have little or no impact on the overall rating. Knowing what percentage is needed to achieve the next milestone should offer some guidance regarding the information and evidence that will need to be provided to the VA.
This blog, and the information herein is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For more information about your particular situation, please contact VA Disability Attorney Thomas C. O’Brien.