How can I get a 100% VA Disability Rating?
Published July 22, 2022
Overall VA disability ratings, a percentage number from 0% – 100%, are used to calculate the amount of monthly disability benefits to veterans who have current medical or physical conditions that are service-related. You can get the maximum overall 100% VA disability rating in several ways, which are explained below.
What is a VA Disability Rating, and what does it mean?
To recap, an individual VA disability rating is a percentage assigned to each service-connected disability for which a VA disability benefits claim has been made. This VA disability rating number is assigned within the initial decision in the VA disability process and may be modified over time upon changed conditions. Using a scale of 0-100%, a VA disability rating reflects a rough estimate of how serious a disability is, but it is not randomly assigned. The VA maintains criteria lists for various conditions listing the symptoms and level of interference with your work and home life that meet each percentage level. Whatever level your condition most closely matches will be the assigned VA disability rating. If the VA doesn’t have a specific criteria list for your condition, they will use the closest condition (sometimes called an analogous rating).
An overall VA disability rating is based upon a complex mathematical process where individual VA disability ratings are combined into a single number. That number is used to calculate monthly benefit payment amounts.
How can I get a 100% VA Disability Rating?
There are three ways to get a 100% VA disability rating – a single service-connected disability rating of 100%, an overall (or combined) service-connected disability rating of 100% (these two are referred to as “schedular ratings”), or a TDIU (Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability) rating which is treated as 100%.
A schedular rating of 100% means that you meet the conditions of a 100% disability rating according to the criteria for a single condition or by combining your ratings for more than one disability. Now before you start adding up your VA disability ratings for a number of at least 100%, be aware that the VA’s math for combined ratings is not simple addition. There are charts you have to use to combine numbers, or you can use our benefits calculator.
A TDIU rating (Total Disability Individual Unemployability) is the third way to get the benefits of a 100% disability rating, even though it isn’t referred to as a 100% disability rating. A veteran is entitled to be paid at the 100% disability rating if they can establish that their service-connected disability[ies] preclude them from maintaining gainful employment.
A TDIU rating does not require any particular schedular rating for the veteran to qualify. If any one or more service-connected disabilities prevent the veteran from maintaining gainful employment (defined as being over the federal poverty level), that can qualify them for a TDIU rating. With this rating, the veteran can receive the same monthly benefit payments amount as a veteran with a 100% disability rating.
Is my VA Disability Rating permanent?
Usually, no. Your VA disability rating may change over time if your condition worsens and occasionally if your condition improves. You can increase an individual VA disability rating by appealing an underrated decision, which you believe was erroneously assigned too low of a percentage rating to your disability. However, your VA disability rating can be deemed permanent if the VA determines you have a finding of a “permanent” disability, which generally means they do not see the possibility of improvement.
There are some rules the VA follows the offer permanence to include (1) After ten years, your service connection will not be severed (often called the “10-year rule”), (2) after five years, the VA will not call you in for a re-exam (often called the “5-year rule”, and (3) after the age of 55 the VA will generally not call you in for a re-exam (often called the “55 yr old rule”).
Bear in mind that if you seek an increased disability rating after the one-year appeal timeframe has expired, it will be treated in some ways as a new claim, reopening the examination of the appropriate disability rating number. The VA could decide that the rating should be lowered.
Is it necessary to have a 100% VA Disability Rating?
Having a 100% VA disability rating can trigger certain benefits that aren’t available at lower disability rating levels. This is true for other disability ratings too. For example, a 30% VA disability rating triggers consideration of your family members (spouse, children, parents) in calculating monthly benefit amounts.
Similarly, a 100% VA disability rating is required as a prerequisite to other benefits through the VA, such as Priority Group 1 assignment for health care, availability of emergency care outside of VA, dental, vision, and hearing care, and other benefits.
Having a 100% VA disability rating may also open up the possibility of various benefits from other sources. For example, in California, various VA disability ratings trigger availability of things such as reduced cost of hunting and fishing licenses, waiver of business license fees, free tuition for children at state schools, and more.
Can I appeal my VA Disability Rating?
Yes, within one year of the decision letter from the VA on VA disability claims, the veteran can appeal any aspect of that decision, including your VA disability rating.
The VA disability claim process includes an appeal process. Your VA disability appeal (or decision review) can take three different formats of review. A Higher Level Review requests a more experienced examiner to review your claim file. A Supplemental Claim allows you to add new information to your file, perhaps medical records, service records, or witness statements. A Board Review allows you to have a live hearing with a judge (and you also get a window of time for submitting new evidence, if needed).
VA claim appeals can be confusing. Deciding which type of appeal process is best for your case should be discussed with a VA disability attorney. An experienced VA disability claim attorney has handled hundreds, or thousands, of appeals similar to yours, and they can help you navigate the sometimes complex process.
Do you believe that you should have a 100% VA Disability Rating? Are you within the one-year window to seek an appeal to increase your rating? Veterans Law Group has successfully handled veteran disability appeals since 1996 and recovered over $100M in back pay for benefits. Maybe they can help you too. Click here for a free evaluation of your case.