Service Connection

Why Don't My Service Connected Evaluations Add Up?

When VA grants a claim for service connection, each service-connected disability is assigned a percentage according to VA’s rating schedule. If a veteran is service-connected for multiple disabilities, the combined evaluation determines that rate at which the veteran is paid. Many veterans are surprised that the combined evaluation is not always equal to the sum of the individual evaluations. This is because VA uses the combined ratings table. The premise behind the combined ratings table is that a veteran cannot be more than 100 percent disabled, therefore each additional disability is detracting from the remaining ability rather than simply adding to the disability.

For example, a veteran who is 60 percent disabled is 40 percent not disabled. If that veteran is awarded another 10 percent disability evaluation, then VA will take 10 percent of the remaining 40 percent and consider the veteran 64 percent disabled and 34 percent not disabled. This 64 percent would be rounded down and the veteran would be paid at the 60 percent rate. If a veteran were 60 percent disabled and received an additional 20 percent disability evaluation, VA would consider the veteran 68 percent disabled and 32 percent not disabled. This evaluation would be rounded up to 70 percent. So according to VA math, 60 percent plus 10 percent is 60 percent, while 60 percent plus 20 percent is 70 percent.

The higher the evaluation, the more it takes to get to the next level. For example, if a veteran is service connected at 90 percent, it would take five additional 10 percent disabilities to reach 95 percent disabled, which would round up to a 100 percent evaluation.

Do I Qualify for VA Benefits?

There are a number of benefit programs administered by  the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the most well known is the program that pays veterans for disabilities incurred in service.  This benefit is commonly referred to as service connected compensation. In order to prove entitlement to this benefit, a veteran must demonstrate:

1) an in-service event, injury or exposure;

2) a current disability; and

3) a link between the in-service event and the current disability.  

To apply for service connection for the first time one must complete VA Form 21-526 and submit it to VA.  VA will obtain your service treatment records and ask you to identify current medical records.  If there is evidence of the claimed condition in your service treatment records and evidence of a current disability, VA will schedule an examination to obtain a medical opinion as to whether the in-service event or injury is related to the current disability.  The outcome of this examination will likely determine the outcome of the claim. A veteran may seek his or her own medical opinion to prove that a link exists between service and the current disability. This medical opinion must be worded in a specific way or VA will disregard it. VA will almost invariably decide the claim based on the results of the VA examination.

If you disagree with the outcome of your claim you have one year to file an appeal or a request for reconsideration.  If you fail to appeal or request reconsideration within one year you may still reopen your claim at a later date, but you will need to present new and relevant evidence (evidence relevant to some unproven aspect of your claim) in order to do so.