The men and women of the armed forces give up a lot to serve our country. Too often, their sacrifice often leads to disabilities related to their military service. In this situation, disabled veterans may be entitled to compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA calculates the amount of disability benefits that a veteran will receive based on its impairment rating table. These charts can be confusing, as a person may have multiple service-connected disabilities. A skilled veterans’ disability lawyer will examine every aspect of your file and put together a strong case for you to receive the highest possible level of disability benefits.
At Bross & Frankel, we advocate for disabled veterans, helping them get the benefits that they deserve after suffering a service-connected disability. We use our experience and knowledge of the system to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome. Give our law office a call today to schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey veterans’ disability benefits attorney.
What Is a VA Impairment Rating?
A VA disability rating is a percentage that is assigned to a service-connected disability. This number is based on the severity of the condition, and ranges from 0 to 100%. As a general rule, the more severe that a disability is, the higher the impairment rating will be – and the more compensation a disabled veteran will receive.
In theory, the VA Impairment Rating Charts provide a way for the VA to provide a consistent level of compensation for veterans with similar physical and mental health conditions. In practice, there is a lot of room for advocacy when it comes to disability ratings. This is particularly true when it comes to veterans with more than one service-connected disability.
After a VA rater assigns an impairment rating, they then calculate the dollar amount that corresponds to that percentage. This figure is based on factors such as whether the veteran is single, married, and has children or dependents.
What Is the VA Impairment Rating Table?
The VA Impairment Rating Chart is also known as the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. It is part of the federal code. This chart is hundreds of pages long, and is broken down into 13 major body systems:
- Musculoskeletal system
- Organs of special sense
- Impairment of auditory acuity
- Respiratory system
- Cardiovascular system
- Digestive system
- Genitourinary system
- Gynecological conditions and disorders of the breast
- Hemic and lymphatic systems
- Endocrine system
- Neurological conditions and convulsive disorders
- Mental disorders
- Dental and oral conditions
Each of these 13 broad categories is then broken down into individual conditions or diseases within that system.
For example, the digestive system contains dozens of ratings for medical conditions, including injuries to the tongue, duodenal ulcers, and irritable colon syndrome. To find your specific rating for a disability of the digestive system, you would need to look at the schedule of ratings for the digestive system and locate your particular diagnosis. From there, you would determine what your rating is based on the severity of your condition.
For ulcerative colitis, for example, there are four potential ratings:
- Pronounced; resulting in marked malnutrition, anemia, and general debility, or with serious complication as liver abscess: 100
- Severe; with numerous attacks a year and malnutrition, the health only fair during remissions: 60
- Moderately severe; with frequent exacerbations: 30
- Moderate; with infrequent exacerbations: 10
Because there are so many different conditions that may qualify for a VA disability rating, and because each condition has unique ratings based on severity, there is not one universal impairment rating chart. In addition, many veterans have more than one service-connected disability, which makes them eligible for a combined disability rating. An experienced veterans disability benefits attorney can help you determine your potential disability rating.
How Can I Get the Highest Possible Disability Rating?
As noted above, many veterans have more than one disability that is related to their military service. In this situation, a skilled disability benefits lawyer can advocate for you to get the highest possible disability rating.
In many cases, the condition that will result in the highest rating isn’t what a veteran would consider their most serious disability. For example, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obstructive sleep apnea may find that their PTSD has a bigger impact on their day-to-day life. Yet the OSA may actually lead to the bigger rating, so their attorney might focus on that rating after that rating to help them get the highest level of benefits.
Another important aspect, is sometimes, a condition is not directly considered by the ratings. When that’s the case, the VA is required to look at the most closely analogous rating. This is where an attorney can advocate by showing that a veteran’s condition is more similar to a rated condition that would result in a higher, rather than a lower rating. This frequently happens with orthopedic conditions that also have radiating pain. Oftentimes, the radiating pain can better support a higher rating under neurological conditions instead of the original orthopedic condition.
At Bross & Frankel, our legal team understands the VA system. In each case, we pursue the ratings that have the most room for advocacy for our clients. This allows them to get the benefits that they deserve for their service-connected disabilities – and helps them move forward with their lives.
Can I Appeal My VA Impairment Rating Decision?
Yes. If you believe that your impairment rating is too low, you can file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the decision. This form lets the VA know that you disagree with some aspect of its decision on your claim, such as giving you a lower impairment rating than you deserve. During an appeal, you can provide proof that you should receive a higher rating.
At this stage of the process, a veterans disability lawyer can represent you with the VA. Your attorney can advocate for you to receive the highest possible rating, which may include seeking a rating on a disability that you may not have considered before. To learn more, contact Bross & Frankel for a free claim review.
What Is a Combined Disability Rating?
If you have more than one service-connected disability, then you will be given a combined disability rating. This rating is not determined by simply adding up your individual ratings. Instead, the VA uses a chart known as the combined ratings table to determine a combined rating for each disabled veteran.
In this situation, it is often helpful to work with an experienced veterans disability lawyer who can fight for you to get the highest possible combined rating. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, contact Bross & Frankel to schedule a free claim review with a member of our team.
What Happens If I Get a 0% Rating?
A 0% disability rating is known as a non-compensable disability. If you receive a 0% rating for a service-connected disability, you are not entitled to cash benefits. However, you may still qualify for other benefits through the VA, such as health care.
If you receive a 0% disability rating and you believe that this was an error, you can appeal this decision. Contact Bross & Frankel to talk to a veterans disability benefits lawyer about your claim and the potential for appealing the VA ratings decision.
Questions about Your VA Impairment Rating? Reach Out Today.
The VA disability benefits system can be hard to understand. While lawyers cannot represent veterans until an initial rating decision is issued, our team can advocate for veterans during the appeals process. We are also happy to offer assistance to veterans on their disability claims.
If you have been diagnosed with a service-connected disability, we are here for you. Our law firm works hard to help our clients get the benefits they need to support themselves and move forward with their lives. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a veterans disability attorney, contact our office today at 856-795-8880 or fill out our online contact form.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.