Learn how veterans disability compensation is based on your level of disability, when additional payments are available for dependents, and tips to receive the proper rating for your disability.

In order to receive veterans disability compensation, you must first establish that you have a disability stemming from your military service. Once an eligible condition is identified, your level of disability will be scaled by the VA from 0% to 100%, depending on how much it interferes with your normal life functions.

Benefits Begin at the 10% Disability Rating

Monthly benefits are paid to veterans with a disability rating of at least 10%. A 0% rating acknowledges that you have a disability, but that it is not sufficient to entitle you to receive benefits. Even if you receive a rating from 0% – 9% today, it is still worthwhile to have established your claim. If the condition later worsens, you will be glad to have all of the documentation in order.

Payments are graduated according to the degree of disability, from 10% – 100%. A 100% rating means the condition is so disabling that the vet can’t hold steady employment.

The current base payment rates for a veteran with no dependents begins at $134 per month (tax-free) for vets with a 10% disability rating, up to $2,916 for those with a 100% rating. More benefits above this base rate can be provided for veterans who have dependents, and for veterans with certain significant injuries. The  table of benefits is as follows:

2016 Disability Payment Monthly Base

Rates for Veterans with No Dependents

10 percent: $134

20 percent: $264

30 percent: $409*

40 percent: $589*

50 percent: $839*

60 percent: $1,062*

70 percent:  $1,339*

80 percent:  $1,556*

90 percent:  $1,749*

100 percent:  $2,916*

The asterisks at the 30% and higher ratings reflect the fact that at those levels, veterans may receive an additional allowance for any dependents. For example, a disabled veteran with a spouse and one child under 18 with a 30% disability rating receives $493 per month, and at a 100% rating would receive $3,197 per month.

One state estimates that the majority of its veterans receiving disability benefits have a disability rating of from 10% to 30%. The highest rating levels typically are assigned to veterans with multiple conditions. The DVA uses a combined rating system to provide one overall rating for someone with more than one disability. According to the DVA, the determination is “based on the evidence you submit as part of your claim, or that VA obtains from your military records.”

If your condition makes it nearly impossible to work, but your rating comes back less than 100%, you can look into the “Individual Unemployability” category. Veterans that are shown to be unemployable can receive a 100% disability rating and therefore the highest compensation rate.

Additional payment details

In some cases, other types of assistance being paid out to veterans may offset the level of disability payment.  You may get paid less for your disability because they will take other VA compensation into account.  These offsets include retirement pay from the military, disability severance pay, Special Separation Benefits and Voluntary Separation Incentives.

Veterans disability compensation is a tax-free monthly payment. Most Veterans receive their disability payments via direct deposit to their bank or credit union account. You can also choose to have your benefits mailed by paper check, or sent via a prepaid debit card — even if you do not have a bank account.

How can I be sure they rate my disability accurately?

The best way to ensure that you receive the proper rating for your disability is to file a well-detailed claim backed up with solid evidence. Experts advise that when you apply, focus less on naming your condition than on listing all of your symptoms. The VA is obligated to follow-up on each symptom listed, and those symptoms may point to more or different conditions than you were aware of. This will help them assign the most accurate rating for your disability.

Also, be aware that if you are receiving compensation for a disability and that condition worsens, you can apply to have your claim evaluated for an increase in the disability rate. The DVA emphasizes the importance of fully developing your claim. 

I am rated 40% by the VA for one disability and 10% for another; why isn’t my overall rating 50%?

If a VA compensation claim results in a benefit approval, the VA will assign a disability rating. A VA benefit award can result in a combination of several disabilities, which are rated at different percentages.

For example, a veteran can have one rating of 40% for a back injury, a rating of 10% for tinnitus, and a rating of 20% for a knee injury. The combined rating is not the sum of the individual ratings.In this example, the combined rating is not 70% (i.e., the total of each individual rating, 40% + 10% + 20%). Rather the combined rating is 60%.

The combined rating is based upon a series of calculations, which the VA describes as the efficiency to perform work factor. The calculations begin with sorting the individual rating percentages descending from the highest to the lowest rating. In the example under consideration, you sort the percentages descending from  40% to 20% to 10%. Then, subtract the highest from 100% (which results in 60%).

When the VA establishes that the veteran is 40% disabled for the back injury, that veteran has a remaining efficiency to perform work at a 60% level. Then, looking at the example, the veteran is 20% disabled from the knee injury. The next calculation takes this efficiency into account. According to the VA, the veteran can only perform 20% times the 60% of the remaining efficiency,  which is 12%. The VA adds this remaining efficiency rating to the first rating of 40%, which results in a combined rating of 52%.

The next step is to account for the 10% rating for tinnitus. The VA subtracts the result of the last step 52% from 100%, which gives us the remaining efficiency to perform work of 48%. The VA multiplies 48% times 10%, which produces 4.8%, rounded up to 5%. They then add the first stage combined rating of 52% to the second stage of 5%. The total is 57%. The final number is rounded up to 60%. It is not the 70% rating that you would have anticipated it to be by simply adding all three ratings together.

If the example considered here had had more than three individual ratings, then more calculations would have been needed to take into account the efficiency to perform work for the other additional individual ratings.