VA Math- How They Arrive at the Percentages
By Thom Stoddert
I choose my subjects for each issue’s publication from the questions I get from veterans. How the VA arrives at a person’s total rating percentage is obviously not understood. The usual question I hear is; “I am rated at 60% for “X”, 40% for “Y, and 30% for “Z”; so why aren’t they paying me for 130%?”
The simple answer is, there is nothing in the universe that is greater than 100% of itself, anything higher is replication. Ask any mathematician. A more down to earth answer is that you cannot eat more than 100% of a pizza. If you eat half (50%) of the pizza and then go back you can only eat what is remaining, 50% of the original. Therefore the Department of Veteran Affairs has what is sarcastically called ”VA math.”
It is based on the “whole man” concept. The VA rules, laws, and regulations are Federal Law, not their own. Thus the VA looks at the “whole man” or a person’s ability to function in both the economic and social world. The VA looks at the percentage of loss in just those two areas. A 50% rating is to represent a 50% loss of ability to perform in either occupational, social efforts, or both. Another way to say it: a 50% rating attempts to recognize that the veteran has lost 50% of his or her ability to function in a normal world because of their service connected conditions. VA ratings are always multiples of 10, starting with zero.
So going back to VA math; if a vet losses a foot in service, it represents a loss of 40%. This tragedy will slow most people down, but certainly not stop them. However, each person should be looked at individually. A loss of a foot for a roofer is catastrophic, but not for a computer engineer. So there are allowances made for this situation in VA law. A better example of this is a person that has a painful condition which is normally rated at 10%. However, a 10% rating doesn’t illustrate that this veteran relies on narcotics to get through the day. If he is not high on medications, he is then severely distracted by pain. That person is unemployable and rated at 100% (usually temporarily). If the veteran is not playing games with the VA and the evidence supports this scenario, regardless of the rating percentage, he or she is eligible for I/U payment at 100%.These situations are rare for most of us.
For the rest of us; it follows along like this: A veteran gets out of the service with a back injury rated at 40%. The veteran then has 60 parts of his social and economic abilities still intact. The veteran has a second disability rated 30%. This is then calculated for 30% of the 60 remaining parts of the whole man, which subtracts 18 parts from the 60 parts remaining (30% of 60 = 18). He or she then has a total loss of 58 parts of the “whole man” rounded up to a rating of 60%. There are only 42 parts of the whole man left over and rounded off to the nearest ten in which to function in the world of social and occupational efforts. This is why the veteran was not rated and paid at 70%. Another way to look at it: 42 rounded to the nearest ten is 40 and 40 from 100 is 60(%).
Now suppose, and this happens all the time, the back injury results in a loss of feeling in a foot and the VA establishes a rating for this secondary condition of 10%. So the math goes like this: There are only 42 parts of the whole man left; so 10% of 42 is 4.2. This 4.2 is then added to the parts already lost (58) and totals to 62.2 (58 parts plus 4.2 parts is 62.2) The 62.2 is rounded off to 60%. Our veteran is still paid at the 60% level, not 80%.
By now you are swearing under your breath and saying, “How am I, or anyone else, able to figure this out when there are ten medical issues service connected?” Again simple; we built computers to go to the moon, manage your bank account, and run your car. The VA has in its computerized rating program a way that calculates this all out.
One time I took a VA computer and inputted 10% medical ratings about 31 times to get a 100% rating. 10% times 31 equals 310. But you can’t eat 310% of the pizza, nor can you disable 310% of a “whole man.”