Military disability made easy: What the U.S. military disability benefits cover

War is a sensitive topic to talk about for many who have served and seen how much gets destroyed and eradicated while fighting one. It is even worse for those that get permanent disabilities due to injuries they bear during their time. This is why military disability made easy might not be the right phrase to go about the assistance veterans get after they come back from serving.

However, a veteran serves in the army on behalf of the country and people. Providing monetary assistance to those who suffer permanent damage to their body as a result of protecting their country is the decent treatment they deserve. Nobody should have to serve and fight in the first place, but it is a reality we cannot eradicate. Therefore, the government has several programs that are in place to provide financial assistance to veterans, those currently serving, and their families.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and The Department of Defense (DoD) are the two main government-associated authorities that look after it. There is something known as VA Math that is the accumulation of military disability ratings given out by the rating authorities. The military disability rating is a rate given to a veteran that combines different conditions they have that might be applicable for military disability benefits.

Military disability made easy

Different medical conditions have different rates assigned to them in percentages. Some veterans have more than one condition after their service, this can include both physical and mental conditions. The rate reflects how much a particular condition affects a person’s ability to work or socialize, in case of physical disability or mental disability respectively.

If you or someone you know is a veteran with a military-related disability, caused specifically due to service given in the military the rate can be directly applied to you. But as someone suffering from more than one condition, you will need the VA math to combine those different conditions. The combined rating will then determine what military disability benefits you are eligible for.

VA math is used for both VA Disability and DoD Disability that covers veterans and current service members in duty respectively. The math is not as direct as adding all different conditions’ ratings together to form one rating that would just give you how many benefits a person is eligible for. Instead, it can be slightly complicated, but not entirely difficult once you get the hang of how it works. Let’s look at a few examples:

How do you combine different disability rates using VA math?

To start, VA math is only concerned when there is more than one condition an individual has. If there is just one condition, they will directly be applicable for its rating based on whichever system of rating is used.

Now if there is, however, more than one condition an individual has, the entirety of VA math rules will be applied to them. Each condition of disability has its rating in percentage but when combined, the percentage that comes is not equal to the service member, rather what is left after all the other percentages are subtracted. It can be confusing, let’s work with some numbers to find out what’s going on.

Assume the following. X is a person. X’s entire body is 100% in terms of rating. X has two conditions due to their service in the military, a knee injury and a back injury. According to the rating system, knee injury comes to 30% and back injury to 25%. These are not actual figures, just part of the assumption.

When you say combined rating in VA math, it sounds like all those ratings would be added to bring one concrete figure. Well, that’s not how it works. The first step in the process is to start with the largest rating in the list of conditions, i.e knee injury at 30%. This 30% will be subtracted from 100%, which was the total body rate. Use whatever is the highest rate in your case. 100 minus 30 comes to 70%.

Next up, instead of simply subtracting 25% from the rating as the first step, we will have to calculate the 25% of 70(remaining rating after the first subtraction). 25% of 70 (.25 x 70) = 17.5. Now you can minus 70 and 17.5, which comes to 52.5. This is what X’s total body is amounting to, it is now at 52.5% instead of 100%. The combined rate however is 30% + 17.5 = 47.5%. This is an example with just two conditions to keep things simple enough for you, there can and usually are more than two conditions of disability. You need to make sure you account for each of them exactly how we did in the above example.

Lastly, the final combined rate is rounded out to the nearest 10, and 47.5% comes to 50%. X’s total disability is at 50%. If the rate was below 45%, it would be rounded to 40%, which seems not as reasonable, but it’s how the rules apply.

Let’s see another similar example of Billy, he has three conditions with their ratings.


Hope this table clears out any confusion you had about the calculation of the combined rate. Sometimes the list of conditions a veteran has can be unfortunately lengthy, and they are also applicable for more benefits accordingly.

Let’s take another more complicated and lengthy example to clear out any last confusion. Michelle is another veteran with different conditions post service including, right elbow triceps tendonitis (30%), tinnitus (20%),  gastroesophageal reflux disorder GERD (10%), left ulnar neuropathy (10%), stress fracture of right foot (30%), and cervical spine DDD (0%). This is an upsettingly long list, but very much likely to happen to service members. Let’s look at Michelle’s combined rate:

How do you combine different disability rates using VA math

As demonstrated, you always go from highest to lowest in terms of rating. And not all conditions you suffer from might be covered by the authorities in terms of remuneration.

What is the Bilateral factor?

A commonly asked question regarding the VA math process is about the bilateral factor. The Bilateral factor is an addition in the combined rate of a vet based on both of their arms or legs suffering from a rated condition. By rated condition, it is meant that both the conditions are the result of service in the military.

In this case, it doesn’t matter even if one of those conditions is rated at 0% in the entire equation. The idea behind this added rate is to address the fact that if one of the limbs is suffering from a condition, the other one also having a condition would make things worse for you. If you have the other limb to rely on, you have something to still back you up in your quality of life, but both limbs being affected is much worse. Now there are several different situations in which the bilateral factor applies:

  • Firstly, the conditions in both the arms or legs do not have to be identical for the bilateral factor to apply. If you look at it through the lens of why this factor is applied in the first place, it does not matter what condition affects your arms or legs. If different conditions are affecting your arms or legs, your quality of life will still suffer the same.
  • Another condition is if one of your feet and the other hip each have a condition, the bilateral factor still applies. Because the entire thing means your lower part is affected on both sides. If all four extremities in your body each have a condition, each of those conditions will be calculated with its rate before the final bilateral rate is applied.
  • The bilateral factor and its concerning conditions are always calculated first in VA math even if you have a condition with a higher rating. You calculate the ratings of each bilateral condition, add them then calculate 10% of that as the bilateral factor, and continue with any other conditions.

How it works is that instead of 10% directly being added to the total rate as any other condition, 10% of the total bilateral conditions is calculated and the value is added to the combined rate. All the conditions are added and 10% of that total rating is calculated to add to the combined rating. Let’s look at an example to make sure

What is the Bilateral factor

Just as was stated above, the bilateral conditions will be calculated first, regardless of the rate of other conditions. As shown, Sally has a bilateral condition in her feet, thus both of them will be calculated at the start. After you have combined the two ratings from both bilateral conditions, calculate 10% of that total combined rating. In this case, 10% of 28 comes to 2.8. Which is then added to 28% as the bilateral factor value, bringing the total to 30.8%. Once you have your overall bilateral condition rating, you can start the entire process just as regular VA math, with the highest rating, and add the bilateral condition as one whole rating, as shown in the table.

This is how the math part helps aid the military disability made easy sentiment for veterans and current service members. The benefits are an important part of how the state treats its people, who dedicate their lives to the country’s cause.

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