Updated: Jul 28, 2021

Everyone knows that 20 plus 30 equals 50 but for veterans with disability ratings, math is

different. For example, 20 plus 30 might only equal 44, which rounds down to 40. Or it might

equal 48.4, which rounds up to 50. Confusing isn’t it? Welcome to VA Math!

What Do Disability Ratings Express?

The first thing to keep in mind is what your disability represents. Basically, the VA takes each

injury or illness separately into consideration and gives it a numerical disability rating. Each

rating is denoted by a percentage that can be divided by 10, ex. 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, etc.

These are put into racks and stacked, afterwards, the VA does “VA Math” to find the overall

disability rate. A good way to look at this is how the disabilities have affected your ability to

work and perform daily tasks.

Example: You are a n

ormal 40-year-old retiree with no service-connected injuries or

illnesses, this makes your efficiency rate 100%. Now let’s say, you retired from the military

after 20 years of service and had some service-connected disabilities. For instance, you

twisted your knee while you were in service and have had arthroscopic surgery. Yet, you still

have stiffness and pain in your knee, for this, the VA gives you a 10% service-connected

disability rating. Let’s say this is your only service-connected disability rating, your service-

connected disability rating would be 10%. This number is chosen by looking at your

efficiency, which is 90% (efficiency rating of 100, times 10% disability rating = 10%. You

subtract 10% from 100% and end up with 90%). But, the math is simple when you have only

one disability, the more services connected ratings you have, the complicated the math gets.

How Does The VA Rate Various Disabilities?

To explain this in a somewhat understandable way we will take an example of a 40-year-old

military retiree, oth

er than his knee, let’s add some more injuries:

● 10% for hearing loss.

● 20% rating for a right shoulder injury

● 30% rating for a back injury, and

● 10% rating for his right knee

Now For The Math

The VA uses a descending scale for its calculation. It will rate each injury or illness giving

them each a numerical number. The VA will start with the highest rating to find the overall

rating, working its way down. So, you start with an efficiency rating of 100 and work your way

down, each new disability giving you a new base-line.

We will start by racking and stacking disabilities. Taking the above example into account,

let’s start with the highest number being 30%, then add 20%, then the 10%, and then the last

10%. Here is the VA Combined Ratings Table which we will use to complete our


We take the 30% disability first, look at the Combined Rating Table and scroll down the left

column until you find the number 30. After going to the right column until you find the number

20, then 30, and 20 combined to make 44. If those are your only ratings, you would have a

44% Va service-co

nnected disability rating which will be rounded down to 40%. But, we

aren’t done as we still have two 10% ratings.

Start on the left column again, this time looking for number 44 in the left column. Then find

the junction point with the 44 and 10. Your new rating is 50%. Repeat this step one more

time starting with 50 and joining with 10. Your new rating is 55% which will be rounded to


How Does This Add Up?

You start with your efficiency rate of 100, multiply it by your disability rating, then subtract the

result from your original rating. In this example, you will multiply 30% times 100, and get 30.

You subtract that from 100 and get 70, making your new efficiency rating 70 and your

disability rating 30. Here is the starting point for new calculations, you repeat the process for

the next rating. Take 20%, multiply it by 70, come up with 14, subtract 14 from 70, and get

56. You will come up with your efficiency rating, 56, and your new disability rating of 44.

How Bilateral Disabilities Impact Your Rating

What Is The Bilateral Factor?

The Bilateral Factor is considered when a veteran has a disability on both limbs, such as

both arms, legs, or paired skeletal muscles. Although, they don’t need to occur on both

knees to be considered bilateral. A left foot disability and a right knee disability satisfy the

requirement the injuries be on both legs. With the Bilateral Factor, the VA combines two or

more ratings, adds

a bilateral factor in the end, and views them as one rating when using the

Combined Rating Table.

Let’s explain with the example of before and add another knee disability, one on each leg,

making it qualify for the bilateral factor. According to the VA’s Combined Rating Table, the

disability rating for each rating was 10%, but when combined, they become 21%. Below is

how the Bilateral Factor will be applied:

New Example With Bilateral Factor

10% disability combined with another 10% = 19%,

Then you add 10% of 19 or 1.9%.

19% + 1.9% = 20.9%, which will be rounded to 21%.

The combined rating for both knees now is 21%, and the VA will use that percentage as the

rating for those disabilities. It is probable to have more than two disabilities connected in the

bilateral factor.

● 10% for hearing loss.

● 20% rating for a right shoulder injury

● 30% rating for a back injury, and

● 21% (10% rating for the left knee, and 10% rating for the right knee, with bilateral

factor im


We start with a 21% rating and a 30% rating using the table, taking us to 45. Follow the left

column down to 45 and see where it joins with 20. You get 56. Repeat the process for 56

and 10, and you will get 60. The overall service-connected disability rating for this veteran is

exactly 60%.

The previous math was 55% rounded to 60%, but this time we have the perfect 60%. It will

take more disabilities with a greater percentage to move the needle as your disability

percentage increases. This is the influence of the math the VA uses to determine disability


If you need help getting a service connection please contact us or book

Va Math

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