3 Types of 100% VA Disability
If you served in the US military and sustained or worsened an injury or medical condition in the line of duty, you’re eligible to apply for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In many cases, veterans can claim multiple conditions and qualify for up to a 100% VA disability rating, thus earning maximum compensation as well as other valuable benefits which we’ll cover below.
This guide will reveal three common ways you can qualify for a 100% VA disability rating. Before we explore the process of how to earn 100% disability benefits, let’s briefly review the factors that the VA uses to assign disability ratings.
- 3 Types of 100% VA Disability
- How to Get a VA Disability Rating
- VA Math and Combined Ratings
- How to Receive a 100% VA Disability Rating
- How to Increase from 90% to 100% VA Disability
- Can VA disability compensation go beyond a 100% VA rating?
- 7 Best Ways to a 100% VA Rating
- Need More Assistance?
- About the Author
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How to Get a VA Disability Rating
A VA claim can be a challenging and confusing process for many veterans. Figuring out how to fully document and develop your claim with the right medical evidence, how to handle your Compensation and Pension exam, and push past denials can be overwhelming. That’s why we provide support and coaching to veterans who want someone experienced to walk them through the process from start to finish.
If you’re working your way through the process yourself, you might want to review our post How to File a VA Claim to make sure you cover the bases if you’re just getting started.
In short, the VA reviews disability claims to assess whether a veteran’s medical condition is “service-connected” (at least as likely as not caused or worsened by military service) or not.
Our in-depth article What is a Service-Connected Disability? A Veteran’s Guide to Service-Connecting Disability Conditions provides all the information you need to understand this important aspect of your claims.
To win a VA disability compensation claim, you will always need to provide three elements:
- a medical diagnosis or illness or injury,
- a connection (nexus) between this diagnosis and your active-duty military service (nexus),
- medical evidence of recurring or persistent symptoms
If the condition is found to be connected to your military service, the VA then assigns a disability rating percentage. These ratings, called “schedular” ratings, are given in increments of 10%, all the way up to the highly-sought-after 100%. Each percentage corresponds to a base level of compensation. Compensation is also adjusted based on the number of dependents you’re responsible for, and other factors.
VA uses the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to assign diagnostic codes and disability ratings for service-connected condition(s). The criteria for each rating describe symptoms and/or treatments for a specific condition.
Generally, the more severe a disability is, the higher the disability rating will be. For ratings between 10 and 100 percent, the monthly benefit increases incrementally with each higher rating. 100% is the highest possible schedular disability rating there is and provides the maximum schedular benefit in monthly compensation.
A 0 percent rating offers no monthly monetary compensation, but it’s still important to get rated for your disabilities even if you start at 0%. The 0% comes with eligibility for other benefits, including VA health care. It also allows you to increase your rating if the disability worsens over time (which is easier if your disability is already service-connected), and file for secondary disabilities.
Once you’ve filed a claim, the VA will contact you to request more information or to notify you of their decision, based on the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities and the information you submitted with your claim. The decision will state one of the following:
- Your injury IS NOT service-connected;
- Your injury IS service-connected BUT doesn’t qualify for compensation ( you receive a VA disability rating of “0);
- Your injury IS service-connected AND qualifies for compensation (you receive a VA disability rating of 10% or more).
The current 2022 disability compensation rates for a veteran without dependents is as follows:
- 10% disability rating — $152.64 per month
- 20% disability rating — $301.74 per month
- 30% disability rating — $467.39 per month
- 40% disability rating — $673.28 per month
- 50% disability rating — $958.44 per month
- 60% disability rating — $1,214.03 per month
- 70% disability rating — $1,529.95 per month
- 80% disability rating — $1,778.43 per month
- 90% disability rating — $1,998.52 per month
- 100% disability rating — $3,332.06 per month
A 100% disability rating generally denotes a medical condition that is completely and totally disabling, leaving the individual with no expectation of finding gainful employment.
For more on 2022 VA disability compensations rates, see our post 2022 VA Disability Rates Explained: The Insider’s Guide (with Official 5.9% COLA Increase).
VA Math and Combined Ratings
The VA has its own way of doing math when it comes to determining disability ratings. Things are fairly straightforward when there’s only a single rated disability, but if there are two or more, it can get complicated.
We recommend reviewing our easy-to-follow article on VA Combined Ratings to learn more about how that process works. For more on “VA math” and how your ratings are calculated by the VA, please also see our easy-to-use VA Disability Ratings Calculator.
How to Receive a 100% VA Disability Rating
Now that you’ve gotten a refresher on how the VA rating process works in general, it’s time to get to the part you’ve been waiting for—how to receive a 100% VA disability rating. We’ll look at three common avenues and let you decide which one applies best to your unique situation.
1. VA Schedular Ratings
There are two basic paths to receiving a 100% schedular disability rating:
- You have a single, service-connected disability rated at 100%, or;
- You have more than one such disability, with a combined rating of 100%.
Again, the criteria for such ratings is listed on the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. It pays to dig into these materials so you can understand what information the VA adjudicators and examiners take into consideration when determining your rating.
It’s important to understand that veterans who receive a 100% schedular rating can still work. Receiving 100% VA disability pay in this instance doesn’t exempt you from paid employment. However, the next avenue we’ll look at does relate to your employment (or lack thereof).
2. Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
What if you have a service-connected disability or disabilities that are so severe, you actually can’t work any longer? In that case, you should be eligible for the VA’s Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit.
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) represents an alternative pathway to get to a 100 percent disability rating. It allows you to be compensated at VA’s 100 percent disability rate, even if your combined schedular rating does not equal 100 percent.
If your circumstances support it, this can offer an easier alternative to achieving a 100% rating than attempting a 100% schedular rating.
TDIU is awarded when you’re unable to maintain “substantially gainful employment” as a result of your service-connected conditions.
“Substantially gainful employment” in this case refers to whether your annual income meets or exceeds the federal poverty threshold for a single person.
VA considers jobs that result in annual income less than that of the federal poverty threshold to be “marginal employment.” The VA does not consider “marginal employment” to be substantially gainful. Therefore, veterans who are engaging in marginal employment are eligible for TDIU.
The VA states:
“You may be eligible for [Individual Unemployability] disability benefits if you meet both of these requirements. Both of these must be true:
- “You have at least 1 service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling, or 2 or more service-connected disabilities—with at least 1 rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more—and
- “You can’t hold down a steady job that supports you financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of your service-connected disability. Odd jobs (marginal employment) don’t count.”
The VA’s TDIU regulations are described under 38 CFR § 4.16, subsections (a) and (b). Each subsection details ways to meet the eligibility requirements for TDIU.
In order to qualify for TDIU under 38 CFR § 4.16(a), or schedular TDIU, a veteran must have:
- One service-connected condition rated at 60 percent or higher; or
- Two or more service-connected conditions, one of which is rated at 40 percent or higher, with a combined disability rating of 70 percent or higher.
Filing for TDIU
Technically, the VA should consider whether TDIU is applicable based on your claim and the records provided. But you can also apply for TDIU directly if you think you’re eligible and the VA has not considered TDIU in your case.
To file for Individual Unemployability benefits, you’ll need to submit a regular disability claim along with these extra forms:
- VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability
- VA Form 21-4192, Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits
You’ll need supporting evidence such as employment records, income statements, and education history. The goal is to show the VA concrete proof that your disability prevents you from working.
Many veterans believe that receiving TDIU means they cannot work at all. This isn’t true. It’s important to note that you can still perform limited paid work while still receiving TDIU. The question is not whether you’re working, but whether your income meets poverty guidelines.
There are circumstances in which you may still be eligible for TDIU even if you do earn more than the federal poverty threshold. If your employer provides “extensive and unreasonable accommodations” then your workplace may be considered a protected work environment. A protected work environment offers another situation in which you can be employed and still receive TDIU.
As with schedular disability ratings of 100%, TDIU is not automatically permanent, but it can be granted permanent status. You’ll need to apply for permanent status and prove to the VA that your service-connected condition(s) are unlikely to improve over time, making you permanently unemployable.
3. Permanent and Total (P&T) Disability
A third option for disabled veterans is known as the 100% Permanent and Total disability rating, or 100% P&T.
As the name suggests, this rating applies to persons who have a service-connected medical condition or conditions that are severe and unlikely to improve. As the VA puts it:
“The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) considers certain veterans as permanently and totally disabled when their service-connected disabilities meet specific requirements. The disabilities must be permanent, or reasonably certain to continue for the rest of the veterans’ lives. The disabilities must also be totally disabling, which means VBA evaluated the disabilities as 100 percent disabling or the disabilities prevent veterans from securing and maintaining Employment.”
It’s worth noting that P&T ratings must not be “the result of the veteran’s own willful misconduct, whether or not they are service-connected.”
Do you have to apply for 100% P&T?
If the VA does not make a finding of permanent and total disability based on the records of your case, you can apply for it directly.
How do you know if your rating is permanent (P&T?)?
There are a few ways you might be notified if your 100% rating is permanent and total. Most often, it will be indicated in the decision letter giving you your disability rating. There may be a “Permanent and Total” box checked on your rating decision.
Other ways you can determine that your 100% rating is P&T is with language such as “no future exams are scheduled” or “eligibility to Dependents Chapter 35 DEA/CHAMPVA are established. Exact language can vary depending on your regional office.
How permanent is 100 P%T? Can it be reversed?
The VA states that a P&T rating entitles veterans to “payment at the 100 percent disability rate for life” and that “the status is not typically reevaluated.” The authority on this is Title 38 U.S.C. 3501(a)(8)).
If a 100 percent rating is in place for 20 years or more, VA is not going to reduce that rating unless there is evidence of fraud in the initial rating assignment.
Under 20 years, the VA can pursue a rating reduction IF improvement is demonstrated. However, it’s important to note that the, VA cannot rely on a single examination showing improvement when issuing a rating reduction.
A P&T rating can be difficult to come by, but it’s certainly not impossible with the right help. If you want help filing a fully-developed claim that will get you the maximum rating and compensation you deserve, we offer a done-with-you coaching and mastermind community supported by veteran peers.
Learn more about working with one of our experienced veteran coaches on your VA claim process to secure the VA disability claim rating and benefits you’ve earned for your honorable service to our nation.
How to Increase from 90% to 100% VA Disability
You should never settle for less compensation than you deserve for your honorable service. You owe it to yourself and your family to get the benefits you earned for your sacrifice.
If you’re sitting at a 90% disability rating but believe you could qualify for more, then by all means you should try! Consider that the difference in compensation between 90 and 100 percent disability for a veteran with no dependents is $1,333.54 (as of 2022). The increase form 90% to 100% VA rating is a game changer for veterans and their families.
Also, having a 100% disability rating can entitle you to many other valuable benefits beyond compensation. Our 25+ Best 100 Percent Disabled Veteran Benefits: The Ultimate Guide (2022) is a great resource to learn more about benefits such as the Veteran Benefits Banking Program, waiver of VA funding fee for home loans, Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment, and more.
If you’re ready to bump up your rating that extra 10% to reach a 100 percent disability rating, then take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call with an experienced VA Claims Insider team member to find out how we can help make it easier and faster.
To learn more on your own, we recommend checking out our comprehensive Top 5 Ways to Increase VA Disability Rating This Year .
Can VA disability compensation go beyond a 100% VA rating?
There are circumstances in which veterans can receive additional compensation related to exceptionally severe disabilities or conditions. Special monthly compensation (SMC) is a type of compensation with a range of categories and criteria. SMC is awarded to veterans with severe disabilities in order to bring their compensation above and beyond what schedular ratings can provide. Read more in our article Are You Eligible for Special Monthly Compensation?
7 Best Ways to a 100% VA Rating
Need More Assistance?
Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and therefore not getting the compensation they’re due. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.
Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating fast!
If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve!
We’ve supported more than 15,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
About the Author
About VA Claims Insider
VA Claims Insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.