How Does VA Combine Disability Ratings?

When a veteran has multiple disabilities, VA doesn’t simply add the disability percentages together, though it may seem like the most common sense approach. Instead, they use a unique method to ensure that no veteran can be more than 100% disabled, and to ensure that the total disability rating accurately reflects the cumulative impact their individual disabilities have on their ability to retain employment. Here’s how it works:

1. Ordering Disabilities by Severity

VA starts by listing the disabilities in order of severity, from the highest percentage to the lowest.

2. The “Whole Person” Concept

The VA operates on the “whole person” concept. This means that if a veteran is 40% disabled, they are considered to be 60% “whole” or “able-bodied.” The VA uses this concept to calculate combined disability ratings.

3. Calculating the Combined Rating

To calculate the combined rating:

  • Start with the most severe disability. Let’s say it’s a 50% rating. This means the veteran is 50% disabled and 50% able-bodied.
  • Take the next most severe disability and apply its percentage to the “able-bodied” percentage of the veteran. For instance, if the next disability is rated at 20%, you’d take 20% of the remaining 50% able-bodied portion, which is 10%.
  • Add this to the original 50%, resulting in a combined rating of 60%.

This process is repeated for each subsequent disability.

4. Rounding to the Nearest 10%

After all disabilities are combined, VA rounds the final combined rating to the nearest 10%.


Let’s say a veteran has three disabilities rated at 50%, 30%, and 20%.

  1. Start with the most severe: 50% (leaving 50% able-bodied).
  2. Take 30% of the remaining 50% able-bodied: 15%.
  3. Add this to the original 50% for a total of 65%.
  4. Take 20% of the remaining 35% able-bodied: 7%.
  5. Add this to the 65% for a total of 72%.
  6. Round to the nearest 10% for a final rating of 70%.

5. Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)

In some cases, if a veteran’s combined disability rating is particularly severe, they may be eligible for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). This is an additional benefit on top of the regular disability compensation.

VA’s method of calculating combined disability ratings can be complex, but it’s intended to be fair and accurate. If you’re a veteran with multiple disabilities, it’s essential to understand this system to ensure you’re receiving the correct compensation for your service-connected disabilities.

Want to check out the new VetsApp combined rating calculator and see what your combined rating would be? Try it out. (If you’re viewing this on a blog outside of VetsApp, you’ll need to grab the app from the Google or Apple app stores first.)