100% Permanent and Total Disability Ratings Benefits

Updated: February 28, 2024
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    After the Department of Veterans Affairs evaluates you for a disability claim, you’ll receive a disability rating between zero and 100%. Your rating percentage will determine your disability compensation.

    Veterans with multiple service-connected health issues will receive individual disability ratings for each issue, and a combined disability rating – up to 100%.

    According to the VA website, they use the “whole person theory” to determine your combined disability rating, which ensures that a combined disability rating and its corresponding disability compensation do not exceed 100%.

    Combined disability ratings of 100% aren’t the same thing as a 100% “permanent and total” VA disability rating. Veterans with a permanent disability rating don’t need to be reevaluated to continue to receive benefits.

    How the VA Rating System Works

    The VA maintains a list of disabilities and accompanying disability percentages that can be awarded for such issues. Ratings depend on the nature of the injury, illness or condition and the VA regulations that govern how they evaluate such conditions in the claims process.

    VA Disability Ratings for Multiple Conditions

    You can have more than one type of service-connected medical issue, and the VA will assign each an individual disability rating. The VA then calculates a combined rating by taking all the individual conditions into account.

    Here’s an example of a combined rating:

    • Hearing damage/hearing loss: 10%
    • Knee injuries affecting the range of motion: 50%
    • Loss of foot: 40%

    If you simply add the disability percentages in the list above, the total would be 100%. But that’s not how the VA calculates a combined disability rating.

    Instead, the VA uses a combined ratings table, found on the VA website. This ensures that you can never have a disability rating that is higher than 100%. In the example above, the combined rating would be 70%.

    VA Presumptive Conditions Decisions

    The VA maintains a list of medical conditions it presumes are related to certain types of military service, including exposure to burn pits and agent orange.

    For example, if you served in Vietnam and develop symptoms associated with exposure, the VA will presumes your condition is connected with Agent Orange. The VA also has a set of medical issues it presumes will be permanent.

    The Claim Process

    The veteran submits a claim to the VA, including all relevant medical records and supporting evidence. The VA receives the claim, reviews it, determines the veteran’s service-connected disability percentage and updates the record.

    Once the VA has officially made the disability compensation award and the record has been updated, the veteran can print out the documentation explaining the nature and amount of VA compensation.

    Veterans can then use this documentation to claim other VA benefits, like the VA loan funding fee exemption for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

    Veterans can also use their documentation to claim state and local benefits. Veterans with VA disability ratings may be eligible to apply for first-time home buyer programs, state government assistance or grants, tax exemptions and discounted state-issued licenses.

    Some of these programs are available to any veteran with a VA disability rating, while others may only be available to those with a 100% permanent and total disability rating.

    VA Claims Processes and the 100% Permanent and Total Disability Rating

    The VA claims review process for assigning disability ratings is based on the nature of the medical issue, when and how it developed and whether or not the problem is service-connected or permanent.

    If you can’t hold down a steady job to support yourself, you may also qualify for individual unemployability. You’ll need to file the following additional forms with your disability claim:

    • 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

    Individual Unemployability

    The VA Individual Unemployability benefit does not require a 100% permanent and total disability rating. Under the right circumstances, veterans can receive this benefit and continue to work, even with a 100%-disabled VA rating.

    However, they may lose the VA unemployability benefit if they start working. Discuss your circumstances with a VA representative to see what is permitted in your specific case.

    100% Permanent and Total Disability Versus 100% Service-Connected Disability

    There is a difference between a 100% service-connected disability rating and a 100% permanent and total disability. The VA considers a condition to be a permanent and total disability when they don’t expect it to improve. If they believe a condition or disability may improve, they may still assign a 100% disability rating, but that rating is subject to re-evaluation.

    How to Tell if Your VA Rating is 100% Permanent and Total

    Review the VA rating decision letter and the rating explanation. Check if the rating says “permanent and total” or that the VA will not require further exams. Call the VA at 1-800-827-1000 if you have trouble understanding the VA award letter.

    A Surviving Spouse May Be Entitled to Certain VA Benefits if the Veteran Dies

    A surviving spouse who was married to a veteran with a 100% permanent and total disability rating can apply for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation after the veteran’s death.

    Important Note: Service members or Veterans who served in combat regions, trained or were stationed at installations linked to toxic chemical exposure or storage, will be eligible to the expanded VA healthcare beginning on March 5, 2024.

    Written by Joe Wallace

    Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.