The Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) is a published collection of medical requirements so that a reviewer may evaluate a military member’s medical report and determine their VA military disability rating.
The schedule lists common medical scenarios that may involve disease, injury, dysfunction, or other issues. It is essentially an official guidebook of VA-compensable medical conditions broken into categories. For example, there is a complete section on respiratory issues, a separate section for the cardiovascular system, and so on.
Based on the claim findings during the C&P exam, the Rating Authorities assign a suggested VA rating percentage or a range of percentages. When a veteran is assigned a VA rating, the VA provides VA compensation for service-connected injuries, illnesses, or other medical conditions.
Veterans with VA disability ratings are required to receive compensation, a number which may be an important factor in other military benefits such as the ability to apply for an exemption from VA loan funding fees (offered to those who receive or those who are eligible to receive VA compensation for medical claims.)
What the VASRD Helps the VA Accomplish
VASRD is meant to help the Department of Veterans Affairs determine the veteran’s ability to work with the claimed injuries or conditions. The Ratings Authorities consider a number of questions before assigning the veteran with a rating:
Can the veteran support a family or themselves with the disability? How much does the disability interfere with basic daily activities such as shopping for groceries, preparing meals, self-care such as bathing, dressing, etc?
VASRD is also meant to be as transparent and fair to those with disabilities and protects those with disabilities by law. Basic questions inform the schedule but not every condition is the same, especially in medically specific cases. For example, it may not be enough to simply assign a VA disability rating to a veteran with mobile impairments. The record must show the nature and severity of the condition, and evaluate how the disability may interfere with the veteran’s ability to self-care, work independently, and quality of life.
The VA Rating Approach
The Rating Authorities use a variety of factors in determining the claimant’s disability rating. For example, did you know there is criteria for determining the employability or unemployability of an applicant?
The criteria covers age, functional impairment, and a need to determine which conditions were caused by military service or pre-existing issues aggravated by military duty.
Both may be compensable, but the VA will use the schedule to determine what the most appropriate rating might be. Here is a breakdown of VA considerations for claims as found on the official site in relation to the printed schedule ratings:
- Resolution of Reasonable Doubt
- Congenital or developmental defects
- Functional Impairment/Effect Change of Diagnosis
- Avoidance of Pyramiding/Total Disability Ratings
- Total Disability Ratings for Compensation Based on Unemployability of the Individual
- Total Disability Ratings for Pension Based on Unemployability and Age of the Individual
- Misconduct Etiology/Unemployability
- Age in Service-Connected Claims/Analogous Ratings/Application of Rating Schedule
- Rating of Disabilities Aggravated by Active Service/Attitude of Rating Officers
- Prestabilization Rating from Date of Discharge from Service
- Ratings for Service-Connected Disabilities Requiring Hospital Treatment or Observation
- Convalescent Ratings
- No-Percent Ratings
- As you can tell from the above list, there are multiple factors that will go into determining your ability to qualify for compensation.
There are individual factors in each case that should be considered. How long will the veteran be affected or how severe is the condition? What is the state of service-connected medical condition and is there a chance the condition will worsen later down the line?
VASRD: Analogous Ratings
It is impossible to assign a specific VA disability percentage or range of percentages for every possible medical issue that could occur while serving in the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Space Force.) There is not a single comprehensive volume of injuries and illnesses available for such use at the VA.
Instead, the VA gives “analogous ratings” to some conditions with similarities or have a relationship to those listed in the VASRD. The rating is given by determining the closest condition on the schedule.
The VA Schedule: Categories By Systems of the Human Body
The Veteran Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities contains the following chapters/sections that are organized based on the various systems of the human body, including but not limited to:
- Cardiovascular System
- Dental and Oral Conditions
- Digestive System
- Endocrine System
- Genitourinary System
- Gynecological Conditions and Disorders of the Breast
- Hemic and Lymphatic Systems
- Impairment of Auditory Acuity
- Infectious Diseases, Immune Disorders and Nutritional Deficiencies
- Mental Disorders
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders
- Organs of Special Sense
- Respiratory System
No “Double Dipping”
When a specific medical condition is reviewed by the VA, there may be several different interpretations of a symptom, side effect, or problem caused by a given condition.
The VA is required to use the most appropriate and highest rating selection when interpreting these symptoms, but you will likely not see multiple VA disability ratings for a single condition. The goal is to find the most appropriate single VA disability rating for the single condition.
That does not mean there aren’t associated medical problems with certain disabilities, but you won’t find the VA paying twice for a single condition or issue. A service-connected medical issue that causes blindness is rated depending on how the vision is impaired.
Blindness or loss of acuity in one eye is rated differently than blindness in both eyes or impaired vision in both eyes. As you can see, the VA anticipates the problem of double-dipping or the appearance of the same in the way it assigns disability ratings.
The VASRD is a living document that is updated and revised as often as necessary by either a modification to VA policy, legislation, or the addition of new information based on research or other data.
If you explored your options under VASRD in the past, you should know that several updates and changes have occurred in past years; the schedule of disability ratings you find on the VA official site today won’t be the same one from the year 2000 or 2010.
The 2019 VASRD Update
In August of 2019, the VA announced updates to the rating schedule which provides guidance for VA evaluators on immune disorders, infectious diseases, and nutritional problems.
In the case of the August 2019 updates, VA medical claims submitted before August 11, 2019 are given consideration using both the new schedule and the prior legacy schedule system. All VA claims that are filed on or after August 11, 2019, will be evaluated using only the new criteria.
Other Conditions to Consider After the Updates
As mentioned above, veterans should know that VASRD criteria is subject to revision and if you made a claim you are revisiting or making new claims, it’s not safe to rely on old information about how your condition(s) may be evaluated or compensated.
There are other concerns to be mindful of like VA policy for mental conditions, dental or oral health, and other criteria for issues that are not as common today as they once may have been.
Oral health is a tricky issue in this area as there are VA ratings for issues that affect the basic function of the mouth (chewing and swallowing) and separate ratings for issues that may be mouth-related such as a loss of the sense of taste, smell, or respiratory issues.
Oral disability ratings may include bone loss or other problems that can, or potentially can, interfere with the mechanical function of the mouth, teeth, etc. You may receive a VA rating for oral issues and another for nerve damage even if that damage is centered around the mouth.
More Useful Information about VASRD
Let’s examine how the Department of Veterans Affairs approaches some of the nuances of assigning disability ratings.
Here is a list of exceptions that may apply when a Rating Authority reviews your claim:
Anti-pyramiding requirements: VASRD includes a “one condition, one rating” policy. A single condition can only be rated once unless certain exceptions apply. One example–cases where the veteran has a nerve condition in addition to an oral health problem. In such cases where the “condition exists that is additional to the dental condition (not simply caused by it), then it can also be rated” according to VA.gov.
VA exams and the “probative value”: When there have been two exams that record a condition but not consistently, the examination with the most complete data carried out by the most qualified person will likely be used as the official rating decision.
In case of a tie: When two exams of similar credibility provide information with conflicting data AND in cases where a claimed condition is equally rated under two different schedule codes, the highest rating will be assigned. Ties in this area are applied to the veteran’s benefit.
These nuances may be confusing for some. Always ask a VA professional about any aspect of these rating system regulations you don’t fully understand.
Making Your Claim Under VASRD Guidelines
Compensation for service-connected medical issues may be fully approved by the VA, they may receive partial approval for some claims but not other conditions claimed in the same medical record, or no claims may be approved at all.
If you made a claim for VA compensation for your service-connected medical issues and find the VA Rating Authorities have denied some or all of that claim, you may appeal it following VA guidelines for doing so. It’s best to appeal the decision as soon as possible following your official award letter from the VA.
When in doubt, contact the VA to help you find an appropriate resource or get connected with a VSO. There are circumstances that may delay the process. Some issues may require more processing time, you may have a limited window of appeals to use, and your claim may require additional supporting evidence.
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