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What is the 70-40 rule for VA and how to get 100% disability?

For a veteran with multiple service-connected disabilities, at least one must have a rating of 40% or higher. The combined disability rating for all conditions must be 70% or higher to meet the criteria.

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Navigating the complexities of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding specific rules and eligibility criteria for disability compensation.

Among these, the VA 70-40 rule is a critical component that disabled veterans must comprehend to access the benefits they deserve. This article will demystify the VA 70-40 rule and provide insights into achieving a 100% disability rating.

What is the VA 70-40 Rule?

The VA 70-40 rule is a guideline used to determine eligibility for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. To qualify under this rule, a veteran must have either, a single service-connected disability rated at least 60% or higher, or a combined disability rating of 70% or higher, with at least one service-connected disability rated at 40% or higher.

This rule is pivotal for veterans whose disabilities significantly impair their ability to work, yet their combined service-connected disability rating does not reach 100%.

The significance of TDIU

TDIU is a VA benefit that compensates veterans at the 100% disability rate, even if their combined disability rating is less than 100%. It acknowledges that certain disabilities, while not individually rated at 100%, collectively render a veteran unable to secure and maintain substantially gainful employment.

How to achieve a 100 percent disability rating

There are several paths to obtaining a 100% VA disability rating:

  • Schedular Rating: Veterans can receive a 100% rating if one or more of their service-connected disabilities combine to 100% using VA math, which considers the remaining non-disabled portion of the veteran.
  • Individual Unemployability (TDIU): If service-connected disabilities prevent a veteran from maintaining gainful employment, they may qualify for TDIU, which provides compensation at the 100% rate.
  • Extra-Schedular Rating: In exceptional cases where the standard rating criteria do not adequately reflect a veteran’s disabilities, an extra-schedular rating may be considered for a 100% rating.

Temporary 100 Percent veteran disability rating

There are several instances in which the VA will give you a temporary 100% disability rating to recognize how your injury or condition affects your life and ability to work. These are:

  • If you had surgery or a cast with at least one month of recovery time and resulting mobility issues or unhealed surgery scars, the VA may grant you 100% temporary disability for one to three months.
  • If you spent more than 21 days in a VA or VA-approved hospital, the VA may temporarily raise your rating to 100% during your stay. An example would be a diabetes patient with a 40% rating hospitalized for a diabetic coma for 23 days.

The VA also grants temporary disability prestabilization ratings of 50% or 100% if you need benefits immediately after your discharge from active service. This temporary disability assignment is for unstable conditions that may continue to change over an unknown period.

The prestabilization rating lasts for one year from the date of your discharge. There may be other instances in which your rating doesn’t fall into one of the specified temporary rating categories, but an improvement in your condition means a reduction in your rating. 

Evidence to prove a 100 percent veteran disability rating

When you submit a disability claim to the VA, it evaluates your claim and assigns a rating. While you do not ask for a 100% disability per se, if you provide the proper evidence and your condition is possibly qualified for a 100% rating, you may receive it. You must submit several pieces of information or give the VA permission to obtain them, including:

  • DD214 or other service documents that show you did not have a less-than-honorable discharge
  • Service treatment records
  • Any other medical evidence related to your injury or condition

Your medical evidence should be as complete as possible, including X-rays, medical tests, and doctor’s reports. Ultimately, the VA will make a final rating decision based on the type and severity of your injury.

The more evidence you can provide showing your service-related condition prevents you from performing everyday tasks or maintaining gainful employment, the more likely you will receive a 100% disability rating. The VA provides a list of evidence needed for different types of claims to help you determine if you have all the information necessary to support your claim.

Applying for TDIU

To apply for TDIU, veterans should:

  • Provide medical evidence demonstrating the severity of their disabilities.
  • Include detailed information about their work history, education, and vocational limitations.
  • Consider seeking assistance from veterans’ service organizations or legal representatives experienced in TDIU claims.

You can submit a claim for TDIU benefits by filing a VA Form 21-8940 application and a VA Form 21-4192 request for employment information. You must include supporting evidence, such as doctor’s notes or medical test results, that shows your disability prevents you from holding down a steady job. 

Conclusion

It might be noteworthy that in 2023, TDIU benefits for 70% ratings increased by 8.7%, reaching $1,663. It’s important to note that even a 20% rating increase, which brings the total to 90% VA disability rating ($2,172), can result in over $500 in additional monthly compensation. Understanding the VA 70-40 rule and the avenues to a 100% disability rating is essential for veterans seeking to maximize their benefits. While the process may seem intricate, proper documentation and a thorough understanding of VA regulations can lead to successful claims.

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