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How Veterans Combined Service Connected Disabilties Are Made

I feel that anytime members of the Military are trained to do something, which does not come naturally to them, and then that person does what they are trained to do. Our Government has an obligation to care for that Veteran’s medical conditions or disabilities connected with that period of service.

The Veterans ( whom I know) are appreciative of the care they receive through the Veterans’ Administration. ( i/e VA) There is also an obligation on the part of the Veterans to help the VA recognize errors, or policies that are outdated yet still consistent. They were wrong yesterday and they are often wrong today.

There is one, in particular, that I have brought to the attention of the VA, Veteran Groups, and Politicians whose responsibility it is to care for said Veterans. I have not ceased due to the lack of interest displayed by the VA to change their policies.

Here is one that has bothered me for years, and now my health as progressed to a level it that it no longer impacts me. Therefore, I want to help make a change that will assist all our younger and healthier Veterans to thrive for many years to come.

The comments I provide are mine alone. Like anyone, I could be wrong. With that being said ,here are my thoughts:

Just saying that the method of combined ratings for service connected disability is wrong. Not providing reason how they are wrong would not tell the story. Note please, this has gone on since 1925. Why has it gone unadapted for so long without correcting the mistakes?. The reasons for which are a mystery, but why it has been continued can be easily deduced.

A table was made for combined ratings. Using the table is simple, but thanks to the Vietnam Veterans of America ,they wrote code to allow anyone to type the ratings into a field and then click submit. The new combined rating will then appear. Magic? No. It is still the table. Only easier to use. It will help you to understand if you go to Combinding Ratings Take a disabled Veteran with three service connected conditions, and put in these ratings, 60%, 50%, 40% simple math says 150%. A Veteran cannot collect greater than 100%; so the Veteran rating would be rounded down to 100%. If you have used the table you will see a rating of only 90%.

To further the point a Veteran with a 90% service connected disability is awarded an additional rating of 40%. Using the same table/calculator the Veteran would remain 90%, no increase in his 90% rating.

This, based on my years of studying applicable human traits, is why the error has not ever been corrected. Anyone challenging how service connected disabilities are combined, including courts, will be referred to the rating “table”. Even a judge would be impressed by how efficient the table is to use for combining ratings( so it must be right, according to the observer), and , yet, the basic math is inaccurate. The truth is that both are correct. It goes deeper than math.

A decision reached August 22, 2017
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

The VA developed the combined ratings table in 1925 to rate multiple disabilities. See J.A. 81. This table did not function via simple addition of disability ratings; rather, “[b]ecause disability compensation is based on the entire person of the veteran, the ratings are . . . combined into a single rating . . . to determine the overall impairment of the veteran.” The average person can easily see the flaw of- “based on the entire person of the veteran, the ratings are . . . combined into a single rating . . . to determine the overall impairment of the veteran.” Where did the term “based on the entire person “come from? What I read from the VA Benefits Handbook and materials the rating is determined ... Here is where the input is in error so if you are still awake here it comes.

Two Veterans receive a 50% disability for a service connected condition.

Veteran (A) is 100% healthy, Veteran (B) is 40% healthy/efficient.

Veteran (A) receives 50% rating
Veteran (B) receives 20% rating (adding to his already 60% = 80% combined.)

The question remaining to be asked follows. Why is a person with a 60% disability who is given a new rating of 50% for another disability have that rating reduced to 20%.? Is the impact on a 60% disabled Veteran greater than or less than a Veteran 100% healthy?

One does not need to be a Phd or a Doctor to understand that a 50% condition will have a higher impact on a Veteran already 60% disabled than the impact on a 100% healthy person. It just stands to reason.

That should give cause to look at the math that has been used to calculate combined rating ratings. Veteran 60% rating is given an additional rating of 50%,

This is how the table is designed. 100% - 60% = 40% x 50% = 20% + 60% = 80% new rating.

Simple math: 60%+50% = 110% rounded down to max rating 100%

I hope my comments have been helpful in explaining how combined rating are calculated, and why I feel the method is and has been incorrect since 1925.

UPDATE - Nov 15, 2017

During this ongoing and exasperating process, I have reached out to a Professor of Actuary Science at one of the leading Universities. Also, to one of his colleagues; an Attorney who has represented Veterans before the United States Court of Appeals.

Reaching out to experts in their respective fields offers a different prospective from uninvolved professionals who can offer mere opinion as to the value of a table used to combine Veterans Service Connected Disabilities.

The Professor of Actuary Science commented directly to myself via email:

As an actuary who has worked with disabled life tables — we call them impaired life tables — in the past, I am sympathetic to the issues you brought up. The VA formula appears to assume that each disability is “independent” of one other which is true sometimes, but not true other times. An example would go like this: If a loss of an eye is deemed to be 50% disability; the loss of the second eye is not an additional 25% disability, but an additional 50% disability, adding up to a 100% total disability. On the other hand, a loss of an eye, plus a loss of an arm may be thought of as “independent” as the VA formula assumes.

I find some obvious issues with VA formulas.

The VA’s practice of rounding to the nearest 10% all but propagates that their formula provides only a rough guideline. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it make a huge difference? Only for some of those affected."

This additional factor was offered by someone for whom I have a great deal of respect.

The table was originally formulated in 1925, at which time, the average median educational level was lesser than the typical now, considerably. Also, if the table and formulas were intially created by person(s) who were neither PhDs, nor occupational/vocational rehabilitation specialists, then how could their findings and postulations of degree of disability be valid given the current level of technology?

This speculation is in congruence with the legal findings of an Attorney I spoke with, who has represented Veterans in The United States Court of Appeal- Federal District Level.

The courts do not rule on the accuracy of method(s) used by the Veterans Administration. They only rule on whether or not the methods were properly applied in the singular case. There is a huge discrepancy.

I maintain that the table is not providing the results for which it was originally intended, and for that reason should be abolished. Two or more ratings that are independently rated should not be adjusted lower because of the errors in a formula of a table.

A Veteran with independent service connected disability rated 50% for PTSD, and another rating of 60% for heart disease should be added. Therefore : 50% + 60% = 110% rating, reduced to the maximum rating a Veteran can receive which is 100%.

This calculation is in concurrence with the Professor of Actuary Science who said: “An example would go like this: If a loss of an eye is deemed to be 50% disability; the loss of the second eye is not an additional 25% disability, but an additional 50% disability, adding up to a 100% total disability.”

Update from: Actuary-in-Residence & Actuarial Program Coordinator Oregon State University | Department of Mathematics, My question, to him, is about independece of service connected conditions. Here is his response.

"If independence were assumed, what VA is doing would be correct. With my eye-then-another-eye example, I was demonstrating that not all second disabilities are independent of the first. The second disability should be assessed in light of the first, not independent of it. That would make the formula too complex, and that’s why they assume independence — to make the whole scheme simple.

I think that most second disabilities are not independent of the first. It’s the same body: each disability has a cumulative effect. It’s cold-hearted to assume independence. It may have been acceptable 100 years ago, but it wouldn’t pass muster today."

As Veterans we march forward.


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