The way that the VA combines percentage ratings is complicated. I understand why clients get confused when the VA does something like adding two 30% ratings to get a total rating of 50%. It won't help you understand things, but the VA does have a chart that shows the basics. You can find it here.
Essentially, the VA subtracts the biggest rating and then takes each additional percentage off of what's left. So, when "combining" two 30% ratings, the VA first subtracts 30% from 100% and decides the veteran still had 70% of the ability to work remaining. The second disability only takes 30% off of that 70%, which means another 21%. Thirty plus twenty-one makes the Veteran 51% disabled. The VA rounds to the nearest tenth and puts that at 50%.
These are just the basics and there are a lot more rules, however. At some point, I'll probably write about the rule that means 0%+0% can sometimes equal 10. If you are confused by your combined ratings, the best advice is to consult with someone experienced in handling veterans benefits.
,There was a lot of opposition to allowing attorneys into the VA process, particularly if those attorneys wanted to charge enough to make a living. Many of the concerns were ground in the idea that attorney participation would make the system too adversarial.
Some of those concerns persist even though attorneys are now an established part of the process and responsible for a lot of beneficial changes in veterans law. It's not uncommon for VSO's to discourage veterans from seeking legal assistance.
I don't think every case needs an attorney. I do think an attorney can make a big difference in certain kinds of cases. One of my goals for this blog will be to explain why you might need one.
I'll also describe things you might consider in looking for an attorney, whether for a veterans claim or in another area of law. I've handled a lot of free legal clinics for veterans and find questions in this area are common.
I won't pretend I'm totally unbiased on this issue. I also won't pretend that every attorney is perfect. I will let you know that there are other areas where I could work if I was primarily interested in money.
I used to work for a corporate litigation boutique law firm. I've litigated against top tier international law firms. If I just cared about money, I would have stayed in that field. I needed to make a difference in people's lives, however. I enjoy what I do now much more. I take cases for free or with a small chance of success because I believe in the case.