It can be a struggle trying to increase a VA disability rating. Veterans across the country have to apply, appeal, and then appeal again in order to even approach the rating required to receive the benefits they need. During this process, years or even decades could pass, as the VA will place a veteran’s claim back at square one every time it is submitted for appeal.
Many veterans have a specific goal in mind when first applying for VA benefits. They understand how severe their injuries or disabilities are and how much monthly compensation they will need to support themselves and their families. If a veteran has a 50 percent rating but knows he or she will need an increase to 70 percent, the first step towards that goal has been accomplished.
Now the veteran needs to gather the proper documentation and present it in a way the VA will understand.
The claims file (or C-file) is one of the most important, if not the most important, document in a VA disability claim. A C-file is generated once a claim is filed with the VA. It contains all records submitted to the VA in support of a disability claim. It’s easy to request one from the VA and helpful to do so before appealing. Sometimes the records contained within a C-file are incorrect, incomplete, or belong in a different veteran’s file. Other times, documents a veteran sends to the VA are lost and never entered into evidence when a claim is decided.
Once a veteran has looked over his or her C-file, it will be easier to know which gaps to fill when appealing a decision. There may be medical records to be tracked down or buddy statements to request that will strengthen the case. It will also increase the probability of receiving a higher rating.
The difference in monthly payment rates from 50 to 70 VA disability rating can be considerable. In addition, a higher combined total evaluation increases the chances of receiving a total disability rating based on individual unemployability if you are unable to work due to your service-connected disabilities.
In general, there are two ways to get your overall disabilities increased to 70 percent.
First, you can get a single disability rating increased. This method is most likely to succeed with a mental health claim. If you are already service-connected for a mental health condition, or if you are just now applying for service connection for a mental health condition, you will need to show deficiencies in most areas. Those deficiencies can include disturbances of motivation and mood, sleep problems, panic attacks, flashbacks, hallucinations, and suicidal and/or homicidal ideation.
Second, you can get a combined total evaluation of 70 percent. The VA does not add up your percentages to reach the combined total evaluation. Rather, they multiply them together, so this method can require multiple disabilities to be increased to reach 70 percent. You can also seek service connection for additional disabilities. For example, if you have sleep apnea and use a C-PAP machine, you may receive a 50 percent evaluation for that condition alone.
After your claim has been denied or you receive an inadequate disability rating, it’s important to get your appeal right the first time. This way you can avoid spending years appealing over and over again.
There are many places to look for assistance, from blogs like this one to books, online message boards, and even Facebook groups. But none of these compare to working with the right veterans’ law attorney.
Berry Law Firm was founded by John Stevens Berry, trial lawyer and Vietnam veteran. His efforts to help his fellow service members after his return to the states continue to this day. Many of our attorneys have served in the military, using their experience to help fight the next battle for clients.
If you are appealing a disability claim, contact us today. Your consultation is free.
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