Permanent and Total

A “permanent and total” award of benefits applies to veterans whose disabilities combine to 100 percent disabling and do not have any chance of improvement.

The components of permanent and total can apply separately. Total disability does not have to be permanent. For instance, a veteran can have temporary total disability due to surgery or a combined total rating before improving and dropping down to a lower percentage. Likewise, a veteran can have a permanent disability that is not total when it is reasonably certain the level of impairment will continue for the rest of the veteran’s life. When these separate benefits combine, it creates a special status for the veteran’s disability compensation.

A permanent and total combined rating benefits the veteran for several reasons. Primarily, it makes the veteran’s conditions much less likely to be reduced. Veterans with a permanent and total rating will usually not be scheduled for a reexamination, the primary means by which reductions are commenced. If they did try to reduce, the VA would have to show material and sustained improvement.

Additional Benefits

Once a veteran reaches a combined rating of 100 percent, it might seem as though they have reached the maximum possible benefit from the VA. However, veterans with permanent and total ratings may be eligible for additional benefits, including the following:

CHAMPVA: The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs is a comprehensive health care program for eligible beneficiaries. Put simply, it gives the veteran’s dependents access to VA healthcare.

Chapter 35 DEA: Chapter 35 Dependents Educational Assistance Program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents and survivors of certain veterans.

State-Level Benefits: Depending on the state the in which the veteran lives, they may be qualified for state-level benefits based on their permanent and total status.

A permanent and total rating can also make it easier for surviving spouses to obtain Dependency and Indemnity Compensation after the veteran’s death. There are other qualifiers, but having a permanent and total rating can help because for their surviving dependents to qualify, the veteran must have died due to a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling or must have been rated as permanent and total for ten years prior to death.

How to Apply

It’s important to first determine whether the combined rating is already considered to be permanent and total. Most of the time, the VA automatically awards permanent and total, but it’s not always easy to tell. The VA rarely expressly says, “Your conditions are considered permanent and total,” but there are ways to tell. The rating decision on which the award is granted will usually list “Dependent Educational Assistance” in the granted claims. If the veteran has been awarded DEA, they have been awarded permanent and total.

If a veteran is awarded a 100 percent combined rating and they believe they’re qualified for a permanent and total rating, the veteran can ask the VA to award the permanent and total distinction. To do this, they can simply write the VA a letter requesting the benefit. It also helps to attach medical records indicating that there will be no improvement in the veteran’s conditions.

A veteran can also apply for a permanent and total rating based on Individual Unemployability even if their scheduler rating is less than 100 percent. In most ways, a total disability rating based on Individual Unemployability is treated as a scheduler total rating. This includes qualifying for a permanent and total award, assuming the condition rendering the veteran unemployable is unlikely to improve.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Berry Law Firm was founded by Vietnam War veteran and legendary trial lawyer John Stevens Berry Sr. We are proud to have many military veterans among our attorneys and staff who understand what it means to serve and know firsthand the struggles many of our clients face every day.

If you need to appeal a VA decision, please contact Berry Law Firm’s team of accredited veterans law attorneys. We have been representing veterans before the VA, the BVA, and the CAVC for decades.