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Understanding Your VA Rating Decision
Understanding Your VA Rating Decision
After gathering all the evidence you have and navigating your way through the VA process to get your claim submitted, the VA will begin sorting through what you’ve submitted. In addition, you may get requests to report for an examination, be asked for additional evidence, etc. Once the VA has considered all these things, they issue what is called a ‘rating decision’ that sets out what the VA regional office has decided regarding your claims.
The first decision you will receive regarding your compensation benefits is called a rating decision. The rating decision will tell you whether or not the VA has connected your claims to your time in service, the percentage of disability you are receiving for each condition, and/or if a claim has been denied. The rating decision will also tell you the effective date for your claims. If a claim has been granted, you can expect to receive your first payment within 7-10 days of receiving your rating decision if payment has not yet been received.
What Your VA Rating Decision Means
A rating decision is sent as part of your due process rights as defined by VA regulation 38 C.F.R. § 3.103. The regulations require that you (and your representative) be notified in writing of all decision that affect payment of benefits. The rating decision must, at a minimum, inform you of:
- The date the decision will be effective.
- Your right to a hearing (subject to other requirements).
- Your rights to appeal the decision.
- The time limits in which to appeal the decision.
- If the decision denies a benefit, the evidence used to make the decision.
If you have not been granted service connection for disabilities you have or have been rated lower than you anticipated, what do you do next? Well, this is the stage in the VA disability claim process where a Veteran can appeal the decision. It is important to note that your rating decision is not final. In fact, our office helps Veterans looking to appeal their rating decision or wanting to file for an increase in their total disability percentage. So, if you have been denied service-connection, that does not mean the battle is over.
Understanding a VA Rating Decision
If this is your first time looking at a rating decision, it is easy to see how it may be confusing. Looking at your rating decision from the beginning, you will almost always receive an award/notification letter with your rating decision.
The Award Letter is typically the first portion of documents you receive in conjunction with your rating decision. The letter usually begins with the VA stating, “We made a decision.” On the first page of the Award Letter, you will see your benefit information followed by your combined disability percentage. Next, the Award Letter notifies you of all of the changes to your monthly disability compensation. For example, an individual may have a table like this in their letter:
|Monthly Entitlement Amount||Payment Start Date||Reason|
|$133.17||Dec 1, 2014||Cost of Living Adjustment|
|$1334.71||Nov 22, 2016||Compensation Rating Adjustment|
|$1,338.71||Dec 1, 2016||Cost of Living Adjustment|
As you can see, the information provided only focuses on your total combined disability percentage and your total monthly compensation. This letter is typically the most important for Veterans who are only looking to see their monthly disability payments. The Award Letter is followed by the rating decision.
VA Rating Decision
The VA rating decision is the meat of your disability information, and it is very important when you are looking to appeal the decision. The VA rating decision has four distinct sections:
Introduction: This section details the Veterans time in service, the claim/appeal you have filed, and the date you filed your claim/appeal.
Decision: The decision section of the VA rating decision numbers each of your conditions and tells you whether the condition was granted, as well as the effective date for each condition.
Evidence: The evidence section is important, especially for Veterans disability lawyers, as it lists all of the evidence that the VA took into account when issuing your rating decision.
Reasons for Decision: Perhaps the most important section of a rating decision, the ‘Reasons for Decisions’ outlines why the VA decided the way it did for each specific condition. The VA will often refer to the ‘Evidence’ supplied in the previous section.
Diagnostic Codes of Conditions Subject to Compensation
Following the rating decision is the rating code sheet. This page informs the Veteran what disability they are receiving compensation for, the diagnostic code for this disability, the effective dates for each condition, and the Veteran’s effective date for both past and current combined disability percentages.
Appealing Your Rating Decision
If you have ben the subject to an unjust rating decision or have been denied, you still have an opportunity to get the compensation you deserve. Veterans are given the opportunity to appeal any rating decision. If you would like to appeal your rating decision, please contact one of our dedicated VA appeals attorneys at (888) 883-2483 to begin fighting back today.
Josef Loukota is a VA disability attorney that fights to help fellow Veterans receive the disability benefits they earned. Joe served for six years in the U.S. Navy as an aircraft safety equipment mechanic and shop supervisor. He earned the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist insignia, two Navy Achievement Medals, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal. Prior to joining Berry Law, Joe worked with Legal Aid of Nebraska as part of a Veteran-to-farmer outreach program. Joe also worked at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Military and Veteran Services Office as part of a team helping Veterans access their G.I. Bill education benefits.