We often hear from Veterans who are upset that their disability rating was decreased. They ask a question something along the lines of, “Can the VA decrease my disability rating? I am entitled to that money.” So, can the VA decrease your disability rating? The short answer is, “yes.” The long answer is, “it depends.” The VA does, from time to time, schedule re-examinations by a VA physician to determine the exact nature and extent of your current service-connected disabilities. The VA is not allowed, by law, to reduce your benefits without first giving you written notice: this is called Due Process. This is not unheard of for conditions that might get better over time with medications and other treatment. Some of those conditions include:
One of the worst things you can do that may put your disability rating at risk is to choose not to go to one of these re-examinations.
If you miss your re-examination, the VA may decrease or discontinue your benefits coverage and payments. There are some disabilities that are unlikely to improve, for example: a limb that is missing, your symptoms have persisted without improving for five or more years, you are over 55 years of age, or you are already at the minimum rating (0%). However, simply going to your exam will not “guarantee” that your rating will not be reduced. Here’s what to keep in mind when you attend (and you should attend) your exam:
If your condition has been rated at a certain level for at least 20 years, it is considered a “continuous rating” and it cannot be reduced. The VA can increase your rating, but not decrease it. So, if you are 70% disabled for 23 years, the VA cannot reduce you to 30% after those 23 years.
It would not be advisable to get sent to jail in any case, but being incarcerated can reduce your benefits as well. After 60 days of confinement, the VA can reduce your benefits to only 10%, regardless of what it was before you “went in.” Stay out of trouble!
If the VA proposes to reduce your benefits, there are ways to prevent this (although it is not guaranteed to keep it from happening). You can see if a re-examination has been scheduled and, if not, schedule one. Then, DO NOT MISS IT! Sometimes, the VA schedules an exam and the Veteran does not get notified of the exam. If this occurs, contact the VA, inform them what happened, and request another exam. Another thing you can do is contact a VSO or an attorney to represent your interests.
When choosing who to represent you in your claim against the VA, make sure you choose a Firm that has experience fighting the VA and is competent to represent you. You don’t have to go at it alone, we’re here to help. As always, don’t let an ad be the sole reason you choose to hire a law firm: look at their reputation, their attorneys. and their experience. Choose a law firm that fits. You’ve fought long enough, let us fight your next battle.
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