At some point, you may need to return to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase your VA disability rating. Many times your rating is too low from the start. Also, your condition will probably worsen over time, either because it is a degenerative illness, or simply due to age or a secondary illness.
Your VA disability rating determines your monthly veterans’ disability benefit. Any time there is a significant change in your medical condition, you should seek an increase in your VA disability rating.
For 2020 basic disability compensation with no dependents, the difference between the benefit for a 10 percent disability rating ($142.29) and a 20 percent rating ($281.27) is $1,667.76 a year.
The Berry Law Firm helps disabled veterans seek higher disability ratings to increase their VA benefits. It is supposed to be simple to request a change to a rating, but it is often a lengthy, complex, and confusing process. A veteran unfamiliar with the VA system or unable to deal with the VA bureaucracy can easily be short-changed. You have the right to be rated for the disabilities incurred during your military service.
Why You May Want a Higher Disability Rating
If your health condition has worsened recently, it’s important to increase your VA disability rating using new evidence to reflect your current state. Veterans should also file a claim to increase their rating if their condition has deteriorated since they were granted their disability rating initially.
Since 1965, two generations of military veterans at the Berry Law Firm have helped thousands of military veterans obtain the disability benefits they have earned. We know the way forward. We can help you gather or develop the evidence you need to file your claim in order to get the higher VA disability rating you deserve.
We Are Veterans Serving Veterans
Veterans who help veterans obtain VA disability benefits make up the Berry Law Firm. Founding attorney John S. Berry Sr. served in Vietnam and began his veterans’ law practice by representing fellow Vietnam veterans in court who suffered from PTSD. Attorney John S. Berry Jr. is a former Army Ranger. He was a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployed to Bosnia during Operation Joint Forge.
How a VA Attorney Can Help
The Berry Law Firm handles appeals of VA disability claims and disability ratings before VA Regional Offices nationwide and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, as well as before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and higher courts when necessary.
We want disabled veterans to have the full disability compensation they have earned by their service and sacrifice. And we know the way forward.
Can I Increase my VA Disability Ratings?
The VA pays monthly disability benefits according to the severity of an eligible veteran’s service-connected injury or illness. Based on the evidence in the veteran’s claim, including service and medical records, a VA claims evaluator assigns a disability rating in 10 percent increments (10%, 20%, 30%, etc.). A 100% disability rating indicates total disability and the highest amount of basic monthly compensation paid to disabled veterans.
In order to reach a 100% disability rating, Veterans often have more than one type of service-connected medical issue that will add up to 100%. While VA math is not simply additive (70% + 50% + 10% = 90%), it is possible to reach 100% by a sum of conditions. It is also possible to reach 100% by qualifying for TDIU. A 100% rating is not necessarily the same as 100% permanent and total, although the rate of pay is generally the same.
After veterans receive a decision on their disability rating, they may begin to receive disability compensation and benefits. If your decision shows at least a 10% rating you should receive this payment within 15 days. If this is not received, Veterans should contact the VA Helpline.
The VA can call for a reevaluation of your service-connected claim at any point. It should be done every two to five years, depending on your stated medical conditions and disabilities. The original Rating Decision letter from the VA Regional Office should state when the VA will reevaluate your claim.
Reevaluation of a disability rating requires the veteran to undergo a new Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. You may also submit your own doctor’s opinion as part of the evidence. The VA calls this an Independent Medical Examination (IME).
However, many disabled veterans may never hear from the VA about a rating reevaluation. Many veterans must request a reevaluation of their rating when they and their doctors recognize that their condition has grown significantly worse.
Too many disabled veterans who receive VA benefits receive less money than they should because their VA disability rating is too low. For some, their rating and benefit have always been lower than they should be.
Our experience at the Berry Law Firm has shown us that a VA rating is more likely to be too low for claims regarding:
- Mental health issues, including but not limited to:
- Bipolar disorder
- Gulf War Syndrome
- Ischemic heart disease
- Agent Orange-related disabilities:
- Prostate cancer
- Coronary artery disease
- Orthopedic injuries:
Filing a Claim to Increase VA Disability Rating and Compensation
A disabled veteran who is receiving benefits may ask the VA for a review of their disability rating at any time. However, the timing of the rating request is important.
If it has been more than a year since the VA has granted disability benefits, the veteran may make a standard request for reevaluation. The veteran can make the request with a single form authorizing the VA to obtain the vet’s medical records.
How to Obtain Medical Records
- Form 21-526EZ filed by a veteran treated by a VA or military health care facility, or
- Form 21-4142 filed by a veteran treated by a civilian doctor.
If it has been less than a year since the VA has granted disability benefits, the request for a new disability rating becomes an appeal of your claim, which is a much more complex process.
During an appeal, the VA must consider medical records from a VA or military hospital that reflect treatment or hospitalization, or records from private or public medical facilities to be valid evidence if they indicate that the disability condition of the veteran has grown worse.
However, if the VA directs you to undergo a C&P medical exam, you must submit to it or all progress with your filed claim will come to a halt.
Can the VA Lower My Disability Rating and Compensation Claim?
One reason the VA schedules future reevaluations of disability claims is that it expects some conditions to get better over time. This is true of mental health issues and curable cancers, for example. The impact is that the VA may lower a veteran’s disability rating and, thus, the amount of their monthly benefit if it determines that a veteran’s medical condition has improved.
To do so, the VA conducts a full review of the veteran’s claim file and gives the veteran a chance to respond to the decision before the new rating takes effect. At this point, the veteran may submit evidence of the current medical condition that indicates the condition is not significantly better, and potentially worse than previously reported to the VA.
You are more likely to undergo such an evaluation and reduction if your VA disability rating is “unprotected”, meaning it is less than 100 percent and has been in effect for fewer than five years.
For veterans with “stabilized” or “protected” disability ratings, which have been in effect for at least five years, the VA’s burden is higher. To reduce a protected disability rating, the VA’s review must demonstrate sustained improvement in the veteran’s condition.
Ratings in effect for 10 years and 20 years, ratings of 100 percent disability, or Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), have additional protections that reduce the reasons the VA could lower them.
However, VA law does address and allow reductions in veterans’ disability ratings. In some cases, the VA can rescind its ruling that a veteran’s disability is service-connected.
Tips to increase your disability rating
- It is important for veterans to attend all medical appointments made by the VA or their VA or private doctors. Particularly if a veteran is undergoing physical or psychological therapy, or has been prescribed medication, evidence that he or she no longer “needs” treatment can be construed as evidence their condition has improved.
- It is also important for disabled veterans to get experienced legal help if the VA notifies them of its intention to lower their disability rating.
Maximize and Protect Your Rating to Get the Most Compensation
The Berry Law Firm can help you seek the highest disability rating available for your service-connected disability and keep your claim and benefit accurate over time. We can help ensure your medical records are up-to-date and that they portray your physical or mental disability as VA claims examiners expect and understand.
Our attorneys have extensive experience helping veterans appeal claims decisions or seek reevaluations that increase their VA disability rating. We know how to make VA rules and regulations for establishing disability ratings work for veterans, not against them.
We are veterans helping veterans. Contact us today for a free review of your claim with no strings attached. Our office is located at 6940 O St, Suite 400 Lincoln NE 68510. We do not charge disabled veterans for legal work unless we recover money for them.
Get help from our veteran lawyers today.
“I came to Berry Law, and they really helped me. I like helping other veterans, and Berry Law does such a damn good job. They know the system…’cause everything just has to be just so worded, so correct, till you throw it out… So, I owe a lot to Berry Law.” -Larry Sabata, Army Veteran