The effective date for an original claim is usually the date that the VA receives the claim. However, when a claim has been denied and appealed, and then later granted, the VA may grant something called “staged ratings,” which often leads to a lot of confusion among Veterans. In this article, we look at VA staged ratings and what they mean.
Most conditions that can be service-connected are capable of getting better or worse. When a claim has been pending for a long time, it’s natural that the condition or symptoms will improve, or worsen. When that happens, a Veteran is entitled to a VA staged rating.
For example, let’s say a Veteran files a claim for a lower back condition in 2013 and receives an examination for the condition. On the basis of that examination, the Veteran would be entitled to a 10 percent rating, but the VA denies service connection, and the Veteran appeals. The claim is later granted in 2018 after a new examination and medical opinion. That examination shows that the back condition has worsened, and the loss of range of motion entitles the Veteran to a 40 percent evaluation. The VA grants the claim, with an evaluation of 20 percent, effective on the date the VA received the claim, and a 40 percent evaluation with a new effective date showing that the condition worsened. This is an example of a VA staged rating, with a 20% evaluation for a certain date and a 40% evaluation for the other.
Here’s another example. A Veteran files a claim for a mental health condition like PTSD. The VA denies the claim, and the Veteran appeals. During the pendency of the appeal, the Veteran was hospitalized twice for PTSD, each time for a period of more than 21 days. When the claim is granted, the VA grants a 70 percent evaluation for PTSD, but grants a 100 percent evaluation for the periods when the Veteran was hospitalized. Therefore, the Veteran would receive a VA staged rating for both 70% and 100% for specific timeframes.
Obviously, there can be long stretches of time between examinations, and a condition can worsen prior to the later examination. You can help yourself by keeping records of when and how your symptoms worsen over time. If you see the doctor for your condition, make sure you have copies of those records. For musculoskeletal complaints, if you can get range of motion testing done, that will be helpful. If you experience flare-ups, keep a record of those. For mental health complaints, make sure you report worsening symptoms to your treatment providers. Just remember that the VA usually utilizes compensation and pension examinations to set the effective dates for increased evaluations, so any objective medical evidence or lay reports of worsening symptoms will help.
The VA disability lawyers at Berry Law help Veterans get the disability compensation they are entitled to. If you were denied VA disability compensation or need help appealing a low rating, they can help. With attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, Berry Law is well-equipped to handle your appeal. Contact Berry Law today for a free case evaluation.
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