While many Veterans assume that getting a disability rating and benefit checks from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be the end of the process, the truth is that not all disability benefits are permanent. If a Veteran’s disabilities improve with time, or if other circumstances in their lives change, their benefits could be reduced.
Can the VA Reduce My Benefits?
The VA can reduce a Veteran’s benefits in specific circumstances. The VA may schedule a date for reexamination when benefits are awarded and the Veteran’s condition is expected to improve. The VA could also send a notice of reexamination at a predetermined point, such as two to five years after initial examinations or evidence of a change in a medical condition.
If a Veteran has an unprotected rating, the VA may reduce the disability rating if there is an improvement in the Veteran’s disability and in their ability to function under the ordinary conditions of life and work. A stabilized rating cannot be reduced unless the VA can show sustained improvement in a medical condition through a review of a Veteran’s medical, employment, and treatment records.
When a Veteran receives a 100 percent or total impairment rating, their benefits cannot be reduced unless there is a material improvement in their condition. If a Veteran has a continuous rating, meaning a rating at which benefits have been issued for a period of 20 or more years, the benefits cannot be reduced unless they were obtained by fraud.
If you have had the same rating for five or more years, the VA cannot reduce your benefits unless your condition has improved on a sustained basis. The VA will generally reduce benefits when there is an improvement in a Veteran’s disability, the improvement allows the Veteran to regain function in life and work, a reexamination report is completed, and/or the Veteran’s full medical history has been reviewed.
Another reason for a reduction in benefits is a Veteran being arrested and spending more than 60 days in jail, after which the VA can reduce benefits.
The VA can also reduce benefits when a Veteran is considered a fugitive felon, either because they are fleeing to avoid prosecution or violated a condition of probation or parole. The VA will generally cease benefits on the date a warrant is issued, but benefits can be reinstated if the warrant is proven to be invalid.
When Will the VA Reevaluate My Rating?
The VA uses reexaminations to take a second look at the service-connected disability ratings of Veterans. The VA often schedules dates for reexaminations when conditions are expected to improve, such as conditions that are temporary.
Most reexaminations are scheduled for two to five years from the date Veterans are assigned disability ratings. The VA must send a Veteran notice of the need for a reexamination. It usually sends notices of reexamination when medical evidence on file does not support a continuation of benefits at the current rate.
A Veteran only has 30 days to request a hearing and 60 days to submit evidence proving that the reduction is not warranted. If a Veteran has their benefits reduced without receiving a notice of reexamination letter, they could have their full benefits reinstated.
Certain Veterans are assigned permanent and total (P&T) ratings that are not subject to change and not scheduled for reexamination. Veterans may have undergone amputations in some cases, but many other Veterans have complicated cases involving multiple conditions that are not permanent and are thus more subject to change and possible benefits reduction.
Can I Appeal My Reduced Rating?
A Veteran always has the right to appeal any VA decision to reduce or terminate benefits.
An appeal begins with the filing of a notice of disagreement form (NOD) with the regional office (RO). The NOD establishes that you disagree with the decision you received regarding your claim for disability compensation and begins the appeal process.
A Veteran will only have 60 days to decide whether they want a decision review officer (DRO) or a traditional review for their claim. In either scenario, the only way a decision can be changed is because of unmistakable error.
When the DRO or traditional review results in the original decision being upheld, the Veteran will be given a statement of the case (SOC) providing reasons for the decision and also a VA Form 9. You use Form 9 to request an appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeal. Any further appeal would have to be filed in a federal circuit court.
How Can Berry Law Firm Help Me?
Are you a Veteran who is concerned about your disability benefits possibly being reduced? Berry Law Firm helps Veterans nationwide with all kinds of issues, whether it is filing appeals or getting disability ratings increased rather than reduced. Our firm has been fighting for Veterans since 1965.
We represent Veterans across the country and even help Veterans living in other countries. Call or contact us online today to set up a free consultation and see how we can help with your VA disability claim.