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VA Disability Ratings

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A Veterans Disability Attorney Explains Your VA Rating and How to Increase a Low Rating

To compensate veterans for injuries sustained or exacerbated during their service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides disability benefits for all who qualify. Once the VA determines that your conditions are service-connected, The VA will calculate the disability rating. A veterans disability attorney from our firm will help you make sense of your rating and can help fight for a higher rating. 

What Are Disability Ratings?

A disability rating is a percentage based upon the severity of your service-connected injury and the impact of your service-connected conditions and symptoms on your ability to work and perform day-to-day tasks. The VA determines the veteran’s compensation rating based upon the diagnostic evidence the veteran submits. It will then assign a disability rating from 10% to 100% according to the Schedule for Rating Disabilities, which is a comprehensive list of every condition covered by the program and its level of severity. Generally, the more severe the injury, the higher the disability rating.  

Can My Disability Rating Change? 

Yes, the VA can increase or decrease your rating or terminate your benefits altogether. The VA reevaluates recipients’ conditions if the recipient’s condition is expected to improve over time. In most cases, the VA will re-evaluate a claimant’s medical condition six months after he or she leaves military service and then again between two and five years after the date the claimant was initially awarded disability benefits. 

However, not all veteran’s disability recipients will be required to undergo a reevaluation, making their ratings permanent in most cases. These include: 

  • Recipients over the age of 55
  • Recipients with permanent and total disabilities that will not improve over time (e.g., missing limbs, blindness, deafness, etc.) 
  • Recipients with Total Disability Individual Employability ratings 
  • Recipients who have ratings that have been at or above a certain level for 20 years or more (VA cannot reduce the rating below the original rating)

If you have received a notice or reevaluation letter and are concerned about a change in your rating, please contact a veterans disability claims attorney.

What if I Have Multiple Disabilities? 

Applying for veteran’s disability benefits with one disability is the most straightforward type of claim. The claimant submits his or her claim, the VA assigns the claimant a disability rating, and the claimant’s benefits will be based on that rating. But things get a bit more complicated for a claimant who suffers more than one disability. Disability ratings are not additive, meaning that if the claimant has one disability rated 30% and a second disability rated 20%, his or her total rating is not 50%. According to the VA, this is because ratings for subsequent disabilities take into account the rating for the prior disability.  

The VA uses a fairly complex method of determining disability ratings for claimants with multiple disabilities. It generally comprises the following steps: 

  1. The disabilities are arranged in order of their severity, with the most severe disability being first
  2. The degree of the first disability will be placed onto the y-axis of the Combined Ratings Table (see here), and the degree of the second disability will be placed on the x-axis
  3. The figures appearing in the space where the row and column intersect will represent the combined disability rating
  4. That combined disability rating is then rounded to the nearest 10% 

To illustrate, assume that a veteran has two disabilities: one with a rating of 40% and one with a rating of 20%. The 40% (the more severe disability) will be placed onto the x-axis of the table, while the 20% will be placed on the y-axis. The 40% row and the 20% column intersect at 52%. The 52% rating is then rounded to the nearest 10%, giving the claimant a rating of 50%. 

But what about claimants with three disabilities — 40%, 20%, and 10%? The process is essentially the same. First, the 40% and the 20% will be placed into their respective rows and columns, which gives 52%. To calculate the combined rate for all three disabilities, the VA will then place the 52% on the y-axis and the 10% on the x-axis, which intersects at 57%. The 57% will then be rounded to the nearest 10%, giving a combined disability rating for all three disabilities of 60%. The process then continues in this way for all subsequent disabilities. 

As you can see, this process is complex, imprecise, and prone to human error. If you are applying for veterans disability benefits with multiple disabilities, please consider contacting a veterans disability claims attorney for assistance. 

Can I Appeal My Disability Rating?

If you feel that your rating is too low, you may appeal the VA’s determination in one of three ways

  1. File a supplemental claim: Filing a supplemental claim allows you to add new evidence that’s relevant to your case. “New” evidence is information that the VA did not have before the prior decision. “Relevant” evidence is information that could prove or disprove an element of your claim. 
  2. Request higher-level review: Requesting higher-level review places your claim in front of a different reviewer who will take a fresh look at your case. You can’t submit any new evidence, but you can speak to the new reviewer and argue your case. 
  3. Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals: Appealing to the Board allows your claim to be heard by a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Appeals in Washington, DC. You may either request a direct review of your existing evidence, submit new evidence, or request a hearing. 

Our veteran’s disability claims attorneys have extensive experience assisting our clients with all three methods of appeals. 

Increase Your Disability Rating With Help From a Veterans Disability Claims Attorney

Disability ratings are not set in stone. Occasionally, the VA may assign an incorrect rating, which the applicant may appeal. In other cases, the initial rating may be correct but may need to be recalculated because the recipient’s condition has worsened over time.

File for a Rating Increase for a Worsened Condition

If you feel that your initial rating is no longer satisfactory due to your condition has gotten worse, you may file a claim for an increased rating based on new and relevant evidence that shows that your disability has worsened. The VA treats claims for increased ratings the same way it treats original claims and will assign a rating based on the evidence you submit. As such, the VA could either increase or decrease your rating.

Contact a Veterans Disability Claims Attorney Today for Help

If you think your VA disability rating is too low or should be increased, you should seek an experienced attorney to help you present the strongest case possible. To get started, please contact a veterans disability claims attorney at Turley, Redmond and Rosasco by using our online form or calling us at 877-693-2529, 516-745-5666 (Garden City), 631-582-3700 (Ronkonkoma), or 631-399-0400 (Shirley). We serve New York City and Long Island, including Nassau County and Suffolk County

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