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How To Increase Your VA Disability Rating

Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns a disability rating based on the severity of your condition if you have been approved for service-connected disability benefits. A rating can range from 0 to 100%, and that percentage corresponds to how much you will receive due to your disability. It is not necessary to be completely disabled to receive VA benefits. However, you must have a rating of at least 10% to qualify.

What Is The VA Rating Chart?

Veterans who have suffered injuries or illnesses during or due to active duty are eligible for VA disability compensation. You can use the VA rating chart to determine your monthly disability payment with the help of your disability rating, marital status, and the status of your dependents.

The additional amounts table should include any children or spouses receiving Aid and Attendance benefits. If your spouse receives benefits and you have children, you may be eligible for additional VA disability compensation.

Making A Case For A Rating Increase

Pain, challenging symptoms, or diminished day-to-day functioning may make it harder for you to sustain gainful employment after receiving VA benefits for some time. Your disability-related health deterioration and regression might not be adequately represented by the percentage rating you originally received. Your VA rating may need to be increased at some point.

This request is easy to submit. There may be a difference between what you expect and what you get. That said, you may lower your disability rating by requesting this change. A lawyer can explain the advantages and disadvantages of a VA rating increase to help you decide whether or not to request one.

Certain circumstances may lead to an increase in your rating by the VA. Veterans seeking higher disability ratings do, however, have the following options:

File A VA Appeal

Once you file an initial claim, the VA will issue a rating decision regarding your service-related compensation claim. Effective date and a disability rating will also be included in the rating decision if the VA approves your claim, and those two will determine the compensation.

A Notice of Disagreement must be filed within one year of your notification letter about the VA's decision if you disagree with the disability rating or the effective date they assigned you. 

The following three review options are available to you when you receive an unfavorable decision:

Higher-Level Review

A veteran who chooses this option asks the Regional Office (RO) to issue a separate decision after completing a more thorough review. VA rating specialists or senior VA employees evaluate the veteran's claim from scratch.

Additional evidence cannot be submitted by veterans who will choose this option. The RO will use evidence from the previous decision to issue a fresh one.

Supplemental Claim

New and relevant evidence can be submitted through the Supplemental Claim option. When veterans choose this option, VA is obligated to assist them in collecting the proof to support their claims. A supplemental claim submitted within one year after an initial decision by the RO will continue to have the same effective dates as the original decision.

Notice Of Disagreement

A veteran who receives an unfavorable decision from the RO may appeal directly to the Board through a Notice of Disagreement. Veterans can bypass the second level of RO review in this case. The Board appeal offers veterans three additional options:

Direct Docket

Veterans who do not wish to provide additional evidence to the Board, nor do they wish to stand before a Veterans Law Judge, should consider a direct docket. Only the evidence in the veteran's file when the appealed decision was issued will be examined by the Board in this docket. The board's decision is expected to be finalized in 365 days, making it the fastest of the three options.

Hearing Docket

Veterans seeking a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge can use the hearing dock. Veterans can only have a videoconference hearing or a hearing at Washington's Appeals Board under Appeals Reform. Veterans in the legacy appeals system can only request travel board hearings from Veterans Law Judges at ROs.

Evidence Docket

Veterans who do not want to participate in a hearing can submit evidence to the evidence docket. Veterans who submit a Notice of Disagreement to the Board within 90 days of that submission can submit additional evidence under this option:

  • File A New Claim To Increase Your VA Rating Once you've passed the 1-year appeal window for filing a Notice of Disagreement, you might want to consider filing a new claim for an increased rating. 
  • File For TDIU For An Increase In Compensation (100% rate) – Total disability based on individual unemployability, or TDIU, provides veterans with disability compensation equal to a 100% disability rating if they cannot work due to a service-connected disability or disabilities.
  • File For Secondary Service Connection – It is also possible for veterans to claim secondary disabilities connected to their service. The compensation can still increase even if it's not technically an increase in rating. 

Why Your Rating And Benefits Could Decrease

The VA will review your entire file when they receive your claim. As a result, all your medical records will be scrutinized, and your initial rating will be re-evaluated. The result can be either positive or negative, depending on how everything plays out. If you provide the VA with new medical evidence about your condition, they may degrade your rating based on that information. Your VA benefits may also be reduced if the VA does not find that your disability has deteriorated but instead sees improvement in your current condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about VA disability rating:

How does the combined disabilities rating calculation work?

Veterans eligible for VA benefits must have a service-related disability of at least 10%. Many veterans, particularly as they age, have multiple disabilities, which is referred to as a "combined disability" by the VA.

There is, however, a complex system for calculating a combined disabilities rating. Thus, combining 80% and 10% could make 82%, 80%, or 20% might make 84%, etc.

Is it possible to receive a 100% disability rating?

It is difficult, though not impossible, to receive a disability rating of 100% from the VA. Even if their service-related disabilities aren't rated at the total level, they will still pay 100% disability compensation to certain veterans. 

What evidence can you use to prove your condition is getting worse?

Having your medical records on hand is important if you want to prove your disability is worsening. Your hospitalization, medications, and treatment plans, including therapy, can be found in VA or other military hospital records.

Thankfully, you have already been approved for your initial claim, so you do not need to go through the same lengthy process that you had to go through when you were originally required to prove your disability. You only need to prove that things have changed since you last submitted your application. You will probably have to undergo a medical examination with one of the VA's appointed medical professionals in addition to updated medical records.

What forms do you need to fill out to request an updated rating?

Depending on where you initially received treatment, you will need to fill out different forms to request a re-evaluation. To verify your information, you must fill out Form 21-526EZ if you received care at a VA or military service healthcare facility. Only you need to enter the name(s) of the healthcare facility where your care was provided.

A HIPAA form, Form 21-4142, will be required if you received treatment at a civilian facility. Your medical records can only be released if you sign this form. Your physicians can also consult with the VA with this authorization.

How much time do you have to request an increase?

VA disability rating changes are dependent on the timing of your request. The above forms and procedures can be used if you have not received benefits for over a year. The initial decision can be appealed, but it becomes much more complicated if you have less than a year and disagree with the decision or if your condition is already worsening.

Final Words

Your VA claim file will be reviewed if you request the agency to re-evaluate your disability rating. VA will review evidence proving your claim and your entire claim file. They can also reduce your disability rating if your condition is perceived to have improved or if it believes it was initially assigned too high a rating.

Make sure you do your research before submitting a claim. Gather your evidence to support your claim for a higher rating, and talk to your doctor and attorney about how realistic your request is. Your claim will be more likely to withstand scrutiny by the VA if you work with an accredited representative.

To learn more about different types of disability and the associated cash compensation for the victims of Camp Lejuene water contamination, visit the rest of Disability Help’s blog section today!

Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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