The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns disability ratings to veterans. These ratings are used to determine the service-connected disability benefits that the vet in question is entitled to. Benefits are of many types, including monthly stipends, home loans, insurance coverage, and more. To be entitled to and receive VA benefits, it is not necessary that you be completely or even seriously injured or disabled. A rating of at least 10 percent suffices to warrant receipt of benefits.
Based on the seriousness of your condition, you will receive a VA disability rating of between 0 and 100 percent. Ratings are assigned in 10-point increments and are associated with a certain benefit amount that you will receive for your disability or injury. Even if you are assigned a 0 percent rating, simply having a rating means that the VA acknowledges that you do have a service-connected condition, but the 0 rating means the condition does not affect your ability to find or perform a job or function without impediments on a daily basis.
Lower ratings, including 0 ratings, can actually increase your healthcare eligibility. This can happen if the condition for which you were assigned a 0 rating deteriorates over time. You can submit an application to have your rating increased if this happens, without having to restart your entire application.
Applying for a Higher Rating
It is entirely possible that a condition for which you currently receive benefits worsens over time. As an example, let’s say you receive compensation for an injury to your back that you sustained while on active duty and that you suddenly feel more pain, suffer a new symptom (for example, the onset of sciatica or another sudden illness), or lose motor control or function of a body part with the passage of time. Aggravated cases such as these can may it significantly harder for you to find and maintain gainful employment, but because the VA does not know about the deterioration of your health, it is not compensating you for it.
Under such circumstances, a percentage increase in your disability rating would likely be approved, with the proper evidence, of course, so applying for a rating increase with the VA makes sense.
The outcome of filing an application to increase your disability rating is not overly complex, even though the outcome may not be what you want or expect. Many vets have reported that their disability rating was lowered by the VA when they applied for a rating increase, simply because of the unique way that the VA handles and evaluates medical reports (both military and civilian), patient histories, and descriptions and definitions of diseases, disabilities, and related conditions.
What you need to make absolutely sure of is that, when applying for a rating increase, make sure that you make the request based on a worsening or deterioration of the condition for which you were initially evaluated and assigned a rating by the VA. never seek a higher rating to cover higher costs of living, growing financial responsibilities, or sudden financial difficulties.
The Filing Process
If you believe your injury or disability has truly deteriorated, Form 21-526EZ, the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, and submit it either online on the eBenefits homepage or with the nearest VA regional office. You must also submit medical evidence and a clear description of your injury or disability and an explanation as to why you feel you deserve a higher rating than what you already have. Medical proof can be from a VA doctor or your civilian doctor, but if you opt to provide evidence from a civilian doctor, you should also submit Form 21-4142. This form authorizes your doctor to share your medical information with the VA.
Requesting a Higher Disability Rating
If you already receive VA benefits or filed but were denied, you can still file for a higher rating. Also, as explained above, you can also request a higher rating if at any point you discover symptoms of an illness that were not previously identified before are provably service-related.
Keep in mind, however, that for new illnesses, you must file a new disability claim, that too within the prescribed time limit, along with documentation as required by the standard application for VA benefits.
The Risks of Applying for Higher Benefits
Submitting a request for an increase in your VA disability rating opens your claim for re-evaluation by the VA from scratch. Depending on what they find, the VA can lower or terminate the rating you currently have, so make sure your case meets all filing requirements, that your request is based on sound medical reasons, and that you have evidence to prove your case.
If you need help with putting together a claim or understanding the VA’s application and appeals processes, speak to a qualified veteran’s attorney. Specialist VA attorneys can help you collect the evidence you need to file a claim for a higher disability rating. They can also help you meet all required filing deadlines and other administrative requirements to expedite the filing process and help the VA quickly come to a decision regarding your application.