Can the VA lower your disability rating?
Once you’ve locked in your VA benefits, the last thing you want to do is think about losing them. And yet, you may have heard stories of the VA reducing disability ratings and downgrading compensation.
Are these stories true? Can VA disability be reduced? Or are these just rumors?
Let’s take a look and see.
- Can the VA Lower Your Disability Rating?
- Do VA Disability Benefits Expire?
- Can My VA Disability be Taken Away?
- Will I Always Need a VA Reexamination?
- Can VA Reduce 100% P&T Rating?
- If I Miss My Reexamination, Can My VA Benefits be Canceled?
- If I Apply for a VA Disability Increase, Will I Put Myself at Risk for a Lower VA Rating?
- How Can I Appeal the VA’s Decision to Decrease My VA Rating?
- NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
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Can the VA Lower Your Disability Rating?
Can the VA lower your disability rating? It’s possible, depending on your conditions and whether or not they are considered likely to improve. This is a more likely scenario than your benefits being terminated.
Reasons the VA Could Reduce Your VA Rating
Although the VA isn’t necessarily looking to reduce your VA rating, here are some of the more common reasons why a reduction in benefits can occur.
Your Service-Connected Disability Improves
After leaving the military and receiving a VA disability rating, you may be scheduled for routine reexaminations (also known as C&P exams).
If the examining physician finds that your disability has improved, they may recommend a reduction in your VA rating and compensation.
The VA may follow up with you every 2 to 5 years. Or, if they have reason to believe that your condition has improved, they may call you in at random for a reexamination. You should get a notice by mail or phone and have 60 days to respond.
Other conditions (such as musculoskeletal disorders affecting the muscles, cartilage, joints, spinal discs, etc.) may improve with time and physical therapy, and benefits could be reduced.
The VA Believes Your Original Rating was Wrong
Mistakes happen, and if the VA finds evidence that you were rated improperly, they may call you in for a reevaluation and adjust your rating accordingly.
Felony Imprisonment for More Than 60 Days
If you’re convicted of a felony and sentenced to more than 60 days in prison, you’ll see a reduction in your VA compensation on the 61st day of your prison sentence.
At this point, a VA rating of 20% to 100% will be downgraded to the 10% rating level. A 10% rating will be cut in half. After the veteran has served out their prison sentence, their VA disability pay will return to its full rate.
VA disability benefits will not be reduced for veterans who are imprisoned for a felony for 60 days or less. Disability benefits for those imprisoned for a misdemeanor will not be downgraded, no matter how long the prison term is.
Do VA Disability Benefits Expire?
So, do VA benefits expire? The good news is that, unlike some other VA benefits, VA disability compensation doesn’t have an expiration date.
VA benefits that do expire include certain VA life insurance programs, such as the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, which usually ends 120 days after separation.
Some education benefits expire as well, including:
- VocRehab, which expires after 12 years of separation from service for veterans discharged from active duty before January 1, 2013.
- The Post-9/11 GI bill expires 15 years from the date of last discharge or release from active duty for those discharged before January 1, 2013.
NOTE: There is no expiration for either VocRehab or the Post-9/11 GI bill for those discharged on or after January 1, 2013.
Can My VA Disability be Taken Away?
We’ve established that VA disability compensation doesn’t expire, but it can be terminated under rare conditions.
This usually only happens if the VA has proof that you have defrauded them.
The VA could also terminate your benefits if they determine that a mistake was made with your initial VA rating and that your injuries or illness were not service-connected.
In the rare case that the VA questions the legitimacy of your service-connected disability, you will be notified and given the opportunity for a hearing.
Even if the hearing does not go your way, you will have the right to an appeal.
Will I Always Need a VA Reexamination?
The thought of routine reexaminations can be unnerving to a veteran who has fought for their VA disability rating.
Could all of that hard work really be wiped out with just one medical appointment?
No, the VA doesn’t always require examinations.
Remember that reexaminations are usually only necessary for veterans when their illness or injury is likely to improve.
Future exams are not usually needed when:
- Your disability is not expected to improve.
- Your combined disability rating would not likely be affected, even if one or more of your conditions improved.
- Your disability has been static for five years or more. After this point, the VA can technically still reduce your rating if they get medical evidence that you have improved, but they usually stop the reexaminations at this point. (By 20 years from your initial rating, it is very unlikely that the VA will reduce your rating, even if your condition has improved.)
- You’re more than 55 years old. (See the 55-Year-Old Rule for VA Disability)
- You’ve been granted permanent and total disability (see below).
Can VA Reduce 100% P&T Rating?
When the VA approves your claim for disability benefits, they will give you a rating ranging from 0 to 100% based on the severity of your disability.
If you are totally disabled, you will be rated at 100%. If your disability is minor, it may be rated at 0 to 10%. This rating determines the amount of your monthly disability compensation.
Beyond this, the VA must decide if you will also be granted “permanent disability,” which means that your total disability has no chance of improvement.
If you are granted permanent and total disability, the VA will not schedule you for further C&P examinations. It is likely that you will continue to receive your full disability compensation for the rest of your life.
However, this rating can be taken away if the VA finds out you were rated due to fraud or if you file a new claim, which opens the possibility of the VA reevaluating your case.
If I Miss My Reexamination, Can My VA Benefits be Canceled?
This is rare but possible. VA exams are no joke. If you can’t make your VA exam or you miss your exam for some reason, contact the VA immediately to reschedule.
If I Apply for a VA Disability Increase, Will I Put Myself at Risk for a Lower VA Rating?
Unfortunately, yes, because it opens your case up to the possibility of a reexamination.
While a rating downgrade during a case reevaluation is rare, it can happen if the VA believes that your rated condition(s) has improved or that a mistake was made in the initial rating process.
Expert guidance from our team at VA Claims Insider can educate you on how to decrease your risk for a lower rating while applying for an increase.
How Can I Appeal the VA’s Decision to Decrease My VA Rating?
If the VA notifies you about decreasing your VA rating, don’t panic. We have seen countless veterans succeed in appealing these decisions.
The following documentation can help strengthen your case:
- A statement from your doctor that your service-connected illness or injury has not improved significantly (backed by medical evidence where possible)
- Buddy letters from friends, employers, or family explaining how your service-connected injury has not improved and continues to compromise your daily life
- Documentation disputing your reexamination if you believe it was not conducted thoroughly or competently enough
For more information on the appeals process, you can read about the VA Board Appeal Options here.
NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting the compensation they’re due. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the TDIU rating and compensation you’re owed by law.
Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating fast!
If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve!
We’ve supported more than 25,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.