Are You a Veteran Who is Currently Receiving Disability Benefits From the VA?
If so, you may be asking: Can the VA lower your disability rating? You may have heard that the VA could lower or terminate your disability rating. Don’t stress: we’re here to help you keep the benefits you deserve. We want to arm you with all the information you’ll need so you don’t have to worry about losing your benefits.
- Are You a Veteran Who is Currently Receiving Disability Benefits From the VA?
- Can the VA Lower Your Disability Rating?
- Service-Connected Disability Ratings That Are Protected
- What are Protected VA Disability Ratings?
- VA Disability Benefits Re-Examinations | What to Expect When You Receive a Reevaluation Notice
- Notice of Reexamination Letter
- Why Does the VA Reexamine Veterans With a Service-Connected Disability Rating?
- When the VA Will Not Contact You for VA Disability Rating Reevaluation
- Resources for If You Receive a VA Reexamination Notice for VA Disability Reevaluation
- VA Benefits Decreased after VA Disability Reexamination
- VA Must Prove a Change in Condition to Reduce Your Disability Rating
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Can the VA reduce my VA rating?
- What is the purpose of the ratings system?
- How often does the VA reevaluate disability ratings?
- What Is the VA 55 year rule?
- Is a VA disability rating permanent?
- Can the VA lower a 10% rating?
- Can the VA increase my disability rating?
- How do I reevaluate my VA disability rating?
- VA reexamination for PTSD – how often does the VA reevaluate PTSD?
- About the Author
Can the VA Lower Your Disability Rating?
Technically, yes, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the authority to reexamine you to verify whether the reason for your disability rating still exists and requires the initial rating you were assigned.
Based on its review, the VA has the power to increase, decrease, or terminate your disability compensation benefits based on a reevaluation. But, not every veteran’s disability rating is subject to reexamination, and not all ratings will change. Let’s dive in and discuss…
Service-Connected Disability Ratings That Are Protected
When a disability is service-connected, it means that the disability was caused or aggravated by an injury or illness that happened while you were on active duty.
Veterans with a permanent and total rating will seldom have their status reexamined. The same goes for injuries that are deemed enduring or unchanging. Injuries like these are referred to as permanent or static. Some diseases are not regarded as perpetual and may be subject to reconsideration.
What are Protected VA Disability Ratings?
Suppose you have had a service-connected VA disability rating with the VA for five years or more. In that case, the VA must show that your condition has improved on a long-term basis before they may reduce or terminate your rating.
Generally, there are seven categories of protected VA disability ratings:
- The disability is “static,” without material improvement for five years or more.
- The disability is “permanent” in character and of such nature that there is no likelihood of improvement.
- The disability has been in place for ten years or more. *Note: The rating can still be reduced (not eliminated) if medical evidence shows that the disability has improved.
- The disability has been continuously in effect for 20 years or more.
- The veteran is over 55 years of age (except under unusual circumstances or where required by regulation)
- The veteran has a 100% VA rating deemed a “total” disability. *Note: The VA can only reduce the rating if the medical evidence demonstrates “material improvement.”
- The disability is rated at the prescribed schedular minimum within its Diagnostic Code (DC). The means: the disability is rated at 10% or less, OR the combined evaluation would not change even if the VA reevaluation resulted in a reduced evaluation for one or more disabilities.
VA Disability Benefits Re-Examinations | What to Expect When You Receive a Reevaluation Notice
Reexaminations are generally done within two to five years after the initial examinations and from the date you were initially awarded disability benefits.
It can also take place any time there is material evidence of your change of condition. It could be evidence that your situation has improved or disappeared.
Note that evaluations work both ways. Depending on the evidence and paperwork submitted, they can raise or lower your score.
Notice of Reexamination Letter
Before changing your service-connected disability rating, the VA will issue a Notice of Reexamination. This letter will detail what will occur and when.
If you disagree with the VA’s decision, you have 30 days to request a hearing and 60 days to submit evidence that your rating should not be reduced. If you fail to report to a scheduled hearing, development of the decision will proceed anyway. Additionally, the court could
- make a decision based on the evidence of record.
- advise the beneficiary that if a new hearing is still desired, they should contact VA to schedule a hearing, in which case, the action just completed (raising or lowering the rating) will be reconsidered in light of any evidence presented at that hearing.
If you do not appear for your appointment or provide evidence to support your claim, the VA may lower or terminate your payments. Resuming your rating might take some time, and it might be impossible in certain situations. It’s important to remember that the VA cannot reduce your service-connected disability rating without first notifying you.
Why Does the VA Reexamine Veterans With a Service-Connected Disability Rating?
Not all illnesses are lifelong. Some injuries mend over time. The VA wants to make sure you get paid for your wounds at an appropriate rate. When the VA gives you a disability rating, it will also decide whether your condition needs to be reevaluated in the future.
When the VA Will Not Contact You for VA Disability Rating Reevaluation
The following circumstances will generally prevent the VA from requesting a reevaluation of your rating:
- If you are over the age of 55;
- Your disability is not progressing (such as limb loss);
- Your condition is considered permanent and isn’t expected to get better (e.g., blindness, deafness);
- The ailment has a minimal rating; your impairment(s) does not qualify for a reduced amount.
If you believe you should not be subject to a reexamination, you can call the VA or submit a statement in support of a claim and explain your situation. In some cases, the VA may decide to cancel the reexamination unless there’s an indication of improvements in your disabilities or evidence of fraud.
Resources for If You Receive a VA Reexamination Notice for VA Disability Reevaluation
At VA Claims Insider, we are an education-based Coaching/Consulting company for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process.
We can also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Independent Medical Opinions & Nexus Statements for a wide range of disability conditions.
You can also find our many free resources here.
VA Benefits Decreased after VA Disability Reexamination
If your disability compensation payments are reduced, read the letter to ensure you understand VA’s rationale for the decrease. After that, if you still disagree with the reduction, note that veterans can submit a Notice of Disagreement (which is the other term for Board of Appeals).
You can appeal either through a higher-level review (HLR) or board of appeals. HLR uses 20-0996 form while the latter uses 10182 form. To file your notice of disagreement, you must do so within one year after receiving notification from the VA.
You’ll fill out the Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement) form to protest what you don’t agree with and how you want your appeal to continue. You have three options under the BVA: Request a Direct Review, Submit more evidence and, Request a hearing.
If you choose the option to submit new evidence, make sure you have all relevant papers to support your appeal. Talking with your medical professionals might be helpful to prevent missing anything. If your VA rating was lowered due to your disability, you must submit documentation to support the gravity of your condition and how it affects your daily life. It can include private medical records, VA health records, and statements from people close to you.
Appeals can take anywhere from five to twelve months. If the VA reverses your decision, you’ll get a refund of your pay benefits to compensate for the loss. If your first appeal doesn’t work, you may restart the process by choosing a different review approach on your notice of disagreement.
VA Must Prove a Change in Condition to Reduce Your Disability Rating
The VA must present proof of a change in condition to reduce your rating. Any modification to your service-connected disability rating is contingent on the VA establishing considerable evidence of a transformation in condition. It places the responsibility for the job on them. However, you must act quickly to preserve your status and show up for your reexamination appointment.
While it can be scary to receive a notice from the VA about a possible decrease in benefits, it’s important to remember that the VA will not make any changes without first allowing the veteran to provide additional information about their condition. In other words, don’t panic if you receive a reevaluation notice. The VA is simply doing its due diligence to ensure that benefits are being provided to those who are still qualified.
If you have any questions about what you should do if you receive a notice from the VA, we encourage you to reach out to us for support. We’re insiders, and we’re here to walk you through everything you need to know.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the VA reduce my VA rating?
The amount of disability compensation that a veteran receives is based on their “disability rating,” determined by the VA. A higher disability rating corresponds to a higher level of disability and, as a result, a higher monthly benefit payment. Veterans can appeal their disability rating if they believe that it does not accurately reflect their level of disability.
The VA may lower the Veteran’s disability rating in some cases, lowering their benefit payments. The VA will only lower a veteran’s disability rating if there is clear evidence that indicates an improvement in the veteran’s condition so that their symptoms could fall under a lower rating.
What is the purpose of the ratings system?
The VA uses a disability rating system to evaluate the severity of a veteran’s service-connected conditions and determines the level of compensation they should receive. The VA rates disabilities on a scale from 0 to 100 percent, in 10-percent increments. A veteran with a 40 percent disability rating, for example, would receive compensation equivalent to 40 percent of the average earnings of a non-disabled worker.
How often does the VA reevaluate disability ratings?
The VA can reevaluate a disability rating, but most reviews are conducted between 2-5 years, depending on if a veteran’s condition improves or worsens significantly. If you believe your disability rating is no longer accurate, you can request a review from the VA by filing a claim for an increase.
What Is the VA 55 year rule?
Veterans over the age of 55 are protected from rating reductions (except under unusual circumstances) under what is known as the “VA 55-year rule.” Veterans must have been discharged from active military service under honorable conditions to qualify. The VA 55-year rule ensures that these veterans will not have their disability benefits reduced, even if their condition improves over time.
This protection allows older veterans to live with dignity and security, knowing that their benefits will not be suddenly cut off. The VA 55-year rule is a lifeline for many veterans that helps them make ends meet in their golden years.
Is a VA disability rating permanent?
The VA rates disabilities on a scale from 0 to 100 in 10-point increments. The overall disability rating reflects the average impairment of all service-connected conditions.
The rating does not consider job skills, education, or income potential. Once a veteran’s service-connected disabilities have been rated, the rating may be reviewed and adjusted if the veteran’s condition changes.
However, the VA does not automatically review ratings for all veterans with service-connected disabilities. For example, a veteran with a 70% disability rating may have their condition worsen over time and become unable to work.
If the veteran contacts the VA and requests a reevaluation of their disability rating, the VA will review the case and may award a higher disability rating. Ultimately, whether or not a veteran’s disability rating is permanent depends on the individual circumstances of each case.
Can the VA lower a 10% rating?
A 10% disability rating is reserved for veterans who have a disability that causes minimal impairment to their ability to work and earn a living. The VA does not usually lower a disability rating unless there is evidence that the Veteran’s condition has improved. However, the VA may reevaluate a veteran’s disability rating if they believe that the original rating was too high or too low.
If you are a veteran with a 10% disability rating and believe that your condition has worsened, you can ask the VA to review your case by filing a claim for an increase. You will need to provide evidence of your changed condition, such as medical records, for the VA to consider changing your disability rating.
Can the VA increase my disability rating?
If a veteran believes that their disability rating does not accurately reflect the severity of their injuries, they can file a formal appeal with the VA.
The VA may agree to reevaluate a veteran’s disability rating and provide an increased benefit amount in some cases. However, it is important to remember that the VA does not always grant such requests.
To increase the chances of success, it is important to provide detailed documentation of all service-connected injuries and how they have impacted your ability to work and live a normal life. With strong evidence and a persuasive argument, it is possible to convince the VA to provide an increased disability rating – and the higher monthly benefits that come with it.
How do I reevaluate my VA disability rating?
Typically, VA will automatically schedule a reevaluation for a veteran’s service-connected condition(s) for between two and five years. In some cases, a veteran may request a reevaluation sooner if their condition has worsened or improved significantly.
The first step in requesting a reevaluation is contacting VA and explaining that you believe your disability rating should be changed or simply filing a claim for an increase. You will then need to provide the VA with updated medical records documenting your current condition.
Once VA has received your records, they will decide whether or not to grant your request for a reevaluation. If they grant your request, you will be given an appointment for an examination with a VA medical provider.
Be sure to bring all relevant medical records to this examination so that the provider can fully evaluate your condition.
VA reexamination for PTSD – how often does the VA reevaluate PTSD?
The VA uses a tiered system to determine how often a veteran should be reevaluated for PTSD. The VA’s number one priority is making sure that veterans are getting the care they need when they need it.
In order to ensure that veterans are receiving the best possible care, the VA conducts regular reviews of all treatment programs, including those for PTSD. As part of these reviews, the VA may recommend that veterans be reevaluated more or less often, depending on their individual needs.
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 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 15,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
About the Author
Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).
Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start.
As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.
He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).