VA Disability Benefits: When You Should File for an Increase

The Department of Veterans Affairs is mandated to determine if a service member has a disability connected to their service. Once your disability is fully ascertained, the VA can evaluate its severity and issue a disability rating. If you find the ratings unsatisfactory, you can file an appeal within 12 months.

However, you can still file for the same appeal if you still file for an appeal outside the stipulated 12 months window for filing the Notice of Disagreement. If you are not sure how to get through the intricate process, you can increase your VA disability rating with the help of a lawyer.

When requesting a new claim to the VA, they will conduct a full review of your entire claim file. This is to ascertain that your claim has satisfactory evidence to back it and warrant a new claim for increased ratings. If the VA establishes that your disability has improved or that your initial ratings were too high, they reserve the right to reduce your ratings on your disability.

It is advisable to do some research and consult with your doctor and attorney before going ahead with a new application for increased ratings. They will review your case and advise you on whether your claim is reasonable and passable. You also need to gather substantial evidence to support your claim for increased ratings.

 

File a Claim To Increase Your Disability Ratings

When you file your first claim for compensation for a service-related disability, the VA will decide to grant or deny your claim. If your claim is granted, a disability rating and effective date will be included in the decision.

Whereas if you believe that the disability ratings assigned to you by the VA are too low or that the effective date is not valid, you will put 12 months from the date of notification to file a Notice of Disagreement with the Board of Veterans. You can file a Notice of Disagreement to protest the unfavorable decision under the Appeals Modernization Act.

You will then be provided with three of the following options of which you can choose one:

 

Higher-Level Lane

As a veteran, you can request the Regional Office (RO) to issue a favorable decision from an advanced review. This review is done by rating experts at the Regional Office after they evaluate your condition. In this lane, the RO will decide based on the initial evidence on your file; hence you will not be required to submit new evidence.

 

Supplemental Claim Lane

You can submit new evidence in this lane to support your claim. You will also receive support from the VA in collecting such evidence. Moreover, in this lane, you will maintain the initial effective date when submitting new evidence to back your claim.

However, you can only maintain the same effective date if you submit your supplemental claim within 12 months of the RO’s original decision.

 

Notice of Disagreement

In this lane, you can make a direct appeal to the Board of Veterans after receiving an unfavorable decision from the RO. This lane allows you to skip RO’s second level of review.

Additionally, there are three more lanes you can choose from within this lane. These are:

  • Direct Docket: You can choose this lane if you do not want to appear before the Veteran Law Judge or submit new evidence to the Board. The VA can issue a decision in the direct Docket lane within one year.
  • Hearing Docket: You can opt for this lane if you want to appear before a Veteran Law Judge.
  • Evidence Docket: This lane allows you to submit additional and relevant evidence to the Board without appearing at a hearing. You will have up to 90 days to submit this evidence together with your Notice of Disagreement.

 

VA’s Disability ratings may be satisfactory on your first claim. However, if your condition escalated to a point where you have no working or earning capacity, you can file for an increased rating.

Additionally, you can be eligible for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployment (TDIU). All the above options can help improve your disability rating for additional compensation. Alternatively, you can increase your VA disability rating with the help of a lawyer.

Common types of claims include:

  • Initial claim: When you first file for your disability claim
  • Increased claim: File for additional compensation for your service-related disability which has escalated
  • New claim: File a claim for additional benefits for your existing disability sustained during service
  • Secondary service claim: File a claim for a new disability that is connected to your existing disability
  • Supplemental claim: If you filed for an increased disability rating and it was denied, you can submit new evidence to support your claim

 

Programs That Can Help With Your Claim

The Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program assists disabled service members to receive the benefits much earlier upon discharge. For instance, if you have about 6 or 3 months left before you officially leave active duty, you can file a disability claim through BDD and have your benefits processed sooner.

To speed up decisions on your disability compensation, you can file a claim and submit it together with supporting evidence to the Fully Developed Claims Program.

Navigating the VA can be tough and daunting. For a smooth process, you can enlist the services of a lawyer to increase your disability rating.