Did you know that you can have your VA disability compensation benefit increased by the Department of Veterans Affairs?
Many types of medical conditions get worse over time. If you are getting disability benefits from the VA, you have the right to request that your rating be increased if your medical condition gets worse or causes your health to deteriorate.
Before you file for an increase in your disability rating, make sure you know what you can expect from the VA, and be prepared for both the best and worst outcomes you might face after requesting a disability rating increase.
There are basically three different courses of action you can take when applying for an increase in disability benefits: requesting compensation for a new disability; filing for an increase to an existing disability because the condition has gotten worse, or you can disagree with the VA's current disability rating decision.
Requesting Compensation for a New Disability
You normally do this if you are already getting VA disability, or have filed before and were denied. For example, you hurt your back while in the military so the VA is paying you disability compensation for a bad back. Now, you realize you are having hearing issues that may be related to your military service.
In this case, you just have to file a new disability claim with the VA. Some disabilities may have time limits, and you do have to document everything just like any other application for VA disability.
Filing for an Increase to an Existing Disability
There may come a time that your disability begins to worsen. You may have more pain, have new symptoms, or find that your existing disability causes other issues. For example, your service-connected back injury leads you to favor one leg over the other, causing knee pain.
To file for an increase, you normally go through the same procedure you went through when you initially filed for compensation. You will need medical proof that your condition has gotten worse. This can be from either the VA doctor or a private doctor. You can file your increase request using eBenefits or by filling out a VA Form 21-526b.
If you have medical information from a private doctor, you must submit a VA Form 21-4142, which authorizes that doctor to share information with the VA.
If you are seeing a civilian doctor as part of the Veterans' Choice program, you may not need the VA Form 21-4142, but it never hurts to have one on file.
What Happens When You File for Increased Disability Compensation?
When you request an increase in your VA disability rating, you are in effect opening up your claim for re-evaluation. The VA can actually lower or terminate your existing rating, so you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you file.
If you've had your VA disability for more than five years, the VA has to prove that your illness or disease has gotten better and will stay better before reducing or terminating your rating.
If you've had your disability for 10 years or more, the VA can very rarely terminate your benefits unless it proves that you've been fraudulent in your claim. It can, however, reduce your benefits.
If you've had your disability for 20 years, the VA won't reduce your rating below the lowest one you've received in those 20 years.
The VA can also reduce or terminate your compensation if you miss a scheduled disability rating medical exam.
Whatever the situation, be prepared to send in a ton of documents, fill out lots of forms (this may be easier to do using eBenefits instead of regular mail), and wait for several months before the VA makes a decision on your claim.
Disagreeing with the VA's Decision
If you disagree with the VA's decision on your disability, you can file what is known as a "Notice of Disagreement" with the VA. This is also known as an appeal.
You can file an appeal if you think the VA rated your disability too low or it denied your disability. You can file an appeal with any decision made by the VA, the initial rating or any subsequent rating.
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