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FAQ Friday: VA Disability Rating Reductions

November 17, 2017
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Q. Can my VA Disability rating be reduced?

The VA does have the right to reexamine your service-connected disability in order to assess your disability rating, which may result in an increase, decrease, or dismissal of your disability benefits.

Q.Why does the VA want to reevaluate my service-connected disability?

Since not all service-connected disabilities are considered permanent, the VA wants to ensure it is rightfully compensating each claim based on current severity of the disability. Therefore, if your condition has improved over time since first receiving a rating, meaning your disability is less burdensome on your ability to work or live, then your rating may be reduced.

Q. When will the VA want to revisit my disability rating?

Typically, within two to five years after your initial rating decision the VA will send you a notice of reexamination letter; this process may happen sooner if new material and evidence noting a significant improvement in your condition is brought to the VA’s attention.

Q. How will the VA reassess my rating?

The VA will require you to undergo a new Compensation and Pension Examination, or C&P Exam,  in order to determine whether your condition has gotten better or deteriorated since the first rating decision was issued. It will then determine whether an adjustment of benefits is appropriate.

Q. Are there any exemptions from reexamination?

There are a few situations in which you may be exempt from reexamination and reassessment of benefits.  If your VA disability rating is considered Permanent and Total, or P&T, you may not be subject to a new C&P Exam because these ratings are often protected. Some other exemptions may apply. For example, a veteran over the age of 55 with a static disability (defined by the VA as permanent in nature, history, and severity) such as loss of a limb, would be exempt from reexamination. Another example of an exemption is a condition that is not expected to improve, such as deafness or blindness. These are all circumstances that may inhibit your ability to live independently or reenter the workforce at the capacity and capability you once exhibited prior to serving our country.

Q. What if I have had a service-connected disability for a significant period of time? Am i protected?

  • Once your VA disability rating has been in effect for 5 years and has remained the same, it is considered protected. This means that the VA must prove that your condition has shown sustained and permanent improvement. At this point, the VA is not allowed to use one reexamination to show that the condition is getting better. They must also consult all prior medical records as well to show that your improvement is not temporary.
  • After your service-connected disability has been the same for 10 years, the VA is not allowed to discontinue your benefits unless fraud or a less-than-honorable discharge is involved; they are, however, still able to reduce disability rating at this point.
  • When you have a service-connected disability rating for over 20 years, the VA is not able to sever or reduce your benefits unless said rating was based on fraud.

Q. What would make the VA reduce my disability rating if I am not protected?

In order to lower your VA disability rating must obtain material evidence proving that your condition has improved on a permanent basis. This improvement would have to result in an increased ability to function under ordinary pressures of work and life. It is crucial that you be present at all required medical visits and C&P exams, otherwise you may be at risk of the VA adversely changing your rating.

Q. What can I do if I think my rating is being wrongly reduced?

If the VA is attempting to reduce your rating, it is required that they notify you of their intentions so that you can respond promptly. At this point, you should provide any and all evidence in your favor to the VA.

If you believe that your disability benefits are being unjustly reduced or terminated by the VA, it is important to consult your medical professionals and legal representative to assist you.

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