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Can VA Take Away Your Disability Rating?

Can VA Take Away Your Disability Rating?

Many veterans fear that VA will take away their benefits or reduce their monthly compensation. VA can indeed take away a veteran’s disability benefits under certain circumstances. Therefore, it can be helpful to understand your rights.

In this article, our VA-accredited disability attorneys examine some of the reasons that VA may consider reducing or even severing your VA disability benefits.

Can You Lose Your VA Disability Benefits?

In short, yes. Here are three ways VA can take away benefits:

Sustained Improvement Demonstrated Via Reexamination

If VA believes that a veteran’s disability has improved, they will typically order a C&P reexamination. Reexaminations can be used to reduce a veteran’s disability rating, which decreases the amount of monthly compensation they receive.

VA requires reevaluation when it is likely that a veteran’s disability has improved, where there is evidence indicating a material change in a disability, or if the current rating is incorrect. An example of this would be if a veteran’s service-connected cancer goes into remission.

Note that veterans do have the right to challenge an unfavorable reexamination.

Veteran-Committed Fraud

One of the ways in which VA can terminate a veteran’s benefits is if there is evidence that the veteran committed fraud to obtain the benefits. Evidence of fraud could include:

  • Submitting false evidence
  • Providing false statements about the severity of your condition
  • Manipulating test results

If a veteran is found to have committed fraud and was awarded VA disability benefits based on fraudulent evidence, the veteran could have their benefits terminated. The veteran may even be fined.

Clear and Unmistakable Error

If VA made a clear and unmistakable error when awarding the veteran disability benefits, then VA may terminate benefits that were granted from that error.

Examples of clear and unmistakable errors that could result in termination of benefits may include:

  • Granting benefits to a veteran who has been dishonorably discharged.
  • Granting benefits to veterans who have not met the minimum service requirements.

What VA Must Do to Take Away Your Disability Rating?

If VA decides to sever your benefits or reduce your disability rating, it must first send you a notice.

This notice must discuss why VA is proposing to sever or reduce your benefits. It must also include paperwork for you to respond to the proposal. You may have the option to request a hearing.

Most commonly, VA will reduce rather than sever benefits. For example, if VA receives “new and relevant” evidence proving that your condition has improved since you last received a rating, it may attempt to reduce your rating to align with the new level of disability.

There are a number of things VA must show when proposing a reduction.

  • A proposed rating (as well as a final decision) must be based on a review of the veteran’s entire medical history.
  • VA must show that there has been an actual change in the disability since the last rating decision.
  • VA must show that change in the disability reflects a material improvement in the veteran’s ability to function under the ordinary conditions and stressors of life and work.
  • Examination reports must be based on thorough examinations. For example, VA cannot rely on one negative exam to reduce your disability rating.

For veterans receiving Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits, some of the ways their benefits can be reduced are:

  • A veteran fails to submit VA Form 21-4140, Employment Questionnaire every year.
  • The veteran’s ability to obtain and sustain substantially gainful employment changes (e.g., their service-connected condition improves and they are able to get a job).
  • VA finds that a veteran is working in a substantially gainful occupation despite receiving VA benefits.
  • An improvement in the VA disability rating for one or more of a veteran’s conditions (e.g., the condition improves and the veteran’s combined disability rating goes from 70% to 50%, thereby dropping below the TDIU rating requirements under § 4.16(a)).

VA can even revoke TDIU if it determines that you are able to obtain and maintain substantially gainful employment for at least 12 months.

When Are Ratings Protected from Being Reduced or Taken Away?

VA regulations do provide rating protections in certain situations:

  • Your condition has been service connected for at least 10 years.
  • You have a disability that VA has found to be permanent in nature.
  • Your condition has maintained the same disability rating for 20 years or more.

Our Team May be Able to Help You Argue Against Rating Reductions

While it is difficult for VA to take away or reduce a disability rating, it is still possible. That may mean it is time to ask for help.

Our team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick has over 300 years of combined experience helping veterans like you get and keep the disability rating that you deserve.

Call our office today for a free case evaluation.