Is it possible to appeal my VA Disability Rating?
Published July 15, 2022
Yes, it is possible to appeal individual VA disability ratings, including a 100% disability rating, if your condition warrants it. A VA disability attorney may be able to help you navigate the process from a denied or underrated disability claim through appeal to a better outcome.
What is a VA Disability Rating, and what does it mean?
Decisions on VA disability claims have several parts. If the VA agrees you have a disability and that it is service-connected, they will assign an individual VA disability rating number to each of your conditions. For example, a veteran could have a 10% disability rating for vision and a 30% disability rating for PTSD.
VA disability ratings are numbers assigned to a veteran’s disability based upon lists of criteria specific for different types of disabilities on a scale of 0-100%. According to the VA, “the percentage ratings represent as far as can practicably be determined the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from such diseases and injuries (and their residual conditions) in civil occupations.” The practical application, however, is that a VA has a list of symptoms and criteria to match with your records and evidence presented and see where the closest match is.
Disability ratings are a reflection of the VA’s analysis at the time they make a decision on your VA disability claim. There can be an increased VA disability rating upon appeal, or sometimes may be changed over time upon a renewed request if your condition changes.
Your overall VA disability rating is used to calculate your monthly VA disability benefit payments. Higher ratings will often have higher monthly payments than lower ratings, but several other factors, such as your marital and family status, go into that calculation.
Is my VA Disability Rating permanent?
Your initial VA disability rating(s) assigned is not permanent. They can be changed through an appeal or occasionally through other processes.
Veterans are allowed to appeal their initial VA disability decision within one year of the decision on any grounds they consider to have been improperly decided, including underrating of a disability. For example, if you were rated 30% for PTSD but you believe your symptoms and condition actually warrant a 70% disability rating, you can appeal. Keep in mind that you would be seeking to change one or more individual VA disability ratings on appeal. Changes in the overall VA disability rating are automatic calculations based on individual ratings.
A successful appeal of your VA disability rating can result in an increased individual VA disability rating, which might increase your overall VA disability rating and your monthly benefit payment amount.
Absent an appeal, your VA disability rating can be considered somewhat permanent unless you later file a request for an increased rating based upon the increased severity of your condition. The VA may ask for a re-evaluation and possible reduction of a VA disability rating within the first five years after their decision, mainly if your disabling condition is something that they expect to improve over time, not just improve a little, but when there is an expectation of substantial and sustained improvement since the initial decision. After five years, it is rare and challenging for the VA to reduce your disability rating. Unless your claim was fraudulent, a VA disability rating is unlikely to decrease over time but can always be increased (up to 100%) if your condition worsens. However, any time you request the VA to re-evaluate your condition, it is possible for them to decide that you should have a lower rating.
Is it possible to appeal my VA disability rating?
Yes, as with other issues you may have with your VA disability claim decision, it is possible to appeal your individual VA disability rating(s). Is it possible to increase the VA disability rating upon a VA claim appeal? Yes.
Review all of the findings and decisions when you receive your VA disability decision letter. Does the VA agree that you have a disability? Does the VA agree that your disability is service-connected (and thus eligible for disability benefit payments)? What is the individual disability rating assigned? What is the effective date for starting your benefits? If you disagree with any of these portions of your decision, you have one year to file an appeal (also known as a Decision Review Request).
There are currently three pathways for a VA disability appeal, depending on the details of your claim file and what you are challenging. A Higher Level Review requests a more experienced examiner to review your file. A Supplemental Claim allows you to add new information to your file, perhaps documentation you either forgot or didn’t know you needed. There is also a Board Review request option, allowing you to have a live hearing with a judge. You and your VA disability appeals attorney can walk through the pros and cons of each pathway and decide which makes the most sense for you.
The VA maintains lists of rating levels and the corresponding symptoms for various conditions. Those lists are the point of reference for VA examiners and medical professionals who evaluate veterans during a C&P Exam (Compensation & Pension Examination). It is also the framework that you and your lawyer can use to help you prepare your request for an increased VA disability rating. They will help you compile the necessary information to prove that your condition falls within a higher bracket for ratings purposes.
Should I consult an attorney to appeal my VA Disability Rating?
Absolutely. The VA disability process is complex, and you can use help navigating it. You want to know your options and have an expert on your side to help assemble a convincing case for the VA to increase your VA disability rating. The VA denies over 70% of initial claims for VA disability benefits for one reason or another. Still, when you appeal that decision with an experienced disability attorney at your side, you have a better than 70% chance of a better outcome.
Obviously, each case is different, but they all have similarities to a VA disability claim attorney who has handled thousands of other veterans’ disability appeals. Look for a VA disability attorney or law firm specializing in VA disability claims, lawyers who know how to line up the evidence to make it easy for the VA to agree with you and provide a more favorable outcome.
Have you received a decision letter on your VA disability claim and think the disability rating is too low? Would you like to have your case evaluated for free by Veterans Law Group? Veterans Law Group has handled thousands of cases like yours and recovered millions of dollars in backpay benefits for them. Maybe we can help you too.