There is perhaps no greater sense of relief than the one felt by a veteran finally approved for VA unemployment (TDIU) benefits. Conversely, many feel a sense of anxiety and frustration when they discover their benefits could be reduced or taken away altogether. Though rare, benefit reductions can seriously change the way a veteran lives their life. The reality is that as disabilities improve, some wounds can heal and therefore benefits change. Veterans need to understand that unless the veteran is deemed permanently and totally disabled the VA can reexamine and reduce a person’s disability rating (and therefore their TDIU benefits) at any time.
Reexaminations of Disability Ratings
Not all disabilities are permanent, which is why the VA reexamines injuries expected to heal over time. When a person is first given a disability rating, the VA will inform them if their disability will be reexamined in the future. Most reexaminations occur within two to five years after the initial rating is given. The VA will inform veterans of their intent to reexamine a disability via letter.
Reexaminations only occur when a veteran’s injury is expected to improve. Veterans who have had limbs amputated, for example, will not have their disability reexamined. If a disability is already at its lowest rating, the VA will not reexamine it.
In order to change a person’s disability rating, the VA will need evidence that the veteran’s condition has improved. To collect such proof, the VA will schedule exams and require the veteran to attend. The burden of proof is on the VA to reduce a disability, but veterans should do all they can to enlist the help of their own medical professionals or attorney to retain their rating. If you are scheduled for a reexamination, the veteran MUST attend the examination or risk the VA proposing a reduction.
Evidence of Employability
In order for TDIU benefits to be reduced or terminated, the VA must have clear, convincing evidence that the veteran is able to work. Locating such evidence can be difficult for the VA, since hypothetical information will not suffice. Just because a person should theoretically be able to hold down a job again does not mean the VA can reduce benefits. Instead, medical evidence is needed to prove that a veteran can work again.
A person’s completion or participation in VA rehabilitation is also not considered to be enough evidence that said person is employable. Even if a veteran takes on a position or an odd job, their benefits may not be reduced unless they work in the same position for at least 12 months (38 § C.F.R. 3.340). Only after that point can the VA consider a TDIU benefits reduction.
The Silver Lining (And Why Your Benefits Aren’t Likely to be Reduced)
Just because VA TDIU benefits can be reduced doesn’t mean they will be. In fact, a reexamination can sometimes result in an increased disability rating. While the VA will not go out of their way to do so, they will not ignore conditions that have taken a turn for the worse. VA disability ratings are not all permanent, and therefore should not be taken for granted. Anyone worried about the status of their rating should connect with an attorney to ensure their benefits are protected.
TDIU benefits reduction requires a great deal of evidence to prove employability. Occasionally, the VA has enough proof to propose to reduce a person’s benefits. When that happens, the veteran has the right to gather further documentation from doctors, vocational experts and psychologists to confirm they are still indeed considered disabled and unable to work.
Please be aware that the VA can periodically ask you to report your work history of the previous 12 months. They send you a form to complete and send back. You must complete said form or they will automatically propose to reduce your TDIU benefits. If you get a proposed reduction to remove TDIU because they did not receive a 21-4140 Employment verification, all you need to do is submit that form.
Help for Disabled Veterans
The sacrifices made for your country should not prevent you from earning a living. You are entitled to compensation for your service-connected injuries and disabilities. By working with a compassionate, knowledgeable veterans’ disability lawyer, you ensure the best possible outcome for your TDIU application.
Those who have been denied benefits by the VA can benefit from a conversation with an attorney. Contact the Veterans Law Group today for help seeking independent medical exams, vocational expertise and the legal aid you need to get the benefits you deserve. With over two decades years of experience representing veterans, VLG is committed to seeking the maximum benefits possible for clients.