Can I Increase My VA Disability Rating?
You should only try to increase your VA disability rating if you have a warranted medical reason for doing so. The only basis on which the VA will change a disability rating is if an injury, illness, or disability for which a rating was already assigned has deteriorated or worsened over time.
One example of this would be an injured vet who receives benefits for an injured leg. As a result of their overreliance on their healthy leg, they experience a deterioration in function. This makes it harder for the vet to perform basic tasks. It also results in them becoming unemployable.
A variety of issues and circumstances can lead to such a situation. If you are a veteran who has been injured or whose injuries have worsened, you may qualify for VA Individual Unemployability if you can't work.
In cases like the one above, the vet in question could apply for a higher rating based on the fact that their combat injury led to a deterioration in their overall health. This can result in their case being reopened for consideration for a higher rating.
How to File for an Increase in Your Disability Rating
If your service-related injury has worsened or caused a secondary condition, you may also be able to have your case reopened to see if you can increase your rating. These are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Don’t guess what your current rating is—find out on the VA website
- Fill out Form 21-0966 to establish the date of your claim
- Determine what type of request to make based on how long it’s been since your benefits were awarded
- Study the Schedule for Rating Disabilities to determine the benefits you believe you should be getting
- Gather evidence to support your claim
- File your claim using Form 21-526EZ
- Wait for a response from the Veteran’s Administration
If you believe your case deserves to be reopened, now is the time to act. In 2020, VA disability rates saw a 1.6% cost-of-living increase. The benefits that come with a higher rating will take some of the stress off of you. However, seeking a higher rating isn’t entirely without risk.
Risks of Seeking a Higher Disability Rating
Any time you ask the VA to open your file, you are opening yourself up to risk. Once a case has been opened for reevaluation, you may end up with a decrease in your rating. When that happens, you’ll have lower benefits.
If you do not have the concrete and reliable evidence needed for your disability claim from your physician, you won’t have a case. If you cannot find a physician or psychologist who can confirm that your condition has deteriorated, it may be better to not seek a rate increase.
If you are not sure whether or not it’s the right time to seek an increase in your disability rating, speak with an attorney with VA experience. A lawyer who specializes in this area of law will be able to answer your questions and address your concerns.
Your attorney will go over the VA disability pay chart with you and help you understand the options that are available. Most lawyers who specialize in veteran’s law offer free initial consultations.