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Are disability ratings permanent

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Posted on: Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jim,
I have a couple questions for you. First of all I got out of the army this march under honorable conditions and had the military order of the purple heart file a claim for me. I was awarded 30 percent for cervical spine issue "herniated disk in neck" and then also had nerve damage in my pectoral and tricep. I then received a claim of another 30 percent for "mild anxiety issues, dealing with sleep" after deployment I have had a tremendous time getting to sleep, and take over the counter medicine that helps.

So they awarded me with a total of 50 percent. My question is this, will I always have the 50 percent? When I was las at the VA they looked into the computer and said they see no future exams and my issues were perminate. They said the only way I basically would get re evaluated was if I requested to to been again. I am so new to all of this, I don't want to make any financial decisions based on the extra money I have coming in at this moment to just be taken away in the future. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Reply:
Great questions.
The VA has a duty under law to rate your disability correctly at the moment in time of the rating.
In other words, VA must (if you apply) increase the rating if your condition becomes worse over time. VA must also consider that if your condition improves that your rating must be evaluated to ensure accuracy. The law does not say that once you have a given rating that you're stuck with that for life.
When VA rates a condition as "permanent" what they really mean is that there are no plans to examine you on a schedule in the future to look for improvements of your condition. It does not mean that the rating is in fact permanent.
In cases of ratings less than 100% a sudden unexpected review and subsequent attempt to lower the rating is very rare. The 100% ratings are often seen as so generous with dollars and additional benefits that they are scrutinized much more closely. That's where the real money is so VA looks at those more often.
However...if you believe your condition has worsened at some future time and you decide to apply for an increase in your rating, the first thought of VA is to review your file to seek a way to lower, not raise, your current rating.
This is not a warning that you shouldn't seek an increase in your rating if you believe you deserve it. This is advice that you should use caution and be very confident that you have a well grounded case before you file for an increase.
Many veterans will see friends with similar conditions who have higher ratings so they just go for it with little or no planning. They're shocked that they soon have a letter notifying them that VA is planning an adverse action...to lower their rating from 70% to 10% for example. Rather than enjoying an increase in monthly compensation, the vet will find themselves ensnared into the appeals process as they fight to hold on to what they already have.
You probably won't have any reason to believe that VA will suddenly swoop in to change that 50% rating. If I were you I would include the dollar amount as unearned income in my future financial plans and see it as dependable for the long term.
I'd also keep my doctor visits and treatments up regularly so that the disabling symptoms of your condition show a regular pattern of treatments and consultations with health care professionals. That record will be very important to have if and when you decide to seek an increase as you get a little older.
Before you apply for an increase, be sure that you educate yourself by reading and learning the ratings system so that you can be sure you're eligible for an increase and that you have your evidence in order.
 

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