VA lowered dad's rating after following VA advice


My father is a 76 year old retired USAF, Vietnam Era veteran. He served his country for over 20 years. He was EOD as well as a Munitions specialist. He was given a rating of 50% hearing disability in 2004, after being diagnosed with vascular dementia (more than likely secondary to his 60% SC disability rating for CAD) I became his primary caretaker and moved him into our home. I was told by his VA team in MA that once I moved him to CT I should have him reevaluated for his hearing, sight (he's legally blind), and a home evaluation for safety. I did all that was asked and as a result, instead of his disabilities being increased, the BVA LOWERED his disability rating for hearing from 50% to 30% which directly effected his CRSC pension payments by over $200 per month. I did bring him to a private audiologist and that hearing test puts him in the profound hearing loss category instead of the severe hearing loss category the VA C&P hearing test put him in (not to mention the huge disparity between the private and VA word recognition percentage. I have his C-File in hand, but am getting overwhelmed. I filed a timely NOD but need to hunt down the appropriate 'evidence', should I attempt this on my own or just get a lawyer?  Thank you in advance for any guidance.

Jim's Reply:

I hate to say it but the situation you find yourself in isn't at all unusual. You have no choice but to file formal appeals in every instance that you believe VA erred. If I were you, I'd focus on an appeal of the hearing loss. I'd also "DIY" seem to have a good grasp of what is required. Keep in mind that all documents must be signed by the veteran, your status as POA or whatever may not be enough so even a scrawled signature is enough to make it "his" claim or appeal. I would appeal the hearing loss and tell them that the outside hearing professional has deemed him as totally or near totally deaf. You'll need to provide evidence all over again using the standard hearing test protocols. Then...file for mental health conditions that are secondary to his profound hearing loss. Profound hearing loss often causes depression, anxiety and a loss of the ability for the veteran to care for himself by participating in the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). If you'll make that the focus of your appeal, I have a feeling you'll do well.