Twice this week I received a question on when the VA re-examines a veteran’s service connected disability rating. Picture the scenario of an older veteran on a fixed income. The compensation from the VA is an integral part of their overall financial situation, but they also have VA rated medical or mental health issue that seems to be getting worse and perhaps could be rated higher. The dilemma is that if the veteran puts in a Request of Increase claim, in determining if the impact of the issue meets the rating schedule criteria for the higher rating, the VA may re-evaluate all of the claimed issues and perhaps lower the overall rating – thereby reducing the monthly compensation.
This is a horrible situation to be in. But know that the VA has to follow some rules. The VA can conduct a re-examination of your rated items when you submit a claim for new item or request an increase on a rated item. They can also periodically have them scheduled – called a Routine Future Exam (RFE) for items that could show improvement over time – examples might include Hepatitis-C (now essentially curable), or certain cancer remissions. The timetable for routine re-evaluations run from 2-5 years, and should be specifically detailed in your VA rating decision memo.
Unless you trigger an exam by filing a new claim or increase, the VA does not usually schedule re-evaluations if the veteran is over 55, it’s a static issue (loss of a limb, knee replacement), permanent disease or malady, you are at the minimum rating for that item, or any reduction would not change the combined total rating.
But if you do get flagged for an exam, go! The decision to raise, lower or leave the same for any rating is based on the specific criteria listed in the VA’ Disability Rating Schedule (here: https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/bookc.asp). The point of the exam is to confirm that the veteran meets the criteria for a specific percentage rating. If you do meet the requirements, the VA should leave your rating unchanged. Here is another great resource that discusses VA disability ratings in detail: http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/.
After the exam, the VA will review the results and look at your entire Evidence of Record file to make a determination. That’s why it is important to document current and ongoing symptoms and impacts.
Bottom line, understand the criteria the VA will use when determining if you are entitled to a specific rating percentage, make sure you can document that you meet the criteria, and go into the re-examination prepared.
I hope this helps, but post any questions you have. As always, please consider subscribing to the channel and share with anyone you think could use it.