When a veteran applies for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the agency will assign a rating based on the severity of the applicant’s disability. The VA will rate a disability from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. Applicants may be paid additional amounts when they have severe disabilities, a seriously disabled spouse, or a spouse, child, or dependent parents.
When the VA finds that a veteran suffers from multiple disabilities, a combined ratings table is used. Calculating a combined disability can be extremely complicated because the math does not follow traditional addition. For example, a 60% disability and a 20% disability do not automatically lead to a combined rating of 80%.
An experienced VA disability lawyer can help you navigate this complex process to figure out how to appeal a 70% disability rating to secure a 100% rating.
How Do I Increase My VA Disability Rating?
The difference in benefits between a 70% and a 100% rating can be quite significant. For example, under current VA guidelines, a veteran with a 70% rating may be entitled to a benefit rate of $1,529.95, while a 100% rating would result in $3,332.06 in monthly benefits.
Similarly, a veteran with a spouse and child at a 70% rating could receive $1,754.95, while a veteran with a spouse and child could be eligible for $3,653.89 with a 100% rating.
In specific cases, a veteran may be able to get their disability ratings increased by arguing that their condition was not adequately investigated. Veterans who feel their ratings are too low can file for decision review. However, claims filed more than a year after the rating decisions were received can result in claims needing to be reopened and new evidence needing to be submitted.
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How to Increase Individual Ratings
Many veterans are classified as having a disability rating of around 70% despite their disabilities being persistent and disruptive in their daily lives. In many cases, these veterans are unable to maintain full-time employment.
Appealing a disability rating will likely involve proving that a disability has worsened or the initial evaluation was incorrect. Appeals filed with the VA over disability ratings can be very complex and challenging for the ordinary person. Most applicants need help from an experienced attorney who can provide knowledgeable assistance as it relates to the types of documents and records that the VA is seeking.
How VA Calculates Combined Ratings
As mentioned above, VA assigns disability ratings based on the severity of your injuries. If you don’t have one disability that is given a 100% rating, you may have two or more that total at least 95%. However, doing this can be very tricky because of the math VA uses to combine ratings. VA disability ratings are not additive. Instead, VA employs the Combined Ratings Table to calculate combined disability ratings.
The more disabilities you have, the less they combine. Though this may seem redundant, VA views subsequent disabilities as being assigned to an already disabled person. Therefore, if a person is rated 50% disabled and has a subsequent disability of 30%, the combined total is 65%, rather than 80%. VA also rounds to the nearest 10%, so that the final rating will be 70%.
According to this table, if you have a disability rated at 70%, you would need a subsequent disability rating between 85 and 90% to achieve a total rating of 100%. You may consider filing a claim for an additional service-connected condition that could combine to equal a higher rating.
Furthermore, you should consider the rating criteria for each service-connected condition you want to claim. Ensure that your symptoms match up to what is listed in the Schedule for Rating Disabilities. If you can also have your physician attest to the severity of your condition, this could help you create a more convincing case on your behalf.
How to Request a Decision Review to Increase Your Rating
If you want to have your disability rating increased, VA must review it. It’s recommended that you submit your request within one year from the date of your decision letter. There are three VA decision review options:
- Supplemental claims
- Higher-level reviews
- Board Appeals
A supplemental claim allows you to add new and relevant information to your original claim to be reviewed by a VA reviewer. The new information must be substantial enough to overturn the original decision and increase your rating.
A senior-level VA reviewer conducts a higher-level review. This type of review does not allow you to submit new information. Instead, a new decision will be made based on a difference of opinion or error in the initial claim. You and your VA disability lawyer can request a call with the reviewer.
A board appeal is an appeal to a Veterans Law Judge. You can either request a direct review of your initial claim, submit more evidence for review, or request a hearing. You can only request a Board Appeal once for the same claim. A VA disability lawyer can advise you on the best route to take and represent you in a hearing.
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Individual Unemployability, also known as Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), is an alternative VA disability compensation program. It allows certain veterans to receive compensation at the 100% rate even when their service-connected disabilities are not rated at the total level.
To qualify, a veteran either needs to have one service-connected disability rated at least at 60% or two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one disability rated at 40% or more with a combined rating of at least 70%. Individual Unemployability recipients cannot maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities.
However, veterans who do not meet these criteria may qualify for TDIU on an extra-schedular basis. This means they will have to illustrate to VA that their disability rating does not accurately reflect the limitations of their condition.
A VA disability lawyer can assist you with filing the correct documents for TDIU benefits and help you prepare a winning case for your claim.
Contact Us for Legal Help With Your VA Disability Rating Appeal
VA disability benefits lawyers understand the challenges that veterans face, as they fight for them every day. They have the experience necessary to help you secure the correct disability rating to get the full benefits you need and deserve.
Call now to schedule a free consultation with a compassionate, knowledgeable member of a VA disability legal team.