You may wonder, “How do I know if my VA rating is permanent?” Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious. But it’s worth knowing because a permanent rating protects you from future disability payment reductions. Read on to learn how to know if your rating is permanent and the factors that result in permanent ratings.
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In this article about permanent VA ratings
- What is a permanent disability rating?
- How do I know if my VA rating is permanent?
- Protected and stabilized ratings vs. permanent ratings
- Individual unemployability and permanent ratings
- How our VA disability lawyers can help
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the VA payment you receive is constant instead of wondering if you’ll be called for an examination that might change your VA rating and the amount of money you receive? That would mean you had a permanent disability rating. How do you know if your VA rating is permanent? This post explains.
What is a permanent disability rating?
A permanent disability rating is granted by the VA when your condition isn’t expected to improve or change within your lifetime. If you receive a permanent disability rating, your VA disability compensation should be safe from reevaluation and unlikely to change.
How does the VA define permanent ratings, and what are the criteria?
The VA gives a permanent rating for a condition that isn’t expected to improve or change within the veteran’s lifetime. This rating can apply to conditions like losing a limb or many long-term illnesses. It means there’s no need for the VA to reevaluate the condition because it is not expected to change.
The VA should not send you for a re-examination if:
- Your disability hasn’t changed
- There’s been no material improvement for 20 or more years
- You are over the age of 55
- You have a minimum rating already
- Your combined disability rating won’t change
Because the condition won’t change or be reevaluated, the rating remains the same for the veteran’s life.
You don’t apply for a permanent rating. The VA determines it when issuing a rating based on your condition and symptoms.
What’s a permanent and total VA rating?
A VA rating can be total without being permanent or permanent without being total, but they are often paired. Permanent and total disability, or P&T, is when a veteran’s condition prohibits them from keeping “substantially gainful” employment and isn’t expected to improve over time. Veterans with a P&T rating aren’t reevaluated and receive monthly benefits at a 100% level for the remainder of their lives. The rating does not change, and the payment isn’t reduced. Age may also be factored in when determining if a condition is permanently and totally disabling.
“Reductions can be a real problem, and the permanent and total rating protects you from it,” said VA disability lawyer Mike Woods. “It can be pretty scary sometimes when you get that letter from the VA, and they threaten to lower your rating from the $3,000 a month you’re getting to $800 a month. With permanent and total, it gives you a lot more protection.”
Conditions that may qualify for P&T include:
- Injuries that are unlikely to improve with treatment
- A totally incapacitating, long-standing disease
- Permanent loss or loss of use of both hands, both feet, one hand and one foot, or eyesight in both eyes
- Being permanently bedridden
P&T ratings are not typically awarded for infectious diseases or injuries unless they result in one of the conditions listed above.
How do I know if my VA rating is permanent?
Sometimes VA award letters specifically say the rating decision is permanent or have a box checked that indicates it as such, but that’s not always the case. If the decision doesn’t say it’s permanent, but no future exams are scheduled, it may be a permanent rating. When the letter implicitly says “no future examinations scheduled,” your rating is permanent. If future exams are scheduled, the VA does not view the rating as permanent.
Another clue that you have a permanent rating is if you receive benefits that are awarded only to living veterans with permanent and total ratings, such as Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA).
You can log in to your eBenefits account to review your current VA disability ratings, which also will tell you if your ratings are permanent.
“The firm got me to 70%, and I was happy. Individual unemployability was awarded to me and to this day I’m so grateful. My future is no longer bleak. These people work very hard for you.“
R.C., a Navy veteran in HawaiiFacebook review
Protected and stabilized ratings vs. permanent ratings
The VA doesn’t reevaluate certain conditions when they know they’re unlikely to change or are permanent. With protected ratings, it is more difficult, though not impossible, for the VA to reduce or eliminate your rating.
Your VA rating is considered stabilized if the VA determines it’s unlikely to change, and it’s been ongoing and unchanged for five years. Once you reach the five-year mark, it’s more difficult for the VA to attempt to alter your rating and lower your payment amount. After five years, a disability rating from the VA can only be reduced if the condition shows sustained improvement over more than one evaluation.
Once you’ve received VA disability payments for a condition for 10 years, the VA can’t terminate your benefits for the condition. The VA can still reduce your rating and, therefore, payment if they see significant improvement in your condition, but they can’t terminate your disability for the condition even if your rating was reduced during that decade.
Once you’ve received VA disability payments for a condition for 20 years at or above the same rating, it’s considered “continuous.” The VA can’t reduce a continuous rating below the level it was originally awarded. The only way the VA can reduce your rating after 20 years is if they can prove that your initial claim was fraudulent.
Veterans who receive VA disability benefits for service-connected conditions are exempt from future examinations once they turn 55 years old. The 55-year-old rule protects the veteran’s benefits.
The only exception is that the VA can request a reevaluation of a rating for a veteran over age 55 “under unusual circumstances.” The VA doesn’t define unusual circumstances, but it could apply, for example, to a veteran who received treatment for certain cancers and must be reexamined six months after completing treatment.
Permanent VA disability rating
A permanent rating is considered protected and stabilized. Because the condition isn’t expected to change, there’s no need for the VA to reevaluate or change the rating.
Static VA disability ratings
The VA will occasionally use the word “static” to describe a condition that’s considered permanent. This definition considers the nature, history, or severity of the disability. The VA assigns a permanent evaluation that doesn’t need future examinations.
Individual unemployability and permanent ratings
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is for veterans who can’t work because of service-related mental and physical health conditions. TDIU conditions are considered “total”, but they are not always permanent The VA should only reduce TDIU ratings if actual employability is established by clear and convincing evidence. If your condition is unlikely to improve enough for gainful employment, you can receive TDIU permanent benefits without reexamination.
“Total disability is good, but permanent and total disability is even better,” Woods said. “TDIU can be considered temporary, but permanent and total disability gets protection from future reductions.”
How our VA disability lawyers can help
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans nationwide get the VA benefits they deserve. Call us for a free case evaluation to find out how we can help. If we take your case, you only pay if you win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Maybe. If you did not obtain permanent and total disability for your conditions, the VA can reevaluate your ratings later, or you can request it. The VA can lower your rating upon review.
Yes. Some veterans with a 100% rating will also be eligible for permanent and total disability VA benefits ratings. While 100% VA disability ratings are total, they are not automatically considered permanent. The question is whether your condition has progressed to a point where it is not expected to improve with time.