Once you work for years to get the VA to approve your disability, how do you know how long you get to keep it? That is where a static rating helps.
Have you served our country on active military duty and now suffer from a disability? Did you know that 5 million veterans received disability compensation in 2019?
Many veterans find the VA benefits system difficult to understand and navigate. This article will focus on static or protected VA disability ratings. Keep reading to gain insight into this aspect of the VA disability process.
In this article about permanent VA disability ratings:
- What Is a Static Disability?
- Answers to Some Common Questions
- What Are Protected VA Disability Ratings?
- Can the VA Reduce Your Disability Rating?
- What Is the Purpose of a VA Disability Rating?
- How to Apply for VA Disability Compensation
- We’ll Help You Gather Evidence for Your Claim
- What If You Lose Your Military Service Records?
- Complete the VA Disability Application
- How Long Does the Application Process Take?
- What If You Don’t Agree With the VA Ruling?
- Do You Need an Expert to Help With Your VA Claim?
What Is a Static Disability?
A static disability describes a condition that’s considered permanent. This definition takes into account the nature, history, or severity of the disability. The VA assigns a permanent evaluation that doesn’t need future examinations.
A static total disability means the impairment is reasonably expected to be life-long. Examples may include:
- Amputation or loss of the use of one or both hands and/or feet
- Blindness in both eyes
- Permanently unable to perform any function or being bedridden
- Total incapacity where successful treatment isn’t a valid option
Static disability doesn’t apply to incapacity from acute infections, accidents, or injuries. The only exception would involve a permanent disabling result as described above.
Answers to Some Common Questions
Is PTSD a Static Disability?
Without material improvement over 5 years, PTSD can receive a static disability designation. This rating will stand unless improvement occurs in the future.
Is Sleep Apnea a Static Disability?
Have you received a service-connected sleep apnea diagnosis? Did your provider prescribe a long-term breathing assistance device? If so, this should qualify as a static disability.
What Are Protected VA Disability Ratings?
Congress has established guidelines that designate specific conditions as “protected”. This means the VA won’t spend time evaluating the condition if it’s service-connected. Consulting with an expert VA disability lawyer can help you understand this designation.
Specific rules apply to these protected ratings.
The 5-Year Rule
Ratings that are in effect for 5 years are considered stabilized and can only be reduced if the disability shows sustained improvement.
The VA can’t deny a service-connected disability rating once it’s in effect for 10 years. If the VA shows evidence of improvement in the condition, it can reduce your compensation.
The only exception applies to cases where the VA proves an original fraudulent claim. In this instance, they can stop benefits.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about sleep apnea VA disability ratings.
Once a rating is in effect for 20 years, the VA can’t reduce it below its previous lowest rating. If the VA proves a fraudulent claim, then it can revoke the compensation.
You can lose your 100% VA rating if the VA proves that your condition improved so you can work. This only occurs after a re-examination stating that improvement is more than temporary. In this case, the VA can reduce your compensation.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
Get Your TDIU Pay Chart
Download and print this free pay chart of TDIU monthly payments. We show you what it takes to win Total Disability because of Individual Unemployability. This chart details the monthly pay that veterans get when they win IU for their VA disability claim.
Can the VA Reduce Your Disability Rating?
On occasion, a veteran may receive a letter stating the VA plans to reduce their rating. You will need to make sure you go to your re-examination. Also, it’s advisable to get expert help from a VA disability lawyer like Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
It’s common for the VA to schedule a reexamination about 5 years after the initial rating. There are 5 reasons that this type of exam should not occur. According to 38 CFR 3.327(b)(2), the VA can’t send you for a re-examination if:
- Your disability hasn’t changed
- There’s been no material improvement for 5 or more years
- You are over the age of 55
- You have a minimum rating already
- Your combined disability rating won’t change
Yet, if you fail to go to the exam, the VA could reduce or stop disability payments. It’s key that you speak with the VA if you can’t attend the exam.
All veterans have the right to ask for a predetermination hearing. You must make this request within 30 days of receiving the notice for an exam.
Personnel unrelated to the proposed rate reduction must conduct this hearing. This allows you to present evidence and explain why a reduction should not occur.
You have the right to ask for a copy of your reexamination report. Check the documents for any errors. If you find any mistakes, you can request another exam.
Also, verify that your treatment records are complete and accurate. At times, the VA may have old information or lack all pertinent data. You can give them additional and corrected records if they directly impact your case.
What is the difference between Permanent and Total VA Disability Ratings? One of our veteran’s disability lawyers explains in this video:
What Is the Purpose of a VA Disability Rating?
Disability ratings reflect the severity of a veteran’s service-connected illness or injury. This rating determines the amount of monthly compensation you’ll receive. It also designates your eligibility for other VA benefits.
For individuals with more that one disability, the VA calculates a combined rating. This involves more than just adding your separate ratings together. Thus, your combined rating may not equal the sum of your ratings.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
How to Apply for VA Disability Compensation
VA disability compensation is a monthly, tax-free check meant to replace job income. The amount reflects the severity of your disability. It’s not based on your income or any savings you have.
Before you submit your application, collect all your evidence. Once the VA accepts your application, you only have 360 days to complete the application. This includes providing proof of your claim.
It’s helpful to speak with a VA disability lawyer when you begin preparing your application. They have expertise in navigating the process. They also understand what the VA auditors look for.
We’ll Help You Gather Evidence for Your Claim
When applying for VA disability, you must meet 3 main requirements. First, you need a diagnosis from a VA-approved medical provider. This may include a VA or private provider or specialist.
Next, you must prove that your illness or injury has a direct service connection. This means that the diagnosis has a specific link to an incident or set of conditions. These causative events must have occurred during active training or combat.
Presumptive conditions apply to service in or exposure to specific areas or conditions. This means that the VA assumes that your illness or injury is service-connected. A common example applies to those who had exposure to Agent Orange.
Last, you need a medical nexus that connects your condition to an event in your service record. This is a provider’s official opinion that your condition resulted from your service. They use the phrase “at least as likely as not to have caused your disability”.
Be sure to take your service record with you to your exam. This provides facts about the event or circumstances related to your disability. This medical nexus ensures that the illness or injury wasn’t caused by a pre-service incident.
You will need to provide copies of your DD214 or other separation paperwork as well.
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
What If You Lose Your Military Service Records?
If you’ve lost your military service records, there are several actions you can take. Here are ways to request your records:
- Mail or fax Standard Form SF 180: Request Pertaining to Military Records to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
- Download the PDF of Form SF 180
- Write a letter to the NPRC at 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138
- Go to the NPRC in person
- Contact the state or county Veteran’s agency
- Hire an independent researcher
If your records were lost in the 1976 fire at the NPRC, you may submit a Buddy Letter. This is a letter from a person over the age of 17 who witnessed the event that caused your disability.
Complete the VA Disability Application
One of the easiest methods for submitting your application is online. You’ll begin by creating a free eBenefits account. Be sure to complete all forms completely. Incomplete forms can cause delays or even denials.
If you don’t have access or aren’t comfortable with computers, you can submit your application on paper. You may do this via the mail or in person.
You will need to get a copy of the VA Form 21-0966 if you wish to mail it. This form can be printed from the VA website or it’s available at the local VA office. You may also turn in your form in person at the VA office.
If you work with Woods and Woods, we’ll make sure you get everything in order to present your best case to the VA. We’ve helped thousands of veterans through this process.
Here is a video review of one of our clients that was about to have the VA take away his veteran’s disability benefits.
How Long Does the Application Process Take?
The length of time it takes to complete the review of your VA disability claim varies. Several factors can impact the timeline. First is the type of claim you file.
The number of disabilities and their complexity impacts the claim processing time. If there’s more evidence or exams needed, this can also prolong the process.
You don’t need to do anything to hurry the process along. If you receive a request for more information, return it as soon as possible. Make sure you don’t miss any scheduled exams. We’ll check in with you every 30-60 days as your case progresses. We’ll call you in case any questions come up. And you can call us anytime for free.
You can check the status of your claim online by going to the “My VA” dashboard.
A behind the scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm
What If You Don’t Agree With the VA Ruling?
Many times, veterans aren’t satisfied with the VA ruling. If this applies to you, you have the right to file an appeal. There are several options for making an appeal.
It’s prudent to consider getting advice from an experienced VA disability lawyer. They can make sure you know about all your options and assist you with the appeal process.
One approach is to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), VA Form 21-0958, with the VA. You must file this within one year from the date of the VA’s decision. Note that this is not the date you received it.
When completing this form, don’t give details about why you disagree with the decision. You will be able to discuss this later, but the NOD is not the place for this information. Doing so could limit your right to appeal issues not mentioned on the form.
As you complete the process and consult with an expert, you may find other factors you wish to appeal. For example, if you describe an issue on the NOD, you must provide new evidence to support your claim.
This claim must show that the VA made an error. Sometimes the VA has inaccurate records or dates for an incident or your eligibility. This can impact your rating and your compensation.
Here, one of our VA disability lawyers talks about what we do when we appeal your case to the Veteran’s Administration.
What to Include on Your NOD Form
Make a simple statement about the denial and/or rating decision in the VA letter. Include you wish to appeal the decision. You should write these statements at the top of Form 21-4138 or in a letter.
Include the date from the VA rating decision or denial letter. If you do list specific decisions, state that this isn’t an exhaustive list to avoid future limitations.
One type of appeal involves addressing the Decision Review Officer (DRO). The DRO may review your file and make a decision. You may also ask for an in-person hearing with the DRO.
You will need to provide new information for your appeal. Make sure you keep copies and send them via certified mail by the filing deadline.
This often provides a quicker route for getting a decision. If the DRO denies your claim, they will send you the Statement of the Case (SOC). Your next option is to make an appeal to the BVA within 60 days of the SOC date.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
Board of Veteran Appeals
The Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) is somewhat like the VA Supreme Court. It is a separate division from the Veterans Benefits Administration. They review the veteran’s appeal for denial of VA benefits application.
You may choose to skip the DRO and go straight to a BVA hearing. Their purpose is to review the pertinent evidence. Based on this review, they decide if the veteran should get VA disability compensation.
Do You Need an Expert to Help With Your VA Claim?
Learning about static and protected VA disability ratings gives you a better understanding of the claim. The VA claims application and appeal process may feel overwhelming. Getting help from VA disability lawyers ensures that you get the best outcome.
Woods and Woods VA Disability Lawyers focus on assisting veterans. We assist veterans with the initial application. Our team also has extensive experience in appealing denials and disability ratings.
We’ve put together a research support team and innovative strategies to manage your case. This team also works to benefit surviving spouses of deceases veterans. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.