When a VA rating decision arrives, you might find the contents somewhat confusing. If you need help interpreting what a rating decision actually means, you are not alone. This article will help you understand the contents of your VA award letter and rating decision and explain your possible next steps.
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In this article about VA rating decisions
- How long does it take to get my VA decision letter?
- What is contained within a rating decision letter?
- What do the rating decision percentages mean?
- Other benefits in a VA rating decision
- How can I appeal a rating decision?
- Working with Woods and Woods
How long does it take to get my VA decision letter?
Once you have filed your claim, you will receive either an immediate notice (if you filed online) or a mailed letter within about a week (if you physically mailed it) that the VA received your claim.
You’ll also submit supporting evidence for your claim, and, at some point, the VA may reach out to you about scheduling a compensation and pension (C&P) exam. Once you have given the VA what it requires, all that’s left for you to do is wait for a decision.
Current average wait time for VA claims:
The current average time for a VA regional office to process a disability claim is 103.5 days.
The time it takes to process depends on a few factors, including:
- The type of claim
- The complexity and number of injuries/disabilities
- The process for the VA to collect needed evidence to make a decision
What is contained within a rating decision letter?
When the VA completes the process, you will receive an award letter containing the rating decision.
The first item in the envelope will be a letter that tells you what the regional VA office has decided regarding your claim. It will also list the evidence the VA used to consider your case, provide a summary description of the decision for each issue you submitted, and give directions about how to appeal.
If you have been granted service connection, the letter will include the amount of money the VA will send you each month and when you will start receiving your disability payments.
The second item in the envelope will be the official rating decision, which is on Veterans Benefits Administration letterhead. It will include an introduction and a numbered list of the issues decided.
It is followed by an exhaustive list of the evidence the VA took into consideration for the claim and a detailed explanation of each of the “Reasons for Decision” for each disability.
What do the rating decision percentages mean?
For each condition on your claim, the VA assigns a disability rating, which is indicated by a percentage. The VA determines the percentage using the Schedule of Ratings where a diagnostic code is assigned to each condition and percentages indicate how disabling the condition is.
For claims of more than one disability and for those with bilateral factor considerations, the decision letter will provide the “Combined Evaluation for Compensation,” which is commonly known as the combined rating.
Your combined disability rating determines the amount of monthly compensation. The amounts for a veteran without any dependents are listed in the VA disability rates table in this article. The rates for veterans with dependents can be found on the VA website.
|Disability Rating||Monthly Payment (veteran only)|
The rating decision will also assign an effective date for each condition, which is when the veteran is eligible to begin collecting compensation.
Unfortunately, not all decisions are favorable to veterans.
“The rating decision letter more often than not carries denials,” said Lori Underwood, a VA-certified disability benefits attorney.
“Denials need to be reviewed closely,” she said. “They should still list evidence and any prior adjudicative actions, the reasons for denial, and any favorable findings that the VA made when looking at your claims.”
Other benefits in a VA rating decision
In addition to your rating for basic VA disability benefits, your rating decision could include other special benefits depending on your particular situation.
Special monthly compensation
If your disabilities or circumstances qualify you for special monthly compensation (SMC), the VA will list those in this section.
An SMC rating is given for a loss or loss of use of more than one limb, loss of vision, needing help with daily care, or being bedridden.
Total disability based on individual unemployability
Some veterans may also receive a decision for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU), which is a benefit for veterans who can no longer work because of their service-connected disabilities.
TDIU is a way for veterans without a 100% rated condition and who can’t work to receive a monthly payment that is equal to a 100% rating.
Eligible veterans are those who have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher or a combined rating of 70% or more including one at 40% or higher.
Permanent and total disability
Veterans may qualify for either a total rating, a permanent rating, or a permanent total (P&T) rating. While those may sound similar, there are key differences.
A total rating means that one of your conditions received a 100% schedular rating. That means the Schedule of Ratings indicated your level of disability interferes with your ability to work and is considered “totally disabling.”
A permanent rating is given to a condition that is not expected to improve.
A P&T rating is for a condition that is permanent and rated 100%.
Veterans with a permanent or P&T rating will not be reevaluated and will receive disability benefits at the same rate for the rest of their lives.
The words “permanent” or “permanent and total” may not always appear in a rating decision. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to know if your rating is permanent.
If the decision says “No future examinations scheduled,” that is an indication the rating will not be reevaluated and the decision is permanent. If you were granted benefits that are only available to veterans with P&T ratings, such as Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), that is also an indication that your rating is P&T.
If you are unsure, you may need to contact the VA regional office or a VA-certified disability benefits attorney to be sure.
How can I appeal a rating decision?
“If you have been granted service connection, you’ve been granted an increased rating, or you’ve been denied, you may still want help with these claims,” attorney Lori Underwood said. “Perhaps the rating that you are assigned, if you are granted, isn’t high enough to properly compensate you for your limitations, you can appeal this for an increased rating.”
Many veterans feel that they are initially low-balled by the VA and an appeal may result in an increased rating and back pay.
Sometimes the VA makes a mistake by leaving out a decision on one of your conditions or not specifying you have P&T. Many times, the VA is just wrong and denies you the benefits you deserve.
If you disagree with a denial of one or more of your claims or your disability rating, you have one year from the date of the rating decision to file an appeal with the VA.
There are a number of issues you can appeal in your VA decision. They include:
- Denied claims for one or more disabilities
- The effective date of the disability
- Missing decisions for one or more disabilities in your claim
- The percentage rating of a single disability or one or more disabilities
If you win your appeal, you will receive any additional back pay you are owed for each month back to your effective date in addition to your monthly compensation.
The appeals process can be long and complicated. You can choose to file an appeal on your own or contact a VA-certified disability lawyer for advice.
“They brought me from being stuck at 30%. Denial after denial. Finally rated at 70%. Appealed for total and unable to work disability since 2014. Without Woods and Woods I would still be stuck at 30%.“
Working with Woods and Woods
We know rating decisions can be confusing and difficult to interpret. We also know the idea of pursuing an appeal is overwhelming.
Woods and Woods has worked on thousands of cases and helped veterans receive the VA benefits they earned.
Call us for a free consultation. If we take your case, you won’t pay anything unless we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A VA rating decision includes a numbered list of decisions about each condition in your claim followed by a list of the evidence the VA took into consideration and a detailed explanation of the reasons for each decision.
The VA assigns a disability rating for each decision on your claim, which is indicated by a percentage. The percentage is determined using the Schedule of Ratings where a diagnostic code is assigned to each condition and percentages indicate how disabling the condition is. Your combined disability rating determines the amount of monthly compensation.