The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regularly conducts medical re-examinations of veterans with disabilities in order to determine whether the severity of a veteran’s disability has improved. When veterans receive disability benefits, VA will assess whether or not a veteran’s injuries are likely to improve. If they are, they will schedule a VA claim reevaluation in the future, at which time they will reevaluate a veteran’s level of eligibility to receive disability benefits.
If you have received notice that your claim is being reviewed, it is crucial that you contact an experienced attorney who can advise you on the steps you can take to increase the likelihood of maintaining your benefits. Contact a Jackson VA benefits lawyer at Derek L. Hall, PC for a free and confidential case review.
What Is a VA Re-Examination and Re-Evaluation?
A VA disability rating re-examination may consist of either a simple medical evaluation or a hospital stay. VA representatives often complete simple medical evaluations over the phone or in person. If the veteran has more severe disabilities, they may be observed during a hospital stay. Veterans may have their disability benefits reduced or even terminated as a result of a re-examination if the examination reveals that their disability has improved.
VA uses a disability rating system ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent that dictates the amount of benefits a veteran is eligible to receive each month. When a veteran’s injuries improve, their disability rating may change.
When Does VA Reevaluate Your Service-Connected Disability?
After a veteran is initially awarded disability benefits, VA will schedule another re-examination for a veteran whose disability is likely to improve over the years. The first time that the VA re-examines a veteran’s disability is usually six months after the veteran leaves military service. The VA disability revaluation timeline depends on the nature and severity of your disability. Your re-examination will typically be scheduled for some time between two to five years from the date that you are initially awarded disability benefits.
The VA can also call for a re-examination anytime evidence surfaces that a veteran’s disability may have improved. Veterans whose disability has improved may see a reduction in their benefits as a result. If the disability worsens at any time in the future, the veteran can write to the department requesting an increase in benefits. They must include medical documentation proving that their condition has degenerated.
What Happens If You Receive Notice of a Proposed Rating Reduction?
If you are a disabled veteran and VA proposes a decrease in your disability benefits, they are required to notify you if the proposed decrease will lower the amount of compensation you are entitled to each month. It’s worth noting that the proposal is simply that: a proposal. It isn’t a final decision. You will have a limited time to respond to the proposed reduction if you believe it is unfounded.
Specifically, you will have a 60-day window to present evidence showing why you believe your benefits should not be reduced. You will also have 30 days, or the first half of that 60-day window, to request a hearing in your case. At the hearing, you can present evidence in person, including medical records and other documentation, to show why you believe the proposal is unwarranted.
It is imperative that you show up for your re-examination. If you aren’t able to attend the examination due to unforeseen circumstances, you must call and reschedule the examination (and it’s best if you have a good reason for why you can’t make the appointment). Missing the appointment will likely result in an automatic reduction or termination of your disability benefits.
When the VA makes their final decision regarding a proposed decrease in your benefits, they must consider all evidence that you submitted during the 60-day window after they sent the proposal, as well as the full medical history that the VA already has on file in your case.
In the event that the VA fails to notify you of their proposal to reduce your disability benefits, you have the right to have your full disability benefits rate restored.
When Are Veterans in Jackson Protected from Reevaluations and Rating Reductions?
Certain veterans are protected from re-examinations and having their disability rating reduced. If you belong to one of the following groups of veterans and you receive a proposal for a reduction of your disability benefits, it might be a clerical error. While there are exceptions, the following groups typically don’t have to undergo re-examinations and won’t have their ratings reduced:
- Veterans who are over the age of 55.
- Veterans who have permanent disabilities, such as amputees and quadriplegics. In such cases, VA can be sure that you will carry that disability with you for the remainder of your life and that your disability has no chance of improving. Veterans who have permanent disabilities that stem from an underlying disease are also included.
- Veterans who have had the same rating percentage for 20 years or longer. This is known as a “continuous rating.”
- Veterans who already have the lowest possible rating, because the minimum rating can’t be reduced.
- Veterans whose disability rating is 100 percent, the highest possible rating. In such cases, the veteran usually either has one disability that meets the 100 percent threshold or has multiple disabilities whose total rating adds up to 100 percent.
- Veterans whose rating has remained the same for at least five years or longer. Veterans whose ratings have remained the same for this period of time have what’s known as a “stabilized rating.” This means that your disability has not improved over a period of five years or more. If the VA proposes to reevaluate veterans with stabilized ratings, they must prove that the individual’s disabilities have steadily improved over a period of time. Even if your disability shows some signs of improvement, VA will have to prove that the improvement isn’t just temporary.
Contact an Experienced Veterans Benefits Lawyer in Jackson, MS Now
At Derek L. Hall, PC, we salute those who have sacrificed so much defending our country. If you are a veteran whose benefits have been wrongfully reduced or terminated, our veteran law attorneys are here to help. We have a strong track record of helping veterans secure the benefits they are entitled to and will work tirelessly to help you build the strongest possible case. Contact us today for a consultation to get started.