The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the authority to take away your disability rating if it determines that you fraudulently received the rating, or if a mistake has been made when issuing the rating. For example, if someone steals your identity to get disability benefits, the VA will stop those benefits as soon as it is notified of fraudulent activity. If the VA determines that it made a mistake when assigning your rating, for instance, your medical condition was determined by a rating specialist which was rated more severe than it actually is, the VA may propose a reduction, or “sever” it entirely.
Before reducing or removing a rating, but they must first have to serve you with a notice and give you the opportunity to respond. This would indicate the reasoning behind removing the rating. Paperwork for your response is also included which could allow you to request a hearing.
What Happens If You Receive Notice Proposing Rating Reduction?
The VA is required to send a letter stating the reduction of your benefits if the decrease will affect the amount of monthly compensation. The letter is not a final VA decision, but rather, the notice of a proposed decrease. They are also required to give you the opportunity to respond to the proposal by submitting evidence and/or attending a hearing.
The VA’s letter will give you 60 days to provide evidence demonstrating that the reduction in your benefits is not warranted. Within the first 30 days of that 60-day period, you also have the option to request a hearing to contest the reduction.
In many cases, the VA will reduce rather than remove and there are certain circumstances in which the VA issue this reduction.
- If the VA receives “new and material” evidence factually showing that your condition has improved since you last received a rating.
- If your condition has improved following a periodic re-examination.
A reduction can also impact a Veteran’s Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). For instance, if the VA lowers a rating, the Veteran may not be entitled to schedular TDIU, which requires either a 70% total disability rating, with one disability rated at 40% or more, or a single disability rated at 60% or higher. The VA can also revoke TDIU if it means that you are able to obtain and maintain substantially gainful employment for a period of at least 12 months.
There are many instances where when the VA cannot take away your disability rating and certain protections are put in place.
- your condition has been service-connected for a minimum 10 years.
- Your disability/condition has proven to be permanent
- The condition you have has maintained the same disability rating for 20 years or more.
When Are Veterans Protected from Re-evaluations and Rating Reductions?
The following are typical reasons why the VA will not re-evaluate or re-schedule a re-examination for your service-connected disability, however, there may be exceptions on a case-by-case basis:
- Your age is 55 years or older.
- Your rating has remained unchanged for at least five years and is stabilized. To review a stabilized rating, the VA must demonstrate sustained improvement through medical records and/or re-examination. Improvement cannot be shown simply by one evaluation; it must be sustained over time. The evidence in your file must show that you are not just experiencing a temporary improvement.
- If you have a 100% total disability rating from the VA, they may reduce your rating if they can show evidence that your condition has improved. To do this, they must provide evidence of an observable change in your ability to function under the conditions of daily life.
- If you have a disability that is classified as permanent, this means that based on the evidence the VA presumes your impairment will persist for the rest of your life and will not improve.
Contact Experienced VA Benefits Attorney, Andrew P. Gross to Learn More
While it is difficult for the VA to take away or reduce a disability rating, it is still possible. If you are unsure of your rating and feel that it could potentially be reduced or removed, you can contact a seasoned Veterans Advocacy lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew P. Gross.