I have been getting calls from veterans who have had knee and/or hip replacements for their service-connected disabilities. Unfortunately, one veteran had a knee replacement performed at a private hospital and did not call the VA to let them know that they wanted an increase in their disability rating. VA regulations, 38 C.F.R. sec. 4.71a (2011), states that a veteran shall receive a 100 percent rating for one year after a knee replacement. This 100 percent rating also applies to shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, and ankle replacements. If the knee replacement is at a VA hospital and is for an already service-connected disability, a claim for a rating increase to 100 percent is automatically assumed. If the knee replacement is conducted at a private hospital, however, the 100 percent rating is not acknowledged until the VA knows of the knee replacement. If a veteran elects to have the replacement in a private hospital, he/she needs to inform the VA of the surgery as soon as possible. If they wait until after one year following the surgery--and the surgery was not at a VA hospital--then the veteran is no longer eligible for the 100 percent disability rating.
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