A Nationwide Veterans Benefits Lawyer Explains Why Some Veterans Disability Ratings May Not Be Protected

There’s no such thing as a permanent and unchangeable disability rating. However, depending on the severity of your condition and the amount of time you’ve had your rating, you may have certain protections. If you learn that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to reduce your benefits, it’s essential to contact an experienced Veterans law professional today. Attorney Sean Kendall and his team fight for the rights of disabled Veterans like you, with a long track record of successful results. 

The VA Often Has the Ability to Reduce Your Rating

In theory, the VA has the right to reduce your disability rating. In practice, it’s not always easy for the agency to reduce your benefits, especially when you have a significant disability.

However, the following ratings are considered to be unprotected:

  • Any rating that you’ve had for less than five years.
  • Any rating that is less than 100 percent disability.

You Still Have Some Protections When Receiving Disability Benefits

There are circumstances when your benefit rating is considered to be protected if it’s 100 percent. As a claimant, you have protections regarding the following points:

  • Five years. If your disability rating hasn’t changed in five years or more, the VA cannot reduce it unless a medical reexamination shows you’ve sustained improvement in your condition.
  • 10 years. At this interval, your service-related disability benefits are protected from termination unless there’s proof of fraud or if the VA made a “clear and unmistakable error” in your initial assessment. 
  • 20 years. Once your disability rating has remained the same for 20 years or longer, the VA can’t lower it unless it proves that your original rating was obtained through fraud.
  • Age 55 or older. Veterans in this demographic have additional protections to keep their ratings from being reduced.

In other words, the longer you have your disability rating, the more protection you have. Still, it’s common for the VA to ask you to attend a medical examination with one of their doctors when the agency either has new evidence or believes that there’s possible improvement in your condition. If you receive this request, you cannot refuse, or your benefits may be at risk.

The VA Has Its Own Standards to Follow

If you have a 100 percent disability rating, the VA isn’t going to examine whether you’re still 100 percent disabled. Instead, its standard is whether your mental and/or physical condition is materially improved. This standard doesn’t mean you’ve made improvements around the margins, but rather that it’s challenging for the agency to reduce a 100 percent disability rating. . However, in rare cases, it might happen. 

Still, there are strict requirements for when the VA can reduce an unprotected rating. The agency would need to look at your entire medical history and prove there’s tangible, not temporary, change in your condition since the last rating decision. This change must represent a sustained improvement and your ability to function under ordinary conditions of life and work.

How Sean Kendall Can Help You Appeal a Benefits Reduction

If you receive a notice that your benefits are being reduced or terminated, you have the right to file an appeal. Contact our experienced Veterans law team who can help you fight the VA’s decision. We have a track record of successful nationwide cases to establish grounds for your claim. 

In our assessment of your case, we may direct you to an independent doctor who can provide their own impressions of your health, which could be at odds with what the VA has found. You can also seek a higher-level review within the agency based on the evidence presented for the initial decision. And, if need be, we’ll help you file with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which allows a Veterans law judge to review the VA's decision.