Most veterans who contact us have received a denial of service connection or a low disability rating from VA. Many other veterans contact us because they have a service-connected and rating for a medical condition, but that medical condition has now worsened.
Often, veterans have developed another medical condition because of their service connected medical condition. In all of these situations, veterans usually are entitled to a higher overall disability rating which will pay an increased monthly benefit amount.
Filing a notice of disagreement
Many veterans consider filing a notice of disagreement when VA denies service connection for a particular medical condition. However, not as many veterans consider filing a notice of disagreement when VA grants service connection but gives a low rating.
You should always consider filing a notice of disagreement if you receive a rating decision:
- Denying service connection; or
- Granting service connection but giving too low a rating.
Filing a notice of disagreement preserves your rights and allows your claim to be reconsidered. If service-connection was not granted by VA, that can often be corrected by filing a notice of disagreement. If the disability rating given by VA was too low, that can also be corrected.
VA often makes errors in its rating decisions. But, if a notice of disagreement is not filed on time, you will give up the right to appeal that denial. While VA disability claims can usually be reopened later, you almost always will give up your right to any accrued disability benefits. Many times, these accrued benefits can be tens of thousands of dollars.
Getting a higher disability rating after your initial application
Even after the your initial claims have been finally decided, you can still get higher disability ratings from VA. There are three main ways to do this:
- Proving that your initial disability rating has increased
- Filing for service connection for another condition
- Proving that a secondary condition has developed
Filing for an increased rating
We have spoken to a number of veterans who did not realize they could file for an increased rating. A veteran is eligible for an increased rating when a service connected conditions worsens to the point that it would entitle the veteran to a higher rating using the rating tables published in the Code of Federal Regulations. For example, a veteran with diabetes that is manageable by diet only would have an increased rating if the veteran starts requiring oral medication and/or insulin injections.
Remember: To get benefits for an increased rating, you have to file an application for the increased rating.
Another way to get a higher rating is to get another condition service-connected. Some things that can cause you to need to file for service-connection for another condition include:
- You have been denied service connection for a condition in the past but now have additional evidence to show the condition is service connected – you can file for service connection of a condition that you previously applied for and lost. Veterans often need to do this if they fail to appeal their denial or if they later develop additional medical or other evidence that their condition is service-connected.
- You develop a condition that is service-connected – it is fairly common for a veteran to apply for service connection for one or more conditions and then later develop another service connected condition. For example, a Vietnam veteran who develops diabetes should apply for service connection for that condition because of Agent Orange exposure. If that veteran later develops Parkinson’s Disease, that veteran should apply for service connection for the Parkinson’s Disease.
If you have a condition from your service that have not yet been “service-connected” by VA or service-connected conditions that have gotten worse, you should strongly consider filing for these conditions as soon as possible. Waiting to file a claim is almost always not in your best interests. Usually, waiting will cause you to give up benefits that you should receive since you do not even become potentially eligible for benefits until you file.
Proving a secondary condition
A third way to get to a higher overall rating is to apply for what is known as a secondary condition or secondary disability. In short, this is a disability that is caused or aggravated by another secondary disability. These disabilities are eligible for benefits just like the service-connected disability that is the cause. We will cover this topic more in depth in an upcoming post, so be on the lookout for that.
Many veterans have questions about VA benefits. We are happy to try to help you address your questions. Usually, the best way to do this is to get a free consultation. You can set one up by calling us at (770) 214-8885 or by completing and submitting the consultation request form on this page.