How to Increase Your VA Disability Rating

When you experience a service-connected disability and receive a rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, this entitles you to VA disability payments and could provide eligibility for other programs. Many types of conditions can worsen over time. If you are receiving VA disability benefits, you have the right to have your rating re-evaluated. Learn how to increase your VA disability rating and access the additional benefits you need. 

Key Takeaways
  • Veterans can seek an increase in their VA disability rating if their service-connected condition has worsened or was initially underrated, impacting their compensation and access to benefits.
  • The process includes filing an appeal within a year of the decision, presenting new evidence, or filing for conditions related to or exacerbated by the primary service-connected disability.
  • Exploring options like TDIU (Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability) can result in compensation at the 100-percent rating level, even if the combined disability rating is less.

Want to Increase Your VA Rating?

When the Department of Veterans Affairs approves a veteran to receive benefits for a service-connected disability, it assigns a disability rating based on the severity of the condition. Ratings range from 0 to 100 percent, increasing in increments of 10 percent. Any rating of 10 percent or above qualifies the veteran for monthly compensation. 

Many veterans believe that their current disability rating is not a proper reflection of the true extent of their disability. This could be because the VA didn’t assign the correct rating initially or because the condition has worsened. If you believe your rating is incorrect, learn the benefits of an increased VA disability rating and the steps to take to get an increase.

Too often, veterans are awarded a low rating. In most cases, we need to show more evidence to prove that an increased rating is justified and needed. For example, we can gather evidence from friends and family. They offer perspective on how your condition affects your daily life, and they may be able to share more about the impact. Another source are colleagues or your work buddies. They can speak about how your condition has affected your ability to work and earn a living. Another wonderful source of evidence is your primary doctor. Your doctor can provide insight into your condition, and the VA may not credit or consider secondary conditions. For example, if a medication from a service-connected condition causes another issue, such as an endocrine disorder. Finally, if your condition has worsened, you need to apply and appeal.

Too often, veterans are awarded a low rating. In most cases, we need to show more evidence to prove that an increased rating is justified and needed. For example, we can gather evidence from friends and family. They offer perspective on how your condition affects your daily life, and they may be able to share more about the impact. Another source are colleagues or your work buddies. They can speak about how your condition has affected your ability to work and earn a living. Another wonderful source of evidence is your primary doctor. Your doctor can provide insight into your condition, and the VA may not credit or consider secondary conditions. For example, if a medication from a service-connected condition causes another issue, such as an endocrine disorder. Finally, if your condition has worsened, you need to apply and appeal.

Benefits of a Higher VA Disability Rating

Applying to get your disability rating increased seems like a lot of trouble. But if your current disability rating isn’t accurate, this is something worth pursuing. Here are just a few reasons for seeking a disability rating increase:

Many veterans don’t realize how much of a financial difference a VA disability rating increase could make. In some cases, the payment difference is well over $1,000 per month. You can use our VA disability calculator to see how an increased rating would affect your compensation. 

How to Increase My VA Disability Rating?

What can you do if you’re among the many veterans with a disability rating that is too low? Depending on your situation, there are four options for increasing your VA disability rating. 

Filing an Appeal

If you filed a claim for a VA disability rating and were not satisfied with the result, either the effective date wasn’t correct, or the disability rating was too low, you have one year from the date you received the decision to file an appeal. Under the Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, you have three options for the appeals process.

Each option has its own set of requirements and deadlines, and a knowledgeable VA benefits attorney can help guide your appeal from start to finish. 

Filing a New Claim for an Increased Rating

If your condition has worsened since your original VA disability rating or the one-year window has passed to file an appeal, you can file a new claim for an increased disability rating. The VA will treat your submission like an initial claim. You can apply online, in person at a regional VA office, or by mail using VA Form 21-526EZ

When submitting your application, include any new medical evidence and documentation showing your disability has worsened. The VA will likely require that you undergo a new Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam performed by a VA-contracted or salaried physician to document the severity of your condition. 

Filing for TDIU

If you have a severe service-connected disability and you believe that your current disability rating doesn’t reflect your condition, filing for TDIU benefits may be your best option. Short for Total Disability Based on Individual Employability, TDIU can provide you with the VA disability compensation of a  100-percent rating, even if your combined disability ratings aren’t 100 percent. To qualify, you must establish that your service-connected disability prevents you from securing or keeping gainful employment. 

According to the VA, gainful employment pays above the federal poverty level. Protected work environments or marginal jobs don’t count as gainful employment.

To be eligible for TDIU, you must meet one of the following requirements:

Filing for a Secondary Condition

Veterans often overlook this option, and it’s a valid path to secure the VA disability compensation you deserve. If you have multiple conditions or a new condition that has developed due to your primary condition, you can submit a claim for a disability with a secondary service connection. 

An example of this would be if you began experiencing frequent and severe migraines due to a service-connected neck injury, which may entitle you to additional compensation for this secondary disability. Another example would be if you began experiencing lower back problems after a lower extremity amputation. 

As long as your primary disability is service-connected, the VA will rate your new claim separately and then combine the ratings for a revised total. However, it’s essential to understand that the VA’s math when combining ratings is far from straightforward. The agency doesn’t simply add ratings together but instead orders your disability ratings from the highest to the lowest and multiplies them against each other to reach a combined rating. 

What Evidence Do I Need to Support a VA Disability Rating Increase?

When you request a VA disability rating increase, you must submit evidence supporting your claim. Even if you thought the VA’s rating was too low in the first place, you must document why this is the case unless you request a direct or higher-level review. Such new and relevant evidence to support your claim includes the following:

You must have this evidence ready before you pursue an increase in your VA disability rating. A qualified attorney can guide you through this process. 

How Long Will It Take to Increase My VA Disability Rating?

After you’ve filed for an increase in your VA disability rating, you can generally expect to receive a VA disability rating decision within three to four months. 

However, VA disability timelines can vary drastically, with some claims taking several years to resolve. Some factors that can lengthen a decision include having several disabling conditions, needing a C&P exam, and the VA’s claims backlog. 

VA Effective Dates and Back Pay

Fortunately, the VA will pay your benefits from the effective date of your claim, even if it takes a while to get your VA disability rating and benefits approved. This payment is sometimes called back pay and will come in a lump sum, tax-free payment covering any benefits owed by the VA. 

For an initial VA disability rating, your effective date is usually when the VA receives your claim. If you have requested a VA disability rating increase, the effective date would be when you request that the VA reopen your claim. 

Will Working With an Attorney Help?

To request an increase in your VA disability rating, you ask the VA to re-evaluate your claim. You’ll want to submit all the necessary documentation because the VA can also lower or terminate your existing rating. 

Filing a VA disability claim can feel confusing, frustrating, and even unfair. The resources available to veterans typically aren’t sufficient to help them navigate this complex process independently. Moreover, an unfavorable decision might require going through the complicated appeals process. 

Working with an experienced attorney through the disability rating process can protect your rights from start to finish. Because there are different ways to increase your rating, your VA benefits lawyer can determine the best strategy for your situation. 

At Veterans Guide, you’ll receive legal guidance and assistance from a dedicated team familiar with the VA’s rules and procedures and knowledgeable about the evidence necessary to prove a claim. 

Contact us today to learn how we can assist with your case. 

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