How to increase the % rating of an existing benefit.
This one is pretty simple. You just ask VA for what you want. It really is that easy. There are no complex forms to complete, all you need to do is to write a certified letter to your VA regional office and briefly explain what it is that you want to do.
Of course, before you do that, you'll want to be sure that you're eligible for an increase. If your condition is worse than before, you probably are eligible. But before you go off on a wild goose chase, it helps to get everything in order so you can be sure of what will happen.
We explain all this below. Keep reading!
Increasing the % rating of a benefit that you have held for over one year is straightforward.
You write a letter to the VA regional office that holds your file and tell them specifically what you're asking for.
Before you do that, have a close look at the Schedule For Rating Disabilities.
Find the condition that you believe should be awarded at a higher %.
Study the reasons that higher %'s are rated. Match your condition and
symptoms and if you are eligible, tell the VA in the letter.
This is NOT an appeal. This is a request for a new rating. An appeal
occurs during the one year period after an award is made. Any rating
activity after that is a request for a new rating.
Raising the % of a recently awarded benefit is an appeal.
If you have a favorable rating decision
but the award of the % seems low to you, you must appeal the rating.
Some advocates call this "reconsideration". This should occur soon after you receive the award letter that tells you of the benefit that you believe is rated too low.
We at VAWatchdog don't use the term "reconsideration". Asking
for reconsideration sends your claim back to the same people who made
the earlier decision. VAWatchdog recommends a DRO appeal so that your
request is sent to a higher rating authority.
The process and logic is much the same as when you seek any rating from
VA. You must be specific in the request. If you are currently rated at
20% and you believe that you should be rated at 40%, you should tell VA
that in your letter.
Any time you ask VA to open your file,
there is risk. VA will always look at the open file and seek a way to
lower existing benefits.
You must evaluate if the risk is worth the potential reward. This is commonly called a risk/benefit analysis.
The risk is real. You must confirm to your own satisfaction that you are deserving of an increased rating.
Are you sure you can justify the increase? If not, go back
and do your homework before you file.
The Letter Template
All VA claims may be initiated with a
simple letter. In some cases, VA may respond with a required form.
However, for your requests to increase an existing benefit, a brief,
simple letter is all that you need.
It's important to remember to keep your communication brief. You must use certified mail, RRR to deliver the letter.
VIA Certified Mail, RRR
Reference (Your Name, SSN and any reference numbers on the award [denial] letter)
I am currently rated as follows:
(HERE YOU WILL ACCURATELY DESCRIBE THE RATING YOU WISH TO INCREASE.)
I believe that the current rating is not appropriate as my condition has worsened over time.
Specifically, my condition is now (HERE YOU DESCRIBE THE DETAILS OF HOW YOUR CONDITION HAS WORSENED.)
I believe that my rating should be increased to (HERE YOU TELL VA THE RATING YOU DESERVE.)
(HERE YOU MAY ADD BRIEF ADDITIONAL DETAILS THAT ARE RELEVANT TO THIS CLAIM.)
Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.
As you can see, you must keep the letter brief and specific. Do
not ramble on about things that are not immediately relevant to the
Always be respectful in communicating with VA. There are real people who
will read your letter and you must convince them to help you. If you
are aggressive, derogatory and try to personalize the issue, your file
may get lost.
The above letter is for a request to increase an existing benefit. Appeals must be handled differently.
Can VA lower my rating?
How can they do this to me? VA knows I can't work. They gave me the 100%
TDIU rating in 2009 and now I get a letter telling me that they are
reducing all my ratings by 1/2 and they are taking the TDIU rating from
me. Christmas is coming soon and I have child support to pay. I don't
know how I can survive if VA does this to me. Can you help me? My VSO
isn't very interested in doing anything for me.
We had to exchange emails for a week or so to get all the answers from
you. As it turns out, you set yourself up for this occurrence.
We learned that it was about a year ago that the VA regional office
where your claim folder was held sent you a letter to notify you that
you were scheduled for a C & P exam. Your 100% TDIU rating was
temporary and it was clearly noted on the award letter that future exams
were scheduled. You claim TBI and PTSD from your honorable service as
an OEF/OIF soldier. Your medical records are clear that you were
rendered unconscious during an attack by a car bomb.
You have a well grounded claim. VA assigned the appropriate benefit for
the severity of your condition. It's the usual process that VA will
assign a temporary rating for a young veteran like you. The thought
process is that it is very likely that you will experience improvement
in your condition with time. You told me that you're now in a well
defined treatment program and making progress.
However, for reasons you haven't clearly defined, you left your region
and moved at least 3 times in the last 2 years. You didn't consider
changing your address with VA for about a year. When you did finally
change the address with VA your records were transferred to a new VARO
but you left and returned to the original region where you started.
None of this caught up to you until 3 months ago. Just prior to that you
notified your original VA regional office of the latest change of
address and you received a letter telling you that VA had made the
decision to reduce your benefits as well as to take away the TDIU
status. You waited 10 weeks to notify me and ask for help. This left us
with about 10 days before the lowered benefit was to go into effect.
To answer your original question, yes...VA can and will reduce any
benefit for cause. There are abundant rumors all over the Internet and
in every waiting room that many ratings are somehow protected and that
VA can't touch them. None of those rumors are true. Ratings of 100%
disabled don't become protected for 20 years and then only if the rating
was P & T with no interruption during those 2 decades.
You missed a C & P exam. VA tried to notify you but you didn't get
the message. You didn't get the message because you didn't bother to
arrange forwarding of your mail and you didn't notify VA that you were
changing your address. Ultimately, when you did get the message that
this was happening, you didn't follow any particular process but
instead, you called the VA toll free number. You don't recall just when
you did that or what the outcome was.
To try to correct this problem, I've helped you to write a letter and
appeal the decision. I doubt that it will have any effect at this late
date. It will begin a process that may eventually see you getting the
100% TDIU benefit again but it may take a year or two.
While I understand and the VA understands that your life may be
challenging because of your service connected conditions, that doesn't
provide you with an excuse to ignore your obligations. Your rating of
100% TDIU didn't indicate that you are incompetent. Your messages to me
are clear and well written so you're seemingly able to understand and
communicate when necessary.
Once we veterans sign on with VA to take advantage of the benefits we
earned, we make a sort of pact with them. We expect that VA will do
their part and we'll do ours.
All too often, VA fails us. They lose paperwork, the backlog is a
national embarrassment, and errors in decisions are plentiful. None of
that gives any veteran reason to be as sloppy with their affairs as the
VA can be. As I looked over your historical paperwork that you faxed to
me, yours is one of the cases where VA had done a good job and you had
precisely the benefits and opportunities you had earned.
By not holding up your end of the bargain, you threw it all away.
VA isn't responsible for this malfunction, you are. VA isn't a
babysitter. If you don't take your responsibility seriously, VA will not
go to extraordinary lengths to take care of you. If you miss a C & P
exam, if you don't send in your 4140 form, if you decline the health
care (both physical and mental) that VA offers you, if you try to take
shortcuts or somehow game the system, VA will reduce your benefit.
I predict that you'll get your benefit back. It will take a year or two.
You won't get any retro pay for the time you're missing now. This is a
steep price to pay because you didn't want to play the game.
This will serve as a warning to all vets...VA sometimes gets it right.
It's up to you to do your part. If you don't, the end result is painful.