What does a zero percent disability rating mean?
Even conditions rated at 0% are service-connected and eligible for compensation if the condition worsens. You will not have to show that the condition was caused by service because the VA has already determined that it is and simply thinks your current symptoms do not warrant monthly compensation.
At a 0-percent rating, you can qualify for certain ancillary benefits, such as health care, but you will not receive monthly compensation.
You must receive a disability rating of 10-percent or higher to be eligible for a monthly benefit check from the VA.
A 100-percent rating usually corresponds with a total disability or a condition that VA deems extremely limiting. The ratings in between are determined based on rating criteria, which is why it is so important to submit credible, accurate, and thorough evidence.
Current VA Disability Compensation Amounts Based on Rating
The VA updates its schedule of benefits each year.
At a 30 percent or higher rating, Veterans are eligible for additional benefits for dependents living in their household.
If you have two separate service-connected medical conditions, be advised that the VA does not add your ratings together to determine your total rating. Instead, it has its own formula to combine multiple disability ratings.
Depending on your conditions’ combined rating and your ability to sustain employment, you may be eligible for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
TDIU allows Veterans to be compensated at the 100-percent rate in cases where their service-connected disabilities impact their ability to work. However, there a several factors that need to occur to qualify for TDIU.
Facts About the Different Types of Claims Veterans Can File
The 5 different claim types include:
Identifying the type of claim you are filing will ensure correct processing by the VA.
Include specifics with your claim.
If you believe your condition was caused by exposure, clearly state this.
For presumptive claims, focus your evidence on proving exposure and establishing a current diagnosis.
Evidence for an aggravation claim should focus on progressive worsening of your condition. To prove an aggravation claim, you must not only show that your condition has worsened beyond its natural progression, but that the worsening was caused by service or another disability.
Facts About Filing a Disability Claim With the VA
Establishing service connection
For any VA disability claim for service connection to be successful, three main elements must be present.
- A current, diagnosed disability by a medical professional
- An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
- A medical nexus between the current disability and the in-service event, injury, or illness.
Reviewing your current disabilities provides knowledge of potential building blocks for secondary disability claims. You may not even realize that the conditions you currently have slowly developed would not exist if you did not have the original military disability.
If you claim a new condition or apply for an increased rating, you can file your claim online at eBenefits.va.gov. You will have the option to upload digital attachments of evidence to support your claims. If you are not interested in filing your new claims online, you can print a 526EZ form and file by mail or contact your local VSO for help.
During the evaluation process, the VA may schedule you for a C&P examination. When this occurs, it is a good sign that the VA is taking your claim seriously and is following their required duty to develop your claim fully. It is important to prepare for the exam so that a comprehensive record of your disability is documented and available for the rater to review when deciding your claim.
A statement in support of a claim for increase should focus on new symptoms. An increase statement does not need to show a Nexus since you are already service-connected for the condition. It is helpful to know what symptoms are needed for the next higher rating and be proactive about filing for an increase if your condition worsens. Many Veterans miss out on years of valuable benefits because they do not pay attention to what symptoms determine their rating.
Facts About Developing Medical Evidence in Support of a VA Claim
The evidence you submit to demonstrate the severity of your disability helps the VA determine what rating you will be assigned.
Obtaining and examining your military medical records can uncover potential lifetime benefits.
The best way to review the records is page by page, taking note of each diagnosis and symptom. You should create a timeline with the date of the occurrence, list the symptoms, tests performed, diagnosis, and any medications or treatments provided.
This can be fairly complicated terrain – many Veterans find that hiring a professional team, like Vet Comp & Pen, to help make sure they are correctly rated can make a huge difference in getting benefits they medically, legally and ethically qualify for.
A new claim for service-connection must include evidence connecting your condition to your active duty service. The focus of your supportive evidence is very different if you are not yet service-connected. Your current disability level is not as important as evidence that connects the dots for the VA. You must first get the fish in the boat before worrying about its size!
Any records from non-VA medical providers should be included with your claim. These records should include clinic notes and copies of diagnostic studies or imaging reports.
Most claims should include a Lay Statement as supporting evidence. This is because the person experiencing the disability is you, the Veteran. No one can determine how your disability affects you better than you. A well-written Lay Statement can be a critical factor in winning a claim.
Evidence for secondary claims should focus on the timeline and the link. If your condition did not start in service but was caused by another disability, your evidence should highlight the temporality of your new condition. You should describe how the new condition has developed or worsened since you have had the service-connected disability symptoms.
For presumptive claims, focus your evidence on proving exposure and establishing a current diagnosis. Most exposure can be shown with evidence of your service location and dates. Pictures are powerful evidence and can help win a case. Many Veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict have struggled to prove their exposure due to poor record-keeping at the time. Many of these claims have been won based on pictures, letters, and even memorabilia.
For an increase, review your rating decision letter carefully. Your rating is not some arbitrary number – it is clearly defined by law. All decision letters must clearly state the evidence for and against your claim.
Always refer to the 38 CFR when you receive a new decision from the VA. This is an invaluable tool for ensuring that you are being fairly compensated for your disability. Review the rating criteria to familiarize yourself with the symptoms that must be documented to protect the rating you have.
Did the VA C&P exam inadequately document your level of disability? If the VA examiner under-reported your disability level, you should appeal the rating with evidence directly addressing the symptoms needed for the higher rating.
Helping Veterans develop medical evidence to support a claim is our specialty here at Vet Comp & Pen. If you are curious about getting help to unlock the benefits you medically, legally and ethically qualify for, don’t hesitate to call us today.
Facts About Appealing a Disability Claim With the VA
After a VARO (Veterans Affairs Regional Office) decision, you have 365 days in which to file your appeal. The new appeal system provides 3 different options to file an appeal. The three different options are a Supplemental Claim, a Higher-Level Review, and a Board Appeal.
If you have determined that you can obtain new evidence directly refuting the reason for your denial, you should begin obtaining this evidence right away. If you plan on asking a private provider for an exam or a private medical opinion, it may take many months before you can obtain an appointment. The doctor may decline to help you, requiring you to start over and search for a new physician. To avoid this difficulty, consider hiring Vet Comp & Pen. We are experts in strategically compiling medical evidence to help you win your appeals claim.
Please visit our FAQs page for more information about the appeals process.