09 Feb Understanding the Rating System for Veterans’ Disability Benefits in SC
Veterans who have been injured during active military service may be entitled to disability benefits. These benefits are paid monthly and are tax-free. However, the process for obtaining these benefits can be complicated and lengthy. The following is intended as a guide to help in understanding how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rates claims for veterans’ disabilities.
Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 1155, the VA developed a Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to aid in the evaluation of these claims. A rating for a disability is anywhere from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. The rating is based on the severity of the disability, measured by how the disability impacts the ability to earn wages (or work). The rating determines the amount of compensation, though the amount will also depend on whether the veteran has a spouse or dependent children.
The VASRD assigns injuries and conditions to a specific diagnostic code, which is used to rate the disability. Importantly, a disability may only be rated under one code. If more than one code applies to the same disability, the VA is required to choose the code with the higher rating. Multiple ratings are assigned where there are multiple disabilities, but the ratings are not simply added together. Instead, the VA uses a formula to determine a rating. The VA website has a helpful chart and explains fully how multiple ratings are calculated.
Appealing the Rating
It is possible the VA made a mistake in applying the rating criteria. Alternatively, you may feel that your disability is more severe than the rating the VA has assigned it, even though the criteria were applied correctly. In either case, you may want to appeal. Fortunately, there are several ways in which this can be accomplished.
An appeal may be made to the regional VA office that the application for disability benefits was first submitted to. The starting point for an appeal is the filing of a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). The VA has a form that can be filled out, but according to §20.201, a NOD is simply a written communication that explains disagreement with, and the desire to, challenge the determination. Pursuant to §7105, the NOD must be filed within one year of the date the rating determination was sent.
Under the appeal, a request can be made for a Decision Review Officer (DRO) to review the case and issue a new decision. A request for a hearing before the DRO may also be made. After, or instead of, the appeal to the DRO, an appeal may be made to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). If the BVA decision is not satisfactory, you can ask the BVA to reconsider or review your case again or appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Contact a Veterans’ Disability Attorney
If you have been injured, either physically or emotionally, as a result of your service to the country, you may be entitled to veterans’ disabilities benefits. The requirements for obtaining these benefits, or appealing a denial of them, can be complicated. The attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC have the experience necessary to help you with your veterans’ disability claim. If you are a veteran living in the Mount Pleasant or Charleston area, please contact us today with any questions you may have.