The VA may increase your disability rating in light of new evidence that your condition has worsened or deteriorated. If a veteran believes that their service-connected condition warrants a higher disability rating there are two routes they can take depending on the situation:
- File an appeal; or
- File a claim for an Increased Rating
File an Appeal
When a veteran files their initial claim for service-connected compensation the VA will issue a rating decision either granting or denying the claim. If the VA grants the claim they will assign an effective date and a disability rating. If a veteran feels their disability rating is too low or the effective date is incorrect the veteran has one year from the date of the notification letter to file a Notice of Disagreement for an increased rating in the legacy appeals system.
When a veteran receives an unfavorable decision under the Appeals Reform, they have three review options to choose from:
Higher-Level Review Lane
When a veteran chooses this lane they are requesting that the Regional Office (RO) issue another decision based on a higher level review. This review is done by a more experienced rating specialist at the RO. In this lane, the veteran cannot submit new or additional evidence in support of their claims. The RO will issue a new decision based on the same evidence of record that was available at the time of the initial decision.
Supplemental Claim Lane
This lane allows for the veteran to submit new and relevant evidence. It is also the only lane in which the VA has a duty to assist veterans in gathering evidence to support their claims. Veterans will maintain the same effective dates for their claims when submitting new and relevant evidence as long as it is submitted within one year of the RO’s initial decision.
Notice of Disagreement
In this lane, a veteran can appeal their claims directly to the Board after an unfavorable decision from the RO. Veterans are able to skip the second level of review at the RO. There are three additional lanes at the Board:
- Direct Docket: For veterans who do not want or need to submit additional evidence to the Board and do not want a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. The Board will only look at the evidence that was in the veteran’s file when the appealed decision was issued.
- Hearing Docket: For veteran who want to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge. The hearing options which are available are a video conference hearing and a hearing at the Board in Washington D.C.
- Evidence Docket: For veterans who want to submit additional evidence but do not want a hearing. In this lane the veterans can submit additional evidence to the Board within 90 days following the Notice of Disagreement.
File a Claim for an Increased Rating
If a veteran is outside of the 1-year appeal window to file a Notice of Disagreement with the initial decision, a veteran can consider filing a new claim for an increased rating. A veteran can submit any new documentation or evidence they have supporting that their service-connected disability has worsened. The VA will treat this as a claim and issue a rating decision in response.
In the legacy appeals system, the evidence must be new and material. Under the Appeals reforms the evidence must be new and relevant.
A veteran may also file a new claim for a secondary-service connected disability. Although this is not technically an increased rating for their initial disability, it can still result in increased compensation.
What Else Should You Know?
When a veteran asks the VA to take another look at their disability rating the VA will review the entire claims file. This means that they do not only look for evidence in support of your claim. If the VA feels that a veterans condition has improved, or that they assigned too high of a rating, the VA receives the right to decrease your disability rating.
Bosley & Bratch have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you feel you are entitled to an increased rating we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (727) 274-9227 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.