How Long Do Veterans Disability Benefits Last?
Once a veteran has qualified for disability payments and the VA has made a determination about the level of disability, the veteran is eligible to get disability payments for the rest of his/her life or until the VA determines that the disability has gotten materially better.
Lifetime VA Disability
Typically, most disability ratings can be expected to last for the remainder of the veteran’s life. The veteran disability payments are however contingent upon the veteran remaining disabled and so the VA can, and does, from time to time seek a reevaluation of the veteran’s disability. If the reevaluation finds that the disability is still as severe as when the veteran was first approved, the benefits continue. If the VA finds that the disability has improved, it may lower the rating and if the VA finds that the disability has worsened it may raise the level of disability – though typically requesting an increase comes from the veteran with the help of a lawyer. If the condition remains stable the veteran is entitled to receive VA disability payments for the rest of his or her natural life.
Case Re-evaluations for VA Disability Ratings
From time to time, typically six months after the veteran has left active duty, the VA can request a reevaluation of the veteran’s disability. In addition, the VA often requests a reevaluation between two and five years after the original determination. This allows the VA to determine what level of disability exists and to make adjustments as suggested above.
It is important to respond to any correspondence about a reevaluation in a timely manner and highly recommended that the veteran seek legal help. Many veterans ignore these messages and then are surprised when they receive a notice terminating or greatly reducing their benefits. If you have received a notice from the VA seeking a reevaluation of your benefits – contact me here.
What Is a Permanent VA Disability Rating?
For some conditions or series of conditions the Department of Veterans Affairs determines that the veteran’s condition is permanent and will not improve. The VA typically only makes this determination if it is reasonably certain, based on medical evidence (supplied by the veteran) that the condition or level of impairment is more likely than not to continue for the rest of the veteran’s natural life. The VA is allowed to take the veterans age into consideration when issuing a “permanent disability” rating. It is harder for younger veterans to qualify for a permanent rating.
Total Disability Rating from the VA (and how to get it)
For some conditions or groups of conditions the Department of Veterans Affairs determines that the veteran’s condition is 100% disabling. This is known as a !00% rating and is extremely difficult to qualify for based on the VA’s Rating Schedule (found here). Since a rating schedule is meant to indicate the level (on a percentage basis) of how disabled the VA finds the veteran to be it is important to get the right rating and to continue pushing for the right rating if the veteran is given a lower rating based on the regulations.
It is possible for a veteran to be permanently disabled but not rated at 100%, and hence not be “totally disabled.” Likewise, it it is possible for a veteran to be 100% totally disabled but for the VA to issue this rating on a temporary basis – hence the veteran would be totally but not permanently disabled. A temporary total disability is going to be reviewed by the VA at some point for adjustment.
Total and Permanent Disability from the VA (how do I qualify for this?)
If a veteran has been rated “Permanently and Totally Disabled” by the VA which is called a Permanent and Total Disability rating, they are not subject to further evaluation as the VA has determined that the condition, or collection of conditions, is both permanently disabling and totally or completely disabling.
20 Years (Why 20 years is a magic # for VA disability benefits)
If a veteran has been receiving a 100% disability rating for 20 years or more his/her benefits cannot be reduced. If a veteran is receiving less than 100% disability for 20 years or more, they may be subject to reevaluation, but their benefits cannot be reduced below the level they have been receiving for the past 20 (or more) years. For example, a veteran who has been receiving 60% benefits and is reevaluated after 20 years will continue to receive 60% compensation even if their condition is found to be only 40% disabling.
Filing for New Conditions / Worsening Condition with the VA
If a veteran develops new conditions that can be related to their service or may be caused by their original rating condition (for example if the original rating is for a bad knee, the excess pressure put on the good knee could lead to it deteriorating) then the veteran must file for an increase in veteran disability payments and request a new evaluation. (Start the process of getting an evaluation here).
Speak with a lawyer about your VA disability case. Schedule a consultation.