Nearly any discussion about VA disability benefits must include the disclaimer that a veteran’s disability rating can change at any time. It can be reduced — along with your benefits — or it can be raised. But are there instances when your rating can’t be changed? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is still yes, but it includes — you guessed it — a few disclaimers depending on your situation.
Below, we cover three types of disability that cause your rating to be fixed to one extent or another. These include permanent disability, total disability, and permanent and total disability (or P&T).
What is Permanent and Total Disability (P&T)?
Starting with the big one, P&T is meant for veterans whose condition(s) meet the requirements for both total disability and permanent disability.
Total disability means you have a 100% disability rating, which further means that your condition has left you fully disabled. This would cover situations in which you’re unable to work with significant accommodations, function socially, or require round-the-clock care. If your condition(s) still allow you to function independently and keep gainful employment, you likely won’t achieve a 100% rating, and will instead be rated somewhere else between 0 and 100%.
Permanent disability is one that medical evidence has shown is unlikely to improve, will continue at its current severity, and which VA will not question down the road. In most cases, VA will schedule followup exams and review your condition(s) at regular intervals to determine if your condition has worsened or improved. A permanent disability negates this requirement because medical evidence makes it quite obvious that your condition will not improve. Simple examples of a permanent disability include amputation of limbs, blindness, or paralysis.
Bear in mind that to receive P&T, you must meet both of these requirements. You must be both 100% disabled and possess medical evidence that your condition will not improve. This is the rarest of the three scenarios in which your rating is protected. Now what if you break P&T into two? How protected is your rating if it’s either permanent or total?
Permanent Disability Only
As described above, a permanent disability is one that is unlikely to improve with time, so unlikely in fact, that VA admits it as a fact and won’t follow up on your condition. Now, just because your disability is permanent doesn’t mean it’s total. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have a permanent disability rating anywhere on VA’s schedule of rating disabilities, above 0 and below 100%. Permanent disability merely protects that rating from being changed down the road.
Total Disability Only
A total disability means you have a 100% rating, meaning VA acknowledges your condition is completely debilitating. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your condition is permanent. If you’re expected to improve with time, as may be the case with cancers or certain mental health disorders, total disability is only awarded temporarily, say, while your cancer is in treatment or the mental health disorder is severe enough to prevent doing routine self-care.
There are additional caveats here. For instance, a temporary total disability is also given to veterans who are hospitalized for more than 21 days due to a service-connected condition.
P&T vs. TDIU
When it comes to total and/or permanent disability, you may also have come across total disability individual unemployability (TDIU), which is another form of VA disability used to assign a 100% (or in other words, total) disability to veterans. TDIU is used when a veteran’s condition(s) prevent the veteran from maintaining gainful employment, even if their disability rating does not reach 100%. As long as the veteran is unemployable, he or she will be given benefits in line with a 100% disability.
So a TDIU assignment is total. But is it permanent? Well, the short answer here is no. In some cases, getting rated for TDIU may lead to a permanent total rating, but only if your condition is not expected to improve. If there is any sign whatsoever that your condition will improve, TDIU will not prevent VA from reviewing your condition(s) down the line to consider whether your 100% rating should be removed and you should be moved to a lower rating.
Additional P&T Benefits
If you do receive a P&T rating — and should you decide to pursue one and require the compensation that comes with it, we highly encourage you to do so — it comes with some additional benefits on top of your monthly compensation. Here’s what they are:
CHAMPVA (The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs): Healthcare benefit program for dependents. Includes continued healthcare for dependents if the veteran has passed away from a service-connected condition while assigned a P&T rating.
Chapter 35 DEA (Dependents Educational Assistance): Education and training benefits for eligible dependents. Includes continued benefits for dependents if veterans has passed away, regardless of cause of death.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): Payments to eligible dependents upon the veteran’s death, should the veteran have maintained a P&T rating for the 10 years prior to his or her death.
State-level benefits: Various benefits, including college resources, employment assistance, complimentary hunting and fishing licenses, job training, and housing, depending on the state.
Assistance with Claims and Appeals
As you can tell from what we’ve described above, being rewarded a P&T rating requires a high burden of proof. You must meet the criteria for both a permanent and total disability rating, and if you believe that you do, in fact, meet those criteria, you should not hesitate to submit your claim to VA, or start your appeal should VA had rejected your claim. You always have the option to press your case, and we are here to help.
Contact us at 844-VET-LAWS or fill out our online form to get started on your claim or appeal, and earn the compensation you deserve.