If you have a service-connected disability that has gotten worse with time, or that you expect may get worse with time, you may be wondering if you can increase your disability rating through the VA. And what about if you develop a secondary disability that may be a result of your time in service. Are you able to get a higher rating for that, too? The answer, in any case, is yes, you are able to file a new claim for new or worsening decisions, or appeal an unsatisfactory decision, and the way in which you approach mostly depends on timing.
In many cases, conditions are expected to get worse with age, and secondary service-connected conditions are not uncommon, which makes this process a relatively routine one. You are not guaranteed a higher rating, but with strong up-to-date medical evidence to support your claim, you can increase your chances of getting a higher rating and more compensation.
Filing a New Claim vs. Appealing
First, let’s get appeals out of the way since those don’t technically apply to the situations we are covering here. Appeals will serve you best during a short window of time after your rating decision has been made so that you can get try to get a more favorable decision right off the bat. When you first make a claim for disability benefits, VA may grant your claim or deny it, and even if it is granted, it may not deliver the rating and compensation you expect.
According to the VA’s legacy appeals system, which handles decisions made before February 19, 2019, You have up to one year after your decision to file a Notice of Disagreement and present new evidence and ask for a reassessment of your claim. Under the Appeals Modernization Act, you have three review options to choose from: Supplemental Claim, Higher-Level Review, and Board Appeal.
A Supplemental Claim allows you to submit new and relevant evidence that was not presented the first time around. Higher-Level Review simply presents your original claim, without any new and relevant evidence, for review by a more senior rating specialist. Board Appeals are available if you are unsatisfied with the results of Supplemental Claim and Higher-Level Review, allowing you to directly appeal your claim at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where you are then given the options to submit new and relevant evidence, attend a hearing, do both, or do neither, and simply have your original claim reviewed once again.
New Claims for Worsening or Secondary Conditions
So what about situations in which you were granted a reasonable rating at the time of your claim, but you are beyond the one-year window for filing an appeal, and your condition has worsened or you have developed a possibly secondary service-connected disability? The simple solution: file a new claim.
Treat your worsening condition or secondary condition just like you would the first time around. Collect new and relevant medical evidence to support your claim, file it, and let VA go through the routine procedures of reviewing it. If all goes according to plan, your new situation will grant you a higher rating and more compensation. If not, you can proceed to an appeal.
In more extreme cases of worsening conditions, you may want to consider reviewing your eligibility for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), for veterans whose disabilities prevent them from being able to perform the functions needed to maintain gainful employment.
Assistance with Your Claims and Appeals
The VA ratings review process is imperfect, and disabilities can prove unpredictable, so you may find yourself in situations where you need to file new claims or appeal existing ones. If you are planning to file a new claim for a worsening or secondary service-connected condition, or you plan to file an appeal to an unfavorable decision by VA, you want to prevent the strongest case you can to get the most compensation. VA Disability Group is available to help you through the process. Contact us at 844-VET-LAWS or fill out our online form to get started on your strong new claim or appeal today.