When a veteran is awarded a disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs (also known as the VA), some people believe that their rating is set in stone. However, this could not be further from the truth, as people’s disability ratings can change wildly over the course of time (usually by increasing in severity). But how exactly can someone’s VA disability rating increase over time?
- New medical evidence emerges
- One of the most common reasons that someone’s VA disability rating might change over time is that new medical evidence emerges about their condition. Sometimes this is due to a lack of appropriate medical testing or examination before someone’s disability rating is originally awarded. Other times, new, more accurate tests emerge to prove a person deserves a higher disability rating than they originally received.
- New medical conditions develop
- Another reason some people get higher disability ratings is that they develop new service-related conditions over time. This is often seen with certain psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, where the symptoms may not become apparent until weeks or months after someone has left their military service. It can also occur with certain cancers caused by exposure to carcinogenic toxins during a person’s service, where the related cancer may not appear until years later.
- Veterans get a second opinion
- Often when a veteran applies to the VA for disability benefits for the first time, they are relying on a medical evaluation from the VA itself. While the doctors and other medical professionals at the VA are generally quite good, it is possible for them to make mistakes or miss something important. This can lead to a change in someone’s diagnosis when they seek treatment outside of the VA system, where a private doctor may offer a second opinion contrary to the original diagnosis.
- Existing medical conditions worsen
- Unfortunately, it is reasonably common for some service-related disabilities to get worse over time. For example, someone with a back injury from their service may be reasonably able to walk at first, but over time it may worsen to the point that they can no longer walk unassisted. Likewise, someone with an eye condition related to their service may slowly lose the ability to see, justifying a substantial increase in their VA disability rating.
- Scientific understanding changes over time
- Finally, sometimes the problem is not the evidence or the condition itself, but rather changes in medical science. While the VA generally tries to remain on top of developments in the medical field, there are always flaws in this understanding, and veterans can fall through the cracks. When this happens, you may need to speak to a lawyer with experience handling veteran disability claims to help you with your case.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.