Proposed Changes in Veterans’ Claims Evaluation
The VA is considering changes to its disability rating system for some conditions to update standards to comport with advances in medicine in such areas as mental health, respiratory conditions, ear nose and throat disorders, sleep apnea and tinnitus (among others). The changes are part of a larger effort started in 2017 to update the disability rating system.
The amendments are not intended to cause reductions in disability ratings for veterans who are already receiving compensation. Veterans who think they would be entitled to a higher rating under the new regulations may apply for a ratings increase.
For mental health conditions, the suggested changes would increase the minimum rating from 0% to 10%. In addition, the proposal would do away with the that a veteran cannot receive a 100% rating for a mental health condition if they are able to work.
A VA spokesman noted that Veterans with physical conditions who work have been able to be rated at up to 100%, so those with a mental health condition rated at 100% should likewise be eligible to work. This will ensure that disabled veterans need not be forced to choose between trying to work and receiving the benefits they deserve. The VA also proposes to evaluate mental health conditions using a a more robust and holistic approach, assessing how these condition affect one’s cognition, interpersonal relationships, ability to complete tasks, perform life activities and self-care.
The proposals will also ease the requirements to obtain 100% disability for asthma and respiratory conditions with comorbid cardiovascular conditions, and will recognize the disabling potential of symptomatic sleep apnea with ratings of 50 to 100% when treatment is ineffective or interferes with other conditions.
However, under the proposed changes fewer veterans will qualify for a disability rating for tinnitus, since it would henceforth be considered only as a symptom of an underlying condition rather than a stand-alone disability.
It should be stressed these are only proposals and are not yet in effect.
If you have questions about whether your own medical conditions are service connected and will qualify you for a veterans disability benefit, give our Veterans Law Department a call at 1.800.416.5454 extension 4450.