Recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a notice of their proposal to update the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). Since 2017, the VA has been working through its rating rules for various body systems to more accurately reflect advancements in medicine and health. The latest body systems to be reviewed are the respiratory system; ear, nose, and throat conditions and audiology; and mental disorders.
It is proposed that:
- Obstructive sleep apnea with symptoms that are completely treatable with consistent use of a c-pap machine have a lower rating.
- Respiratory conditions including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) have lessened requirements for a 100% disability rating.
- Tinnitus be rated through the disease that causes it.
- Mental disorders have a less rigorous evaluation and therefore may result in more overall compensation.
A confirmed date for when these new rules will go into effect has not yet been published.
How will this affect your rating?
When the new standards go into effect, newly submitted claims will be processed under those new standards. This change will not affect veterans who are currently rated under the existing standards. Veterans who are currently rated under the existing rules do not need to take any action.
Currently rated veterans who submit claims after the standards go into effect will also be rated under the new rules at that time. This includes claims to have new issues connected or claims for an increase of currently connected issues.
When are your ratings protected?
There are different rules in place to protect veterans from having the VA reduce their ratings. These rules have to do with the number of years that the veteran has held their rating.
- 5-year rule: Veterans with disabilities rated by the VA at 10% or more should be aware that the VA can request that the veteran present for an exam to have their disability reevaluated. This reevaluation is usually called for when a disability is likely to improve. However, if after five years or more there is no evidence of substantial and sustained improvement in a veteran’s disability, the VA will not reduce the rating for that condition.
- 10-year rule: If the veteran has held a rating for their condition for 10 years, the VA is barred from severing service-connection for that condition, with the exception of fraud. Note that this is different from a reduction in the condition’s rating; the VA can reduce this rating if there is medical evidence that the condition has improved.
- 20-year rule: Only at the 20-year mark can a veteran assume that they will never have their condition’s rating reduced. A disability that has been continuously rated for 20 or more years will not be reduced except upon a showing that such a rating was based on fraud. For example, a veteran’s rated condition can fluctuate between 40% and 80% for 20 years as they submit claims for increase or present for routine reevaluations. At the 20-year mark, the VA is barred from reducing this veteran’s rating below 40% except in the case of fraud.
What your ratings mean for you and your family can be confusing. If you have questions about your current ratings or how these proposed changes will affect you, our VA-accredited VSO representatives can help. Reach out to our VSO team at VSO@navymutual.org or via our website to start a conversation.