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What can cause me to lose my VA disability?
For veterans who return to civilian life with a serious injury or illness caused by their service, the benefits offered by VA can be critical to returning to a state of comfort and normalcy. The idea of losing these benefits can be terrifying to those who need them to pay for doctor’s visits, medical procedures, and as a substitute for lost income due to an inability to work.
The good news is that, once VA benefits start, they typically don’t terminate except in extreme circumstances. There are some instances where your benefits could be reduced, but most rates are protected and require extensive evidence and reasoning to reduce.
Terminations, on the other hand, are typically reserved for cases of fraud or where a person who would not normally qualify for VA disability due to an injury or illness not being service-connected is receiving VA benefits due to false information or an error. Rest assured that your benefits can’t be terminated or reduced for any old reason. But you should be still aware of the reasons this might happen, especially if you rely on these benefits to support your quality of life.
If VA is threatening to terminate or reduce your benefits, seeking help from a local disability attorney in Florida can boost your chances of coming out of the review process without losing any of your benefits.
When Can VA Terminate My Benefits?
As mentioned, it’s particularly rare for VA benefits to be totally terminated outside of some extreme circumstances. If you’ve been receiving disability benefits from VA for ten or more years, you also have special protection from termination. Only in cases where fraud can be proven or a serious mistake was made can your benefits be considered for termination.
If you have not been receiving VA disability for ten or more years and VA determines that your injury or illness is not service-connected, your benefits may be threatened. Most people receiving disability payments from VA need not worry about this unless they have reason to believe their injury or illness may not be related to their military service.
Regardless, you should receive ample warning from VA before any action is officially taken, informing you of your right to a hearing. If you receive such a notice, getting help from a seasoned attorney can help increase your odds of retaining your disability benefits. Even if your VA hearing goes poorly, you also have the right to an appeal, giving you another opportunity to fight for the financial assistance you need.
When Can My Disability Be Reduced?
While termination is quite rare, it’s far more common that a disability rating from VA is reduced, thus affecting the total financial assistance provided to a veteran.
First and foremost, if you are incarcerated for a felony, your disability rating will be reduced to 10% of the original total benefit value on the 61st day of your imprisonment. If you were already at the 10% threshold, your rating will be reduced to 5%. When you are released, you will need to inform VA in order to have your rating restored to its normal level. Most other reductions will be related to a reexamination.
If the VA has reason to believe that some or all of your disability could improve over time, you will need to undergo a reexamination. This can either take the form of a medical examination to determine if your condition has noticeably improved or a period of observation in the hospital. These reexaminations can be used to reduce your total rate of disability, meaning the monthly payments you receive from VA will also be reduced. There are many types of injuries and other cases where a reexamination is not required. Some such cases include:
- Injuries that can’t improve, like a lost limb
- Veterans over 55 years old
- Disability ratings that are already at the lowest threshold
- Veterans with multiple disabilities, leading to a rating that would be equally high if one disability improved
When Can My Rating Be Reduced After a Reexamination?
Reexaminations will need to provide a substantial amount of evidence for them to have an effect on the amount of assistance you’re receiving from the VA. First, the disability in question needs to improve so much that it constitutes an improved ability to function, particularly at work. Second, the reexamination must be adequately documented and thorough enough to leave no doubt about your improvement. Finally, your entire disability history must be reviewed to ensure nothing is left out of consideration.
There are several circumstances where your disability rating should not be subject to change. A reexamination of someone with a 100% disability rating will need to show considerable material improvement. Even in cases where improvement can be proven, it may not be enough to have the rating decreased.
Ratings that have remained the same for five or more years are also protected unless a continued improvement can be established. A reexamination alone is not enough to reduce rates in this case; more evidence will need to point to an improvement. After twenty years with the same rating, it cannot be decreased unless fraud can be proven.
If a reexamination leads to a decrease in your disability rating, you may be left with a lot less financial assistance than you need. Appeals are possible at this level, and getting help from an experienced local attorney can help you make a case for a better rating.
Get Legal Help With Your VA Disability
If you are concerned your VA disability will be reduced or terminated, getting in touch with an experienced Florida VA disability attorney can help prepare you for a reexamination and prepare to defend your financial assistance in situations where it’s threatened. Gathering second opinions, researching and fully understanding your medical history, and fighting for a fair hearing through the appeals process are all important aspects of seeking the maximum amount of disability you’re entitled to through VA benefits.
Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd aim to help Florida veterans gain access to the maximum benefits they deserve for injuries connected to their military service. If you’re living with injuries or illnesses related to your service and believe you are not receiving the benefits you deserve, give us a call at 866-460-1990 or contact us online to get started on a free consultation that could lead to the discovery of many unrealized benefits, including disability.
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