Veterans who have some level of disability related to their military service are entitled to disability benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). Disability is NOT, however, a one-time snapshot evaluation because, as veterans age, medical and physical conditions worsen. This is part of the aging process. This has two important implications for those seeking veterans disability benefits:
- Older veterans may become increasingly disabled and should apply; and
- Veterans already receiving disability benefits should consider requesting rating reevaluations since their disability may be increasing as they are aging.
Increasing your disability rating is important and can be of substantial monetary benefit. Raising your rating from 10 percent to 20 percent nearly doubles the monthly payment. See VA information page here.
New Orleans Veterans’ Disability — How Age Affects Disability
We know that our physical functionality declines as we age. Moreover, various conditions worsen as we age. For example, a knee injury might become worse and worse over the years or a back injury might lead to more and more degeneration of the discs and spine. This is just as true for veterans as it is for non-veterans. As a consequence, as veterans get older, they are more likely to receive a disability rating AND more likely to receive a higher disability rating. One can see the age factor in the disability statistics: 45 percent of World War II veterans, 24.8 percent of Vietnam veterans and 16.3 percent of Gulf and Iraq War veterans have some level of disability. A service-related injury gets worse over time.
Many veterans mistakenly think that they cannot seek disability for an “old injury.” This is incorrect. There is no time limit that bars an application for disability based on when the service-related injury occurred. This is important because many vets “tough it out” and consider their service-related injury to be a “minor nuisance.” But as time passes, that “nuisance” becomes a significant limitation. Fortunately, as noted, there is no time limit. You cannot obtain disability benefits until you apply.
Note that if you are denied benefits, there ARE very strict time deadlines for appealing your denial. You should seek immediate assistance from proven veterans’ disability lawyers if you have been denied benefits.
New Orleans Veterans’ Disability — SSDI vs. VA Disability Determinations
When considering age and disability benefits, it can be useful to examine how the Social Security Administration uses age (SSA) to evaluate eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). They handle the programs differently, but the comparison is helpful. Unlike veteran’s disability, SSDI links to a person’s ability to work. That is, SSDI is available ONLY if the person cannot engage in what is called “gainful employment.”
For SSDI applications, age is relevant because workers over 50 years of age are less able to do physically-tasking work. If a worker contracts a disease that affects their ability to work, the SSA evaluates the medical condition. For example, does the medical condition limit the applicant’s ability to hold objects that weigh more than five pounds? The answer might be “yes,” and a worker might be one that can only do “light duty” work. For workers over the age of 50, workers can go from one category to a lower category.
In a similar fashion, the Social Security Administration evaluates whether a worker can make a “vocational adjustment“. In layman’s terms, this is about being re-trained or learning new skills. The Social Security Administration has rules that assume that younger workers can learn new skills. However, for SSDI applicants over the age of 50, the rules begin to relax. Some may think that older workers are less able to learn new skills for work.
As noted, they do not award veterans’ disability benefits based on a veteran’s work limitations. For this reason, it is easier to obtain a VA disability rating. The same sort of functional limitations evaluated by the Social Security Administration factor into disability ratings given by the VA. And, as noted, as a veteran ages, his or her functionality diminishes and service-related medical conditions worsen.
New Orleans Veterans’ Disability — Seeking VA Ratings Reevaluations
Under the VA disability system, there are automatic re-evaluations done by the VA. The first is scheduled at about the six-month mark and then thereafter on a schedule of every two to three years. However, in general, the VA is not looking to evaluate whether the medical condition has worsened. Rather, the VA is evaluating whether they can lower the rating. Rarely does a VA-initiated reevaluation result in an increased disability rating.
But veterans can request a reevaluation at any time based on a worsening of their medical condition. We here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC recommend this if, in fact, there is medical evidence that your medical condition gets more severe and more debilitating. To do this, proper forms must be complete and you will undergo a new compensation and pension exam. It is also useful to submit records and reports from your own physician (generally termed an “independent medical examination”). The VA will still require that you appear for a VA-conducted examination, but the IME is very helpful. If the basis of the service-related disability is mental or emotional — such as PTSD — a similar sort of time-lapse evaluation is even more important although it will be based on behavioral regression and degeneration.
Contact New Orleans SSDI/VA Benefits Law Firm Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC Today
If a veteran and you think you might have a disability, contact the experienced New Orleans VA disability benefits attorneys here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. We are lawyers with dedication who can help with the complicated process of applying for VA disability benefits. Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC has years of experience. Contact us via email or by calling (855) 631-2544.