Any disabled veteran who has been through the application process for benefits knows how difficult it can be. And most believe that once they’ve been approved and start receiving benefits, their fight is over. However, the VA can and does reduce monthly benefits payments. If you’re a veteran, it’s important to know the circumstances that could affect your benefits. A New Orleans, LA veterans disability benefits attorney can help you defeat proposed benefits reductions.
There are three main scenarios in which the VA could lower your monthly disability payments. The first concerns jail or prison time. If you are incarcerated for more than 60 days in any jail or prison, the VA can cut your benefits. If you had a 20% or greater service-connected disability rating, it can be reduced to 10%. These percentages are set by law and are subject to change.
If your benefits were reduced during a period of incarceration, you can have them reinstated once you are released. You should work with an experienced New Orleans, LA veterans disability lawyer to have them restored.
Veterans with unprotected ratings can be subject to a reduction in benefits. “Unprotected” means the rating is less than 100% (total) or has been in place for less than five years. The VA can reduce your rating, and therefore your benefits if there’s an improvement in your condition. The improvement must be something more than a temporary change and must account for the veteran’s work and medical history.
There are also certain procedures that have to be followed before a reduction can lawfully be made. The VA must send notice of its intent to reduce your benefits. An examination and hearing will be scheduled as well. The hearing will afford you a chance to present evidence as to why your rating level should be maintained. Talk to your Louisiana disability attorney about submitting evidence and ensuring the VA follows the correct protocols required.
There are different rules in place for what are known as protected ratings. You need to know what kind of protected rating you have and the rules that go along with it:
- Stabilized ratings. These exist where the disability and its rating continue for five or more years at the same level. The VA cannot lower a stabilized rating unless it has evidence of “sustained improvement” in your disability. This requires consideration of your medical and employment records, including post-service treatments.
- 100% disability ratings. The VA must show a “material improvement” in your condition before it can lower a 100% rating. That means a material improvement in your disability and your ability to function under the ordinary conditions of life. An examination will need to be conducted and compared to the examination that led to your original 100% disability rating. The VA cannot justify a reduction by simply arguing that your current symptoms match a lower impairment level.
- Continuous ratings. These are ratings where the veteran has received benefits at or above a percentage for 20 years or more. Only in the event, there is fraud can the VA reduce this rating.
If you receive a letter notifying you of an intent to reduce your benefits, you should take immediate action. Contact a New Orleans, Louisiana veterans disability benefits attorney who can assist with your case. You may be notified of a re-examination date in the same letter notifying you of the VA’s intent to reduce. It’s imperative that you attend this examination or you could lose your benefits.
You can demand a hearing within 30 days of receiving your notice. The hearing can delay a decision to reduce and give you time to gather the evidence you need. If you don’t win, the reduction will be delayed until 60 days after the VA’s final decision is sent. This can give you an additional two months of benefits at your current rate.
If the VA Decides to Reduce Your Monthly Benefits, We Can Help
A reduction in benefits can be frightening, especially if you’ve come to rely on your monthly payments. Your best bet is to take immediate action and contact an experienced veterans disability law office. That’s where Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC, comes in. We will help you navigate the complicated world of VA bureaucracy and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call us today to discuss your case.