For some veterans, the objective criteria in the disability rating schedule may not accurately reflect their true level of disability. In such cases, the VA is able to consider certain additional factors in order to determine if a veteran’s specific disability warrants an increase in evaluation, or in other words, an extraschedular rating.
The determination as to whether a veteran qualifies for an extraschedular rating is a 3-prong approach. First, the veteran must show that the evaluation under the disability rating schedule does not take into consideration the veteran’s level of disability and symptomatology. Second, the veteran must be able to show that his or her disability has other related factors such as marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization. Third, the determination of an extraschedular rating may only be made by the VA Under Secretary of Benefits.
Note that the “related factors” in the second prong is the subject of some debate. Case law from the Court of Appeals of Veterans Claims is unclear as to whether “marked interference with employment” and “frequent periods of hospitalization” are the only related factors that can be considered for an extraschedular rating. Because of this, a veteran who has not experienced marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization may still want to pursue an extraschedular rating if he or she is able to produce evidence of other related factors that make his or her case exceptional. In such case, it would likely be useful to obtain an independent medical opinion or vocational evidence in order to prove that the veteran’s particular disability warrants a departure from the rating schedule.
It is important to remember that because extraschedular ratings are so highly individualized, it will take much longer in order for a veteran to receive a decision if he or she decides to pursue an extraschedular rating. But for those veterans whose disabilities are truly not accurately reflected in the disability rating schedule, it may be worth the extra time and effort to attempt to get an extraschedular rating.