Once the VA has acknowledged that your disability is related to service—i.e. you have shown that there is was an incident in service and that you have a current disability and that you have shown a nexus between the two— then you must make sure that VA gets the rating and effective date correct. The VA rating is supposed to reflect the level of severity of the disabilty in terms of how much it interferes with the veteran’s ability to work.
What I want to focus on is what the veteran should be thinking about when he is initially rated. As any veteran who has been through the VA service connected disability process would know, it is a long slow road. Just to get service connected can take years—sometimes even decades. Once you are initially service connected the VA gives you a rating. It is important to understand that this rating is often times wrong. The VA gets this rating wrong for several reasons.
First, in any claim where the first issue is whether the disability should be service connected or not the VA adjudicator is going to focus on the evidence related to service connection—i.e. they are looking for an incident in service, a current disaiblity and a nexus. Even when there is information regarding the serverity of the disability this often gets overlooked.
Second, these claims of intial service connection can go on for years and, as a result, build up quite a bit of retroactive benefits. Unfotunately, it is easier for a rater to underrate a veteran in this circumstance because the more money that the VA pays the veteran the more supervisors have to sign off on the award. For example, if the retro award is over $25,000 then the adjudicator has to have two superisors sign off on the award. But if the award is under $25,000 then the adjudicator can sign off on the award himself.
For these reasons, it is important to review that initial decision granting service connected benefits to make sure that the VA got the rating correct. If the decision is a rating decision granted by the VA Regional Office then you have one year to appeal this decision. If you miss the appeal deadline you can always file a claim for increased rating but the problem with this stragegy is that you will only get an increase in benefits from that date going forward—the VA will not go back to the original claim unless you appeal that decision.
The fight for service connected compensation from the VA can be a long and difficult struggle. It is important not to give up on a valid claim. It is equally important to make sure that once the VA grants you service connected benefits that you review the percentage to make sure that it accurately reflects the level of your disability.
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