Recent VA Changes to the Disability Rating Schedule Explained

Effective February 7, 2021, the latest change to the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is changing the way claims processors will look at some types of disabilities. The main changes have to do with muscle injuries and musculoskeletal injuries. This update could change a veteran’s disability rating, which is one of the main factors in the amount of VA disability compensation they will receive.

VA Disability Ratings

Once a veteran applies for disability benefits and the VA has determined the claim to be related to the veteran’s military service, disabilities are given a rating. The VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) is the definitive guide that VA disability claims processors use across the country to determine these ratings. Ratings are between 0% and 100%, depending on the amount they are determined to medically impact the veteran’s life.

If you have been denied for a VA disability claim or you think your disability rating was improperly calculated, seek the aid of a VA disability attorney. The claims process generally allows for an appeal, but you will want to make your appeal count. Simply resubmitting paperwork for another look is usually not enough to change a rating or gain compensation. You may also need expert witnesses for your case, such as a doctor’s testimony.

The amount of compensation is linked to the disability rating and the number of dependants a veteran can claim. The higher you can rate your disability, the more compensation will be awarded, and it is not a direct line with each percentage point having a dollar value, so the increase can be substantial. While a 0% disability rating sounds like it will result in nothing, it can still be used to qualify a veteran for priority care or other benefits.

It is worth noting that ratings are not additive, but they can combine to increase a veteran’s overall disability rating. If you develop new, service-related disabilities from ongoing health concerns or chronic problems, you should try to amend your rating.

Muscle and Musculoskeletal Injuries

The February update to the VASRD outlines muscle and musculoskeletal injuries in a clearer way. It does this by updating terminology to reflect changes in modern medicine, by removing outdated or obsolete terms, and by adding new conditions to the decision-making process.

Muscle injuries can include loss of functionality or pain from past injuries. Arthritis is a common complaint of veterans, as they have had to push their bodies past the standard limit in many cases. Deformities and arthritis due to muscle strain are outlined under the VASRD.

Disabilities in the musculoskeletal system are often problems with bones, joints, and their interactions. Ankylosis and osteomyelitis are just two examples of conditions outlined here. The musculoskeletal section of the VASRD also outlines how to determine the impact of complete loss of use of hands, feet, buttocks, and other commonly impacted functions.

The Basis for These Changes

The current Acting Under Secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs’s Veterans Benefits section is Thomas Murphy. Murphy has a long career with the VA, following 21 years of decorated military service where he achieved the rank of Major. He is very invested in the proper care and compensation of veterans.

Under Secretary Murphy has gone on the record saying these new changes to the disability rating system are rooted in scientific and medical information from cited, published research. This update is meant to provide easier and more uniform decision-making across various veteran-focused organizations.

If Your Claim is Impacted

If you are a veteran with a muscle or musculoskeletal injury and have concerns that your VA disability compensation will be adjusted, the best thing you can do is to consult a legal professional with experience handling VA disability claims.

The whole claims process is infamously complex and time-consuming. The Department of Veteran Affairs usually has a claims backlog of months at any given time. Maximize your chances of a swift and favorable decision by working with someone with a good track record.