The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed a series of changes to the disability compensation program. These VA disability changes would affect veterans in several ways, and it is important that all veterans are aware of them. In this blog post, we will discuss the proposed changes and what they could mean for veterans. We will also provide information on how veterans can voice their opinion on the proposed changes.
The VA wants to “modernize” the current rating for sleep apnea. This is a politically correct way to say that they want to eliminate the sleep apnea rating. The VA hides this under the veil of “modernization.” It is nothing more than a way for the VA to refuse to pay veteran’s benefits. The VA is not considering the real-world implications of these changes.
How Does the VA Currently Rate Sleep Apnea?
The VA currently rates sleep apnea at 0%, 30%, 50%, or 100% depending on severity. However, the VA rates sleep apnea needing a CPAP at a minimum of 50%. As a result, this is a high value VA claim. Many veterans rely on sleep apnea to help them achieve an overall 100% rating. However, that means it is also expensive from a VA stand point. These VA disability changes are a way to save a few bucks.
VA Disability Changes: The Proposed Elimination
The VA intends to almost eliminate the sleep apnea rating. However, they will do this through the use of a 0% rating. A 0% rating is the bare minimum level of service from the VA. It ensures the veteran can receive health care for the disability, but the VA does not compensate the veteran. The VA has technically met the duty to assist, but the veteran receives little to no actual assistance.
The VA claims they would occasionally assign a 10% or higher claim. However, these claims would be very rare, and only in cases involving “incomplete relief.” The VA did not describe exactly how a veteran would meet the “incomplete relief” threshold. The VA hid this truth inside a separate VA document.
The VA published an economic impact statement that proposes the rational and dollar impact of these proposed VA disability changes. However, it also unintentionally exposes why the VA is proposing these changes. The statement reveals that 90% of veterans currently rated at 30% or 50% would suddenly only be eligible for a 0% rating. This is a dramatic reduction in benefit levels for veterans.
How Do Proposed VA Disability Changes Affect My Claim?
Your VA claims are about to get much more difficult. If successful, the VA will have successfully eliminated a large portion of many veteran’s disability claims. The proposed VA disability changes to the process are not being done to help you. They are being done so the VA can save money.
The VA claims they do not intend to reduce any current ratings. However, that is not completely accurate. The VA buried the truth inside the proposal. They admit that the new regulations apply to all veterans going forward. As a result, the VA will reevaluate veterans with a current sleep apnea rating under the new regulations anytime they file for an increase or additional claim.
The 20 Year Rule – Why It Matters Now More Than Ever
Combat Craig and I are both interpreting that tiny sentence as a “gotcha” hidden inside the proposal. The VA is stating that they will utilize the new sleep apnea ratings when veterans reopen their claims. This has a significant impact on claims. If you are currently rated at 50% for sleep apnea- you need to expect to be reduced to 0% if you open a new claim or apply for an increase.
This means you, as the veteran, need to weigh the cost and benefit of opening new claims regarding this piece of information. Is the new claim worth at least 50%? Is the new claim something that is likely to kill me (and I need the claim to make my spouse DIC eligible)? Do I want to risk the VA messing up my monthly disability? Do I want to keep my claim as is?
However, one law trumps all VA nickle and diming. The 20 year rule is still the trump card for VA disability. The VA can not reduce a rating that has been held for 20 continuous years. So, if you have a 50% sleep apnea rating that has been in effect since 2002, the VA can not reduce your rating, even if they finalize their proposed changes.
How Do I Comment on The Proposed VA Disability Changes?
You know what I love about being prior service? I can tell people exactly what I think of their short-sighted attempt to rob veterans of their benefits. You can find the official comment page here. The VA is allowing comments until April 2022.
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