Today, I want to talk to you about a question that a lot of Veterans ask me: If I get a 100% rating, should I continue fighting the VA for benefits? Let’s jump right into the answer. Many Veterans perceive the 100% rating as the end of the line. The sign of victory over the Hamster Wheel. But….….is it REALLY over when you get to 100%? Well, the hard part sure is over….but I think that there are several reasons to keep on fighting – even after you reach the 100%. Let me tell you about 6 of those reasons…[Reprinted here with permission from Veterans Law Blog]
Scenario #1: 100% TDIU May Not be Permanent.
There are several paths to a 100% rating in VA Compensation – one of the most common is the TDIU 100%.
TDIU – also known as “Total Disability Individual Unemployability” – is a 100% rating awarded when a Veteran’s service connected disability (or a combination of disabilities) renders that Veteran unable to procure substantially gainful activity. You can read more about TDIU on the Veterans Law Blog, or download my VA TDIU Field Manual eBook.
When a Veteran is awarded TDIU, there is no guarantee that TDIU 100% will last forever.
In fact, if the Veteran does not submit the annual income statements, or if the VA gets evidence that the Veteran is engaged in substantially gainful employment, the VA could reduce the Veteran’s rating to the combined rating in place prior to the TDIU grant.
It is almost always preferable to have a schedular 100% – meaning that your 100% rating is based on the schedule of impairment ratings for disabilities, and not on the circumstances of your employment.
So, even if you get approved for 100% based on TDIU, you might want to give serious consideration to pursuing a schedular 100% rating.
Schedular ratings become “protected” at certain points – again, too much detail for this post – but there are times when the VA can no longer reduce a 100% rating.
This is contrary to what many VSOs will tell you – VSOs frequently tell Veterans not to “rock the boat” and withdraw any appeals pending when the VA awards TDIU.
In my experience, this is one of those “fairy tales” that VSOs tell Veterans – rarely does this pan out to be true!
Scenario #2: A 100% rating doesn’t get you the right Effective Dates.
When I teach Veterans how to pursue an appeal for a denied claim, here’s the “order of battle” I teach:
- Get your medical conditions service connected.
- Make sure the VA assigns the correct Impairment Rating.
- Fight for the earliest effective date possible.
Those last 2 often go hand in hand. But, many times, the VA will grant you a 100% rating – TDIU or schedular – and not give you the earliest effective date possible. At 100%, past due benefits can really start to add up.
Using the 2014 disability rate tables, a single Veteran loses out on $2,906.83 for each month. If the Veteran misses your correct effective date by 1 year, this means they are shorting a single Veteran $34,881.96. Double that for 2 years.
My point is this – just because the VA got your rating to 100% doesn’t mean that they gave you the right effective date. If you give up the fight early, you might be leaving a lot of benefits on the table.
Scenario #3: Special Monthly Compensation
Not many Veterans have ever heard of Special Monthly Compensation. And so many Veterans don’t pursue it when they get their 100% rating.
To be quite honest, far too many VA Raters haven’t heard of (or don’t correctly compute) Special Monthly Compensation.
Special Monthly Compensation is complicated – but generally, it works like this.
When a Veteran receives a 100% rating, the VA is supposed to consider whether they might be eligible for additional payments known as Special Monthly Compensation.
There are many different kinds of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), but here are a few:
Statutory SMC – also known as SMC(s) is one of the more common types of SMC. It is commonly known as “Statutory/Housebound” SMC, because there are 2 ways to get it.
First, when a single Veteran with no kids has one 100% rating, and at least a 60% rating for a wholly separate condition/disability, that Veteran is entitled to an additional $347 a month in VA disability (using the rating tables effective 12/1/2014). This is the “Statutory” method of getting SMC(s).
Second, if a Veteran is housebound because of a service connected disability, that Veteran may be entitled to SMC(s) on a “housebound” basis. The VA’s definition of housebound is rather precise, and is discussed elsewhere on the Veterans Law Blog.
Loss – or loss of use – of extremities, sensory organs, and/or reproductive organs, might entitle one to Special Monthly Compensation as well. As could the need for Aid & Attendance.
The highest levels of Special Month Compensation can take a 100% Veteran as high as $8,859.84 a month – these Veterans are usually in pretty bad shape.
Even still, I’ve seen the VA “stiff” Veterans that are housebound, bed-bound, and quadriplegic out of Special Monthly Compensation.
This happens, most often, when a Veteran stopped fighting for their benefits after reaching 100%…..far too many Veterans think that is the highest level of compensation available.