Scenario #4: Protection against Future Reductions.
We all know that the VA loves to reduce benefits – often for no reason at all.
There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t talk to at least one Veteran who was rated 100% – schedular – and then the VA comes out of nowhere and reduces them to 0%.
Often, when I dig into the C-File for these Veterans, I find other conditions that were improperly rated in the past, or that the Veteran gave up on when they received their 100% rating.
Had those conditions been properly rated, the Veteran might not have seen any reduction in disability compensation when the VA reduced the rating on another condition.
Here’s an example I saw a couple years back.
A Veteran – presumed exposed to Agent Orange – had both Ischemic Heart Disease and Prostate Cancer. Both conditions were severe enough that the Veteran should have been rated at 100% for EACH condition.
However, following a VSOs advice, the Veteran gave up his claims and appeals for the Heart and Prostate conditions after the VA awarded TDIU for the Veteran’s back condition.
A couple years later, the Veteran reported income to the IRS from a side project he was working on. It wasn’t a lot of income, but it was enough to show that the Veteran was able to participate in Substantially Gainful Activity, even with his 60% disabling back condition.
The VA cut his 100% rating down to 60%.
Had the Veteran ignored the VSOs “don’t rock the boat” advice and continued his Heart and Prostate Cancer claims, he would have been independently rated at 100% for both conditions, and the issue of TDIU would never have come up.
My law firm was able to fix the claim, but it took a couple years, and during that time, the Veteran did face some pretty significant financial problems because of the reduction of his disability benefits from 100% to 60%.
That story is just one of the reasons I tell every Veteran to get service connected for any condition that they believe is related to their military service, regardless how high their current total impairment rating.
By the way…I’m working on an ebook to teach veterans how to defend against a VA Ratings Reduction. Click here to sign up for an email announcement when it is ready.
Scenario #5: Secondary Service Connection.
It is the rare Veteran that is pursuing service-connection for just one condition.
But when a Veteran gets to 100% on just condition, many VSOs, some attorneys, and other Veterans often say the Veteran should give up their other claims or appeals so they “don’t rock the boat”.
Be happy with what you got, they’ll often tell you.
Here’s the story of a Veteran that wishes he hadn’t listed to that advice.
The Veteran had a renal (kidney) condition that resulted from his exposure to certain chemicals in the military. He also had a claim in for Hepatitis C that, at the time, would not have given him much more of an impairment rating.
So when he got the 100% rating for the renal condition, he withdrew the Hep C claim on the advice of his VSO. This is not at all an uncommon scenario (perhaps you have been the victim of this common VSO tactic).
When the Veteran was diagnosed, years later, with liver cancer, he though it might be related to his Hepatitis C. And his doctors agreed with him: Liver Cancer is a common consequence of chronic Hepatitis C.
The Veteran in the story above spent the last 6 months of his life trying to get the Hepatitis C Service Connected so that he could show that the liver cancer was secondary to that Hepatitis C.
During a time in his life when the Veteran could have used the extra Special Monthly Compensation that he should have received for two 100% disabling conditions (renal condition and liver cancer secondary to Hep-C) to make his final days more comfortable for himself and his family, he was battling a VA Bureaucracy that could not – or would not – move quickly enough.
Here’s the take-away point: if you believe a condition is service connected, continue to pursue that service connection even if it is only going to give you a 10% (or a 0%) rating today.
Tomorrow, it may be the key to showing that another condition – one that is much more serious – is service connected.