VA Reexaminations and Reductions of Veterans Disability Benefits
If you receive a letter asking you to attend a VA reexamination, the VA may be considering reducing your rating.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may reduce or terminate your disability benefits under certain circumstances. Typically the VA will not do this unless you are first asked to appear for a reexamination.
What Is a VA Reexamination?
A reexamination can be a medical examination or, if the VA feels it is necessary to evaluate the severity of your disability, a period of hospital observation. The VA is legally entitled to require an exam or hospitalization, so it is critical that you comply with a reexamination request in order to preserve your benefits.
After you are awarded disability compensation benefits, the VA will evaluate whether your disability is such that you ought to be scheduled for a future reexamination to determine if your benefits need to be adjusted. Types of disabilities subject to reexamination are those that can be expected to improve over time. If the VA determines that your disability requires a future reexamination, typically the first reexamination will be scheduled two to five years from the date of the decision to grant you benefits.
Evidence of Change in Condition
The VA can also order a reexamination at any time if there is new, material medical evidence that your disability has gotten better, at least temporarily. For example, if you have cancer and it goes into remission, the VA will call you in for a reexamination for the purpose of reducing your benefits.
If the VA temporarily decreases your benefits, you can request an increase of your condition worsens again. Going back to the example above, if your cancer comes back, you can request an adjusted disability rating to increase your benefits.
To request an increased rating after your disability, worsens all you need to do is write a letter to the VA regional office stating you believe an increase is needed and providing medical evidence to support an increase. A word of caution, however. Sometimes when you request an increase, you will actually end up getting a decrease in benefits. If that happens, you can appeal this decrease in the same way that you can appeal a denial of VA benefits.
Notice of Reexamination
The VA is required to send you advance notice of the need for a reexamination. If you receive a letter from the VA asking you to attend a VA examination for the purpose of evaluating your disability rating, this likely means the VA has decided the medical evidence on file does not support a continuation of your benefits at their current rate. You have 60 days from the date you receive this letter to submit evidence showing a reduction is not warranted, and you have 30 days to ask for a hearing.
If the VA fails to send you a notice and then reduces or terminates your benefits because you didn’t show up for the exam, you have the right to have your full benefit rate reinstated.
Showing up for the Reexamination
It is very important to show up for this examination. If you don't show up, don't call to reschedule or explain your absence (and have a very good reason), and especially if you do this more than once, your benefits will be automatically reduced or terminated.
Bear in mind that in some cases, a reexamination could actually lead to an increase in your benefits, but this is pretty rare. However, this does occasionally happen when a vet's disability has gotten worse.
When Not to Expect a Reexamination
In certain cases, the VA will not ask you to come for a reexamination, and if they do, it may be an error on their part. If you are part of one of the groups listed below and you get a letter asking you to show up for the reexamination, call the phone number on the letter you receive to explain why you think you should not have to go.
VA normally does not schedule reexaminations for veterans:
- over age 55
- with static disabilities, such as loss of a limb
- with a disability resulting from disease that is of a permanent nature
- who have been assigned the minimum rating for their disability
- who have a combined disability rating, and the individual ratings that were combined are so high that even if one or two of these ratings were reduced, the combined disability rating would remain the same.
If you are not subject to reexamination, your disability rating cannot be reduced.
If you do have to attend an examination, the VA can only reduce your benefits in some situations. Go on to the next page to learn about VA disability benefit reductions.
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