The Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued with problems for well over a decade. An increasing number of veterans complained to the local and federal government about the lack of care and responsiveness exhibited towards veterans seeking disability benefits, medical assistance, and even emergency services.
Eventually, veterans received the national publicity they needed to bring attention to the travesties occurring at and within VA locations across the country. Media reports on the matter were damning, as the American public was shocked and dismayed at the dismal treatment our nation's veterans were receiving and questioned why disabled veterans were not readily being afforded the benefits they deserved.
Promises of Change
Ultimately, the Department of Veterans Affairs underwent a massive internal shakeup with the obligatory and necessary resignation of Eric Shinseki and the beginnings of a new era for veterans looking to receive help in a timely manner.
Today in 2018, things have not changed that much, particularly concerning the ease in obtaining disability benefits. With Secretary Shinseki’s departure, the VA made ardent promises of change and spoke much about the developments and advancements that would be madeto change the unacceptable conditions of years past.
New Rules and More Difficulties
Unbeknownst to many veterans, the Social Security Administration quietly proposed a new rule effectively making it even more difficult for disabled veterans to receive their rightful benefits. A disabled veteran seeking benefits absolutely needs to know that the process will not be easy, despite media reports of improvements in the process.
Obtaining your benefits will more than likely be a fight; a fight that an already disabled veteran will have to muster the courage, perseverance, and fortitude to win. If you are a veteran who is disabled, read on below to learn more about the process of learning more about disability ratings and how to become rated 100%.
Disability Ratings in 2018 and How to Get Rated at 100%
Basic Criteria for Veterans Disability Benefits
- You must have been diagnosed with a medical condition that is either physical or mental, andyour service in the military must be what caused that. The official verbiage that is used is “service-connected disability.” Your service-connected disability will be rated by the VA depending on the proof you provide and the severity of your disability.
Obtaining a 100% Disability Rating
As of 2018, there are only two methods to obtain a 100% rating from the VA. Those two methods are as follows:
The Combined Method
- The veteran has more than one service-connected disability that ultimately adds up to a 100% rating.
- At least one of those ratings must be 60%,or higher or the veteran has two (or more) service-connected disabilities with one of the ratings at 40% or above to result in a combined rating of at least 70% or above
The TDIU Method
- “Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability,” referred to as TDIU, has a number of eligibility requirements that all must be met for a TDIU classification. Eligibility and evidence requirements are listed below.
- A veteran who was not dishonorably discharged
- Incapable of sustaining any type of gainful employment
- This incapability must be a result of your service-connected disability
- The veteran must provide clear, conclusive proof of at least one service-connected disability documented in medical records, in addition to irrefutable evidence that the disability, is in fact, service-connected and occurred while you were serving in the military.
- It must also be proven that the disability is prohibitive to the extent that the veteran cannot perform the physical and/or mental duties to sustain any type of gainful employment.
- Note: Both of the above conditions must be met, including the following:
- The veteran has at least one disability rated at 60% or above OR in the case of multiple disabilities, one of the disabilities is rated at 40% or above to achieve a combined rating of 70% or above
TDIU Bottom Line: The veteran must provide irrefutable evidence of an ongoing diagnosis due to an injury, disease, or event that occurred while in service, and successfully link the two (the diagnosis and the service) to prove their case.
VA Information on TDIU
In their attempts to clarify the TDIU process, the VA website provides two examples to demonstrate to veterans how the TDIU classification process is supposed to work. You can read the example shere.
The examples are not easy to understand, especially when it comes to the way ratings are calculated. Common sense would indicate that a veteran with two disabilities, rated at 60% and 10% would thus have a rating of 70%. However, according to the VA and their convoluted “Combined Ratings Table,” the rating would actually come out to a mere 64%.
Inevitably, you will encounter difficulties when constructing and presenting your case to the VA. The VA will question the evidence you provide, along with often making unreasonable requests such as remembering times and dates of events, and ultimately create a difficult, stressful situation that turns into a process that can last for months, years, and in some cases, decades.
Very few cases pass through the process quickly and easily. Examples of these types of cases are when the veteran is a former prisoner of war or for if the veteran was exposed to Agent Orange while in service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs: What They Say and What They Do
What the VA says: The VA states on its own website that their goal is to expeditiously go through the disability process consisting of eight steps to reach a conclusive decision within 125 days. Within that time period, they will have determined the severity of the veteran’s disability, assigned a corresponding rating, and designated the compensation amount for benefits.
The VA informs readers that veterans must have a rating of at least 10% to receive compensation on their rating scale which ranges from 10% to 100%. The rating scale itself is entirely based on gauging the inability to sustain earnings from gainful employment and the VA claims they believe that a veteran who can’t work should be rated at 100% and be given the associated benefits.
What the VA does: The actions of the VA are a far cry from their trumpeted statements of timely, expeditious, and respectful disability decisions for veterans. Thousands of veterans have reported repeated denials even in the most clear-cut of cases. As is the case with countless other veterans, this man has faced countless problems with the VA, including the common scenario where they claim to have lost the veterans paperwork. 34 years later, lost paperwork and all, he’s still waiting through what he had thought would have been “a routine request for veterans disability benefits.”
Denials, lies, and hang-ups are what veterans experience when they apply for benefits. Many tough it out and wait, yet for others, it often becomes too late, as is the case with the many veterans who died while waiting through slow-moving VA benefits appeals.
Veterans deserve the utmost respect. Many have served multiple tours of duty in war zones, living life in ways that civilians could hardly comprehend. Countless veterans have toughed it out in the harshest of conditions, in makeshift barracks, sleeping on cots in the coldest of nights listening to the distant wails of IED missiles well into the night.
Others have endured what many consider the unendurable John McCain and his fellow POWs lived through the pain and terror that we can only imagine.
The members of our military put their lives at risk in myriad ways, Many serve with distinction, many don’t make their way back home, and many will eventually go through the heartbreaking, dispiriting, and discourteous treatment from the very agency that is supposed to tend to their needs.
If you are a veteran seeking a 100% rating, be prepared to soldier on. Be meticulous with your information, keep copies of records, document your communications with the VA, and keep your paperwork in a safe, accessible place. With perseverance and determination, you too can win your battle with the VA, as have the many others who fought until they won.