Reopening a service-connected disability claim
BY TAMMY WALTERS
Oneida County Veterans Service Officer
Once you file an initial service-connected disability claim, any claim filed after that is considered “reopening” your claim. You can reopen your claim for a couple reasons. If you feel your service-connected condition has worsened, you might want to consider reopening your claim and asking the VA to consider you for a higher rating. Every disability has a code and every code has a rating schedule. Not every disability can be rated at 100 percent. Some disabilities only max out at 10 percent so no matter how bad that condition gets, you can never get higher than a 10 percent rating. If you are considering reopening your claim to request a higher rating, it is advisable to talk with your Veterans Service Office to find out what the criteria is to be eligible for a higher rating.
Service-connected disabilities can often cause other problems, which are called secondary conditions. If, for example, you have diabetes mellitus type 2, there are numerous secondary conditions diabetes can cause including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, stroke, upper and/or lower extremity neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and feet), erectile dysfunction and many other conditions. Secondary conditions can be claimed if they are caused by service-connected conditions. A low back condition can also cause problems with the legs; a neck condition can cause problems with the arms or cause headaches, and the list goes on. If you have secondary conditions, they must be documented in your medical record by your health care provider (VA or non-VA) before you can claim them, and having your health care provider link them to your primary service-connected condition helps, too, but is not required.
Your service-connected disability rating, by law, cannot be lowered if you have had that rating for 20 years or more. If you haven’t had it that long, the VA can always reduce your rating, so you want to keep that in mind when reopening your claim. With that being said, the VA is not out to lower a veteran’s rating. They will only do that if they have very good reason and if they do, you can always appeal their decision. If you really feel you should reopen your claim, don’t let that deter you from doing it.
Tammy Walters can be reached at (715) 369-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Jason Dailey, Assistant CVSO, can be reached at the same number or email@example.com.