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Friday, December 9, 2016

2017 Rate Increase for VA Compensation

Every few years, Congress updates the rates given for VA Disability and Special Monthly Compensation based on the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) that reflect the rate of inflation throughout the nation.

The last COLA adjustment was 1.7% in December 2014. This year’s increase, however, is significantly lower at only 0.3%.

Over the last 10 years, the average COLA adjustment was 1.7% per year.  This average has decreased from the previous decade’s 2.6% per year, and is nowhere near the highest COLA average of 7.3% per year during the decade from 1975-1984. This shows that the country’s rate of inflation has significantly slowed over the past 40 years.

This year’s increased rates went into effect December 1, 2016. The new amounts can be found on our VA Disability Chart and Special Monthly Compensation Rates pages. 

The increases are automatic, and you should have already seen them in your December disability checks. If not, contact your local VA office.

23 comments:

  1. I wanted to know if you have degenerative arthritis can you only be rated for this if your knees are unstable? I thought this was suppose to rated separately for instability

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    Replies
    1. Arthritis can be rated no matter what. And you are correct that instability can be rated separately. They are not dependent on each other. Check out our arthritis blog:

      http://blog.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/2014/05/rating-arthritis-for-military-disability_12.html

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    2. Thank you for your response. One last question for you. If you have 3 or more episodes of gout can you file for disability rating as secondary to degenerative arthritis?

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    3. Gout is an inflammatory arthritis, not a degenerative arthritis, so most medical professionals would not consider gout to be caused by degenerative arthritis. Especially since it is caused by uric acid, not degeneration. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that the VA will grant gout as secondary to degenerative arthritis. If you can get a physician to claim that they are connected, that might be enough to persuade the VA, but I think it unlikely.

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  2. If the VA has you on narcotic pain meds and mussel relaxers is this a factor for your disability rating?

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    Replies
    1. Not unless the condition they treat is rated on treatment methods or if they cause additional conditions. Any conditions they cause will be eligible for rating.

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  3. Dr why is the pinhole exam done on C and P exams and I am nearsided and was exposed to battery acids while working in supply as a USAF airman. Is this common and I am in a work in process on battery acid claims

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pinhole test is used to determine if your loss of vision is caused by a disease or other condition that could develop into blindness if not prevented. The doctor was probably checking to see what conditions the battery acid burns caused.

      As long as you have proof of battery acid burns to your eyes, then you'll definitely be eligible for disability compensation.

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  4. Hi Dr.,
    My med board just got the first approval and was sent to the VA for ratings. I was just diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis so it isn't in my unfitting conditions, and also on my narsum states I have generalized tonic clinic seizures, which is wrong since my med board took a year to get to this point I am diagnosed with myoclonic epilepsy. Is this something to fight at the formal board or shoul/can it be recalled and corrected.

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    Replies
    1. Definitely talk to your PEBLO about this asap. Depending, they should be able to get this adjusted on the VA claim and have the correct conditions recorded. The most important thing is to ensure that they have the medical records that show the official diagnoses.

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  5. Hi Dr.
    My Question pertains to a disability service connected for pes planus (Bilateral) I received a bilateral rating of 10% in 1994 and received 10% payments since but it was brought to my attention that this is a bilateral issue and should fall under the bilateral add together plus 10% which should render a rating of 21% for total of 20% am I understanding that correctly?

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    Replies
    1. This is tricky. Because they are rated as a whole, instead of separately, it could be interpreted that they are not individually ratable. One of the rules for the 10% bilateral factor is that each side must be independently ratable. Since only one rating is given for both, they don't have their own, and so it could be interpreted as not being independently ratable.

      That being said, it could also been argued that if only one foot was affected, it would still be rated 10%, so each would independently qualify if the other wasn't affected. Thus they should be considered independent although they share a rating.

      It's tricky. There isn't a set rule that states whether or not you should qualify for the bilateral factor. It's ultimately up to interpretation of the rater. You may be successful appealing, but may not.

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  6. Hi,
    I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in the 1990's. I recently found out that my condition is a service connected diagnosis. I am currently receiving VA compensation for several disability ratings totaling 90% in reality I am actually 130% disabled. I was wondering what percentage would be considered for the diagnosis of sleep apnea using the VA math.

    Thanks,
    Bill C.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Bill -

      It depends on what the sleep apnea is rated for independently. Once you find your rating for sleep apnea, then you combine it to your other ratings using VA Math.

      You can find the rating here:

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/therespiratorysystem.html#sleep

      And VA Math rules here:

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vamath.html

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  7. Hello Dr. just had a question see if you could help me. I'm 60% disabled had a parachute injury in 1992 end up messing up my back my hips I have 40% for my back/ herniated disc T11 - T12 , Radiculopathy lower R/L 10%-10% Chronic hip strain L/ R 10% 10% so many years later I've been having problems with my scapula and shoulder in my knees how can I tie this together my existing in jury's
    thank you guys
    Read more

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    1. You can apply to have your additional conditions added as secondary conditions. The key is to have your doctor write a NEXUS letter that states that your additional conditions are "more likely than not" caused by your service-connected conditions. You then submit it and all medical evidence with VA form 21-526b.

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/vaform21-526b.pdf

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  8. Dr. Johnson,
    I'll be retiring after 26 years next March. I have been diagnosed with arthritis in both knees, my shoulder and my hip (X-rays documentation of all). They are all painful but the pain is currently controlled through the use of the NSAID Voltarin. How should the VA rate my joints since the pain is controlled?
    Thanks for your time,
    -Steve

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    Replies
    1. Hi Steve - All arthritis is rated on painful motion or limited motion. If there isn't any limited motion or pain, then you'll just be given a 0% rating. This can be increased in the future if the symptoms worsen.

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    2. Here is an applicable recent case remanded for repeat va exam with the court specifically stating to disregard pain controlled by medication, the way it reads to me.

      https://www.va.gov/vetapp15/Files3/1522063.txt

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  9. Was wondering if the below law applies here, reads to me that medications that control pain should not be considered since there would be pain without the medication.

    42 U.S. Code § 12102 - Definition of disability
    (E)
    (i) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as—
    (I) medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sean -

      You're correct that this law applies for general public health, but the VA is ruled by their own sets of laws.

      While I personally agree that this definition should be the general rule, it definitely does not apply to VA cases.

      For example, the VA rates hearing loss on the levels of hearing loss without a hearing aid (agrees with 42 U.S. Code § 12102). However, the VA rates vision loss based on CORRECTED vision, so vision with contacts or glasses. It's definitely not consistent or necessarily fair, but it is the way it works.

      The basic idea for the VA is that if the condition is fixed so that it no longer impedes daily life or limits the ability to function fully, then it isn't a disability.

      For pain, however, there isn't a definitive with or without medication rule. In most cases it is just whether or not there is pain with motion. So, to make sure that the VA properly records that you are in pain with motion, don't take pain medications before going to your exams. That way, they can see the reality of your condition.

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  10. Doc,
    I remember back when I was initially rated for my knees, the C&P dr had me squat and rise as part of the test. I am looking to get an increase in my rating as I have audible grinding in my knees and cant rise from a squatting position at all now. Basically, I can go down but getting back up is impossible without going to my knees and finding something to work at pulling myself back up. I'm also on crutches or or in a motorized wheelchair (both issued by the VA) for inability to walk without my right leg buckling at the knee.

    I read through the knee DBQ but didn't see anything that resembled the test I was originally put through and also don't see anything designating a way to rate the inability to walk without extreme assistance.

    Appreciate any guidance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your knee wasn't rated on that test, so don't read too much into it.

      The knees are rated primarily on limited motion, so that is most likely where your original rating came from. Crepitus (grinding) is a sign of arthritis, which is rated on limited motion.

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/kneeandleg.html#limo

      If your motion has decreased, then you'll probably have your rating increased.

      More than that, the presence of instability will definitely be an increased rating. Instability (buckling) can be rated separately, so you'll receive an additional rating for this.

      http://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/kneeandleg.html#too

      There aren't ratings for the use of assistive devices, however, the VA will look at your overall condition and attempt to rate it according to your level of disability.

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