An act is currently being considered by Congress that will hopefully help speed up the VA Disability Process. It is referred to as the “Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act,” and will make the following three changes in the hope that they will help Disabled American Veterans receive their VA Disability Benefits more quickly.
Change 1. Currently, the VA does not consider medical evidence of a condition that was found outside of the VA’s medical system. So if you went to a non-VA physician, then the doctor’s notes and tests from that physician are not used when determining a rating for VA disability. Instead, the VA will request for your condition to be examined by a VA physician and then rated based on the results of this exam.
This practice, however, will change if this act passes into law. As long as there is enough evidence to properly rate a condition, then the VA CANNOT request for another exam to be performed, even if the evidence comes from outside the VA’s medical system. By being able to skip a whole round of C&P Exams, this could really speed up the VA disability process in many cases.
The key to this, however, is that the outside medical records must have “enough evidence” to rate the condition. The VA uses the laws of the VASRD to rate conditions for VA Disability. The VASRD is very specific about the kinds of tests that must be performed and the data that must be recorded in order to rate each condition. If the necessary evidence is not properly recorded, then the VA will still have to perform another exam to obtain this information.
For example, arthritis in the elbow is predominantly rated on range of motion. If the outside physician recorded pain, x-ray evidence of arthritis, etc., but no range of motion measurements, then another exam will still have to be done to get those measurements.
It’s a good idea for you to know what evidence is needed for your conditions so that you can make sure it is properly recorded in every exam, including your C&P Exam (the VA physicians don’t always know the right stuff to record either). This is something you can do that could save you a great deal of time.
Change 2. Prestabilization ratings or “temporary ratings” are given by the VA in cases where a condition is changing enough to make it impossible to give it a permanent rating or where circumstances make it difficult to give a permanent rating.
Currently, only 100% and 50% Military Disability Ratings are given for conditions that are unstable. This act would add a 30% rating that could also be given for unstable conditions. This would allow less severe unstable conditions to receive a rating sooner since the VA would no longer have to wait until it stabilizes to give a rating.
Similarly, the VA would be able to give a temporary minimum rating for any condition that clearly qualifies for its minimum rating. Each condition has different requirements for the different ratings. As long as it is clear that it qualifies for its lowest rating, then the minimum can go ahead and be given temporarily until the VA is able to fully examine the case and give the condition a permanent rating. For example, the minimum rating for hypertension (high blood pressure) is 10%. As long as the veteran has to always take medication for this (the requirement for the minimum), then the VA can go ahead and assign the minimum rating until they are able to more closely review the case.
In return for quickly assigning these temporary ratings, this law allows the VA to not report any cases with these ratings as part of the backlog. This could be both good and bad. The good thing is that the veterans will begin receiving compensation much more quickly. The bad, however, is that since the VA has such a negative public focus on the backlog right now, they most likely will continue to just focus on that and not on finalizing the many cases that are given these minimum ratings. So, a minimum rating allows the vets to receive some compensation faster, but it will almost definitely still take quite awhile before they receive their full ratings and the entire compensation that they need.
Change 3. This last change is simple. All payments of benefits from the VA will be paid before the first of the month. So instead of you receiving the February payment during February, they will have it processed and sent out before February 1st. In my mind this doesn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but can make paying monthly bills a bit easier, I guess, so there you go.
If this act makes it through Congress and becomes law, then these changes will last for 6 years, as a sort of trial period. I guess after that time, if they work, they’ll keep them, and if they don’t, they’ll try something else.