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Every Veteran and their family members know that the VA rating system can be highly complicated, and the application process may take a lot of time. This complexity is dictated by several factors, from the “good old” bureaucracy to the importance of treating and examining each case individually, considering every detail.
However, there is another reason why the VA rating process is so complicated: the current rates can never be considered permanent. Science and medicine are constantly developing, offering advancements in treating various conditions and disabilities
On the one hand, specific disabilities are not recognized as permanent, and VA may schedule reevaluation exams once in 2-5 years, which may affect your current rate. But at the same time, VA reexamines itself regularly, considering the recent changes and advancements in healthcare in order to be able to compensate each Veteran more accurately for their service-connected disabilities.
In February 2022, VA proposed a number of updates aimed at modernizing the overall evaluation process for certain groups of Veterans and specific disabilities.
Whether you are at the beginning of the application process or have already received your deserved benefits, it is essential to keep track of such updates to understand how your rates and compensations can be influenced in the future.
In this article, we shall talk about the most significant changes to the VA ratings from 2022.
Disabilities Most Affected by the 2022 VA Rating Updates
The latest changes apply to a wide range of service-related disabilities, from those of respiratory and auditory systems to mental health conditions. Some of the changes also focus on particular groups of Veterans, introducing to their rates conditions that had not been applied to them before.
Technically the updates that came to action in 2022 can be summarized as:
- Changes in the approach to the evaluation of mental health conditions that would mostly focus on how they affect the Veteran’s everyday life, ability to communicate with others, social activities, and self-care
- Changes in the evaluation of certain conditions based on patient’s responsiveness to the treatment they have already received
- Re-evaluation of certain conditions. For example, treating Tinnitus as a symptom of a disease that may cause it rather than a separate condition
- A new approach to the rating system that would provide for a certain minimum rating and have more lenient requirements in some cases
The most recent updates address the statistically most prevalent conditions among Veterans as well as disabilities associated with mental health, those that require the most detailed and careful examination.
A 0% rating for asymptomatic Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea appears to be the most frequent service-related respiratory condition. It has always had a pretty wide rating system in the range from 0% to 100%.
Until now, this rating system focused on the severity of the condition and its effect on the Veteran’s life and overall health but did not consider its responsiveness to treatment.
According to the latest updates, however, a Veteran who has Asymptomatic Sleep Apnea can receive a 0% rate if they use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or any other treatment that proves to be effective.
If the symptoms show after the treatment, ratings will increase based on their severity.Treatment-Based Ratings of Sleep Apnea
The changes in VA rates are focused on the efficiency of Sleep Apnea treatment that the Veteran receives as well as their overall ability to benefit from the treatment.
For example, if the treatment of Sleep Apnea turns out ineffective or a Veteran simply cannot use the prescribed treatment due to some other diagnosed conditions, the VA ratings start at 10% and increase based on the severity of symptoms.
Tinnitus is not its Own Condition Anymore
Tinnitus is a high-pitched ringing noise that appears as a result of damage to the ears. Until now, it was another prevalent condition, with over 1,5 million Veterans receiving benefits for this service-related disability.
According to the recent updates, Tinnitus is technically not a separate condition anymore but a symptom of such disabilities as Meniere’s disease (an inner ear disorder caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), etc.
A New Approach to PTSD evaluation
According to the latest changes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the most commonly occurring mental health condition among Veterans, will be evaluated, focusing on its effect on the Veteran’s everyday life, ability to communicate, interact with other people, get an sustain a permanent job.
The new evaluation approach will let even the slightest impairment or negative effect give veterans the right to compensation. The same is true for conditions like Anxiety or Clinical Depression.
The minimum and the 100% mental disability rate conditions
Another important change to the VA rating process touches on one of the most notorious aspects of the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), which prevented Veterans diagnosed with Mental Health conditions from getting a 100% rate if they are considered “employable.”
In other words, until now, even if you were diagnosed with a service-related mental health disability, which affects your everyday life severely, you could not count on 100% compensation in case you somehow manage to work under any conditions.
The new approach does not only eliminate this rule but also increases the minimal disability rates for mental health conditions from 0% to 10%.
5 Domains of Impairment in Mental Disorder evaluation
Until now, the approach to Evaluation of service-related Mental Health disabilities and disorders was pretty technical. It generally accounted for the number and type of symptoms the Veteran had.
From now on, Mental Health disorders evaluation is to focus on the impact of the disease and its symptoms on a Veteran’s life. To make the process more structured and accurate, VA has distinguished the “5 Domains of Impairment” that are considered in the evaluation process:
- interpersonal interactions and relationships
- task completion
- life activities and navigating environments