Wondering if you can lose your VA disability benefits? Generally speaking, disability benefits are available to disabled veterans as long as the veteran remains disabled. However, there are a few situations in which the VA may stop, or reduce, a veteran’s disability benefits. Veterans should be aware of whether the VA is properly withholding or ending their monthly disability check.
The Service-Related Condition has Improved
Veterans with disabilities that are not considered permanent may be sent for periodic medical examinations in order for the VA to evaluate and rate their disabilities. If there is medical evidence that a veteran’s disability has improved, the VA might reduce the currently assigned disability rating. When this occurs, a veteran may see a drop in their disability benefits. The VA may also determine that the disability no longer exists, and the benefits may be discontinued. The VA is required to issue notice of the proposed reduction or termination and give the veteran time to submit evidence and request a hearing.
Severance of Service Connection
The VA can stop disability benefits if it severs the service connection for the veteran’s disability. If this happens, the VA will discontinue disability payments as the veteran’s condition would not be connected to their military service. The VA can only sever service connection for a veteran’s disability if there is finding of fraud or if a clear and unmistakable error was made in the decision that granted the service connection disability.
If the VA overpays a veteran, they may garnish a portion of the veteran’s disability checks.. Common causes of an overpayment are that a veteran did not notify the VA of the death of a dependent or a divorce, or the veteran did not notify VA that they were incarcerated.
Recouping Severance or Separation Pay
Veterans cannot receive severance or separation pay AND disability compensation from the VA. If a veteran received severance or separation pay upon leaving military service and is later granted VA disability benefits, the veteran will have to pay back their severance or separation pay.
Incarceration or Fugitive Felon
The VA can reduce a veteran’s benefits if they are incarcerated or are found to be a fugitive felon. The VA should reinstate the veteran’s full benefits on the day they are released from prison, however the veteran is responsible for notifying the VA. If a veteran is found to be a fugitive felon while receiving VA disability benefits, the VA will discontinue disability benefits from the date of the warrant. Once the veteran is no longer considered a fugitive felon, the VA is supposed to resume the veteran’s disability benefits.
What are VA Disability Protected Benefit Rates?
Some veterans have what are called Protected Benefit Rates. The VA offers protections for disability ratings that have been in effect for certain periods of time. For example, with a service-connected VA disability has been continuously rated at or above a certain rating percentage for 20 years or more, the VA is prohibited from reducing the rating below that level.
When are VA Disability Ratings Permanent?
If the VA does not see a reasonable chance of a veteran’s conditions improving, they will rate it as permanent. Permanent means that the veteran has a disability that medical evidence shows is reasonably certain that the severity of the condition will continue for the rest of the veteran’s life. A permanent rating is not to be confused with total disability. Total means the veteran’s disability is rated at 100% disabling. If a disability is rated at 100%, that indicates the veteran is completely disabled.