How Does the VA’s Regulations Affect Veterans Who May Have Been Exposed to Asbestos?
For vets with federal disability benefits, the VA has the right to re-examine cases at certain intervals. The re-evaluation determines if the veteran’s condition has improved or gotten worse. Then, the VA decides if the total of paid benefits should go up, down, or stay the same. Certain conditions (such as advanced-stage cancers) aren’t expected to get better. Consequently, most veterans with mesothelioma don’t have their benefits altered by the VA’s 5, 10, or 20-year rules.
For some ratings below 100%, the VA re-examines cases. However, not all cases are re-evaluated. Still, the VA may change a disability rating after five years if the condition has significantly improved.
Keep reading for more information about how the VA’s 5, 10, and 20-year rules affect veterans with mesothelioma.
What Is a Protected Disability Rating?
The ‘rules’ (commonly known as the 5-year rule, 10-year rule, and 20-year rule) are not the official names of guidelines. Within the VA, these rules generally refer to protected disability ratings.
A protected disability rating applies to a permanent disability for service-connected illnesses and injuries. “Protected” refers to the benefit’s protection from being reduced, even if the VA finds the condition progressively improved. Regardless, most protected ratings cover vets with 100% disability ratings who are not expected to make a long-term recovery.
Typically, disability statuses that fall under protected ratings include:
- Permanent and Total disability (P&T)
- Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
VA 5, 10, and 20-Year Rules and Mesothelioma
Generally, the VA reviews disability ratings between two and five years after assigning benefits. Under the 5-year rule, the VA cannot reduce a veteran’s benefits after five years so long as the condition didn’t improve and won’t improve further. The disability rating includes all of the veteran’s service-related medical conditions.
Today, there is no cure for mesothelioma. Subsequently, vets diagnosed with the cancer aren’t expected to recover substantially over five years. And, as a result, their cases are unlikely to be reviewed nor benefits reduced.
Similarly, 10- and 20-year rules protect disability ratings from reduction after the VA pays them for ten or twenty years, respectively. People over 55 years old are also generally protected from having disability ratings reduced. However, in cases of fraud, the VA maintains the right to reduce or withdraw benefits.