Many veterans don’t realize they are entitled to benefits after serving in the military. Unfortunately, even fewer understand when or if their benefits expire.
In this guide, we want to help you understand the VA disability 10-year rule and others like it. The 10-year rule can protect you from having your compensation terminated after a certain amount of time.
Who is eligible under the 10-year rule, and how do you qualify? We will explore the answers to these questions and many more in this guide, so keep reading to find out.
What Is the VA’s 10-Year Rule?
The VA’s 10-year rule protects veterans from having their service-connected disability rating terminated after having it for at least a decade. This rule’s goal is to ensure veterans receive the same compensation for a lifetime.
The 10-year rule is not the only way to achieve protected status. However, it is the earliest a veteran can become eligible for protection from disability rating termination.
Who Is Eligible for the 10-Year Rule’s Protections?
Any veteran with a valid disability rating is eligible for the 10-year rule’s protections. We say “valid” because instances of fraud can compromise this protection (more on this later).
You do not have to have a certain rating or 100% P and T benefits. Every veteran who receives a disability rating is entitled to protections under the 10-year rule.
What Happens After 10 Years?
After 10 years, a veteran’s service-connected injury or illness can never be terminated. The only exception is if someone’s disability benefits were awarded on the basis of provable fraud.
Of course, the 10-year rule only applies to benefits termination. Veterans can still have their disability rating reduced even if 10 years have passed. However, this can only happen if there is significant evidence of medical progress.
We will talk more about these exceptions and how they might occur in a moment.
When Do the 10 Years Begin?
The 10 years for the 10-year rule begins on the effective date of your disability benefits. You should be able to find this information on the original service connection grant you received from your local VA office.
If you have yet to file your service connection, it is best to do that ASAP. That way, you can achieve protected status and ensure you get the disability compensation you and your family deserve.
Exceptions to the VA Disability 10-Year Rule
As mentioned, there are exceptions to the 10-year rule. One exception is regarding the rule’s termination clause. The second refers to how disability rating reductions are handled after 10 years.
Learn more about each of these exceptions and how they may apply to you next.
The only reason someone might not achieve protected status after 10 years is if the VA finds potential indicators of fraud. The VA may identify disability compensation benefits fraud in the following ways:
- Observing the individual performing tasks or seeking employment in ways that do not make sense considering their alleged disability
- Discovering someone with a 100% rating is not receiving medical attention for their service connection
- Uncovering the service-connected veteran is deceased and someone(s) else is using their benefits illegally
These are not the only ways the VA can identify a fraudulent benefits claim. No matter the cause of fraud, the VA will investigate these types of indicators before issuing someone protected status under the 10-year rule.
The 10-year rule only protects you from having your disability rating terminated. It does not do anything to protect you from having your rating reduced. Still, the VA will only reduce a rating in the following situations:
- Medical evidence shows a significant change in your disability symptoms or recovery outlook
- The change is positive, reflecting a significant improvement in your ability to live and maintain employment
Say the VA does determine that your symptoms have progressed and, therefore, your rating should be reduced. In that case, you will have 60 days to present evidence to the contrary before the VA reduces your reward.
Other VA Disability Protected Ratings
As mentioned, the 10-year rule is not the only way to achieve protected status. The VA also enforces other rules that regulate when and if your service connection can be reduced or terminated.
These rules include the 5-year rule, the 20-year rule, the 55-year-old rule, and the P and T rule.
The VA 5-Year Rule
The 5-year rule is not technically protective in nature. Instead, it determines when and if the VA can re-evaluate someone’s disability rating. Specifically, the VA can perform a re-evaluation five years after an initial service connection exam.
What happens if the VA finds that your symptoms have improved significantly? If that happens, the VA can then lower your rating and, therefore, your compensation.
The VA 20-Year Rule
The 20-year rule is the ultimate protection when it comes to VA benefits. It states that after 20 years have passed, the VA can no longer reduce your disability rating.
There is only one exception here. Say your disability got worse at some point during the last two decades. If your disability then progresses, the VA can lower your rating but only to the lowest rating you received during the last 20 years.
The 55-Year-Old Rule
The 55-year-old rule can also protect you from disability rating reductions. However, it goes about achieving this differently. Specifically, after a veteran turns 55, he or she is no longer eligible for re-evaluations.
This effectively prevents the VA from lowering your rating except in extreme situations. Of course, this still does not prevent the VA from terminating your disability on the basis of fraud.
The P and T Rule
“P and T” stands for percent and total. This refers to veterans who are totally disabled and receive a 100 percent disability rating. Learn more about this protected status in this article on our blog.
Veterans Educating Veterans Can Help You Understand Your Disability Rights
The VA disability 10-year rule protects veterans from having their disability rating terminated. It goes into effect 10 years after the date of your initial service connection grant.
Do you need help navigating these or other VA disability rules? Veterans Educating Veterans is here for you. Contact us to get started.