From our friends at ALSA Advocacy:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs published regulations that would increase from 30% to 100% the minimum disability rating automatically provided to all veterans with ALS who qualify for service connected benefits! The rating would be provided regardless of the progression of the disease or whether or not a veteran is totally disabled at the time of their evaluation.
Because the disability rating is used to calculate monthly compensation payments and eligibility for other benefits, this means that veterans with ALS will begin to receive a higher level of benefits much sooner than they otherwise would under the existing regulations, which provide only a 30% minimum rating. It also means that veterans no longer will be forced to have their condition continually re-evaluated in order to receive a higher level of benefits as the disease progresses.
This is a tremendous victory for our military heroes with ALS! The regulation will speed access to benefits, decrease the burden on veterans and their families and help them to receive the compensation and benefits they need when they need them.
The ALS Association has strongly supported this regulation, which initially was proposed by the VA in June 2010. We submitted comments to the VA endorsing the proposal and have worked with both the VA and Members of Congress to implement it as soon as possible. You can read The ALS Association’s comments here.
Thank you to everyone who continues to tell the ALS story and raise awareness of the impact this disease has on our nation’s military heroes. The implementation of this regulation is a vital step towards ensuring that our military heroes receive the benefits they need, deserve and have earned.
Visit our Wall of Honor here to read the stories of courage from veterans with ALS and their families. And if you are a veteran or family member, share your story on the Wall and help us continue to make a difference in the fight against ALS.
Additional details about this regulation, including effective dates and compensation rates as well as information on how to obtain assistance, are below.
The regulation takes effect on January 19, 2012. It applies to applications for benefits that:
• Are received by VA on or after January 19, 2012;
• Were received by VA before January 19, 2012 but have not been decided by a VA regional office as of that date;
• Are appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals on or after January 19, 2012;
• Were appealed to the Board before January 19, 2012 but have not been decided by the Board as of that date; or
• Are pending before VA on or after January 19, 2012 because the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated a Board decision on the application and remanded it for readjudication.
In addition to making it easier for veterans to receive a higher disability rating, the regulation increases the compensation immediately available to all veterans. Under the current rules, veterans qualify for a minimum of $389 per month in compensation if they are rated 30% disabled (the current minimum rating for ALS). Under the new regulation, they qualify for a minimum of $2,769 per month . Note that this is just the minimum level of compensation. Additional amounts are available based on a number of factors including whether or not a veteran is married or has children.
Special Monthly Compensation
The VA also will add language to the current regulations that recommend veterans with ALS be considered for special monthly compensation (SMC). SMC is available to veterans with significant disabilities (such as losing the use of a limb) and entitles them to the highest level of disability compensation, as much as $100,000 per year .
Additional information about VA’s compensation rates is available on the VA website. Compensation Rates are here: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/comp01.htm. Rates for Special Monthly Compensation are here: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/comp02.htm.
Decreasing the Burden on Veterans
Currently, ALS carries a minimum rating of 30% disability. While veterans with ALS can be rated 100% and higher, those who are newly diagnosed or whose disease has not progressed significantly may receive a lower rating and therefore a lower amount in monthly compensation. As the disease progresses, they then must continuously be re-evaluated by the VA in order to receive the appropriate disability rating and appropriate level of compensation and benefits.
This process has created challenges for veterans and their families not only because it delays receipt of the highest level of benefits, but also because it requires veterans to repeatedly go through the reevaluation process, which can be time consuming and can include additional paperwork and travel for PALS to receive examinations by VA physicians. It also delays the awarding of benefits because the process the VA uses to provide a disability rating to a veteran can be the longest part of the claims process.
According to the regulation, “we determined that providing a 100-percent evaluation in all cases would obviate the need to reassess and reevaluate veterans with ALS repeatedly over a short period of time, as the condition worsens and inevitably and relentlessly progresses to total disability, and we proposed to increase the minimum evaluation for ALS to 100 percent.”