In a news release posted today, VA proposed changes to the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) specifically pertaining to the respiratory, auditory, and mental disorders body systems. The changes would incorporate medical advancements for treating certain disabilities and modern medical knowledge to more accurately compensate Veterans.
VASRD is used to determine the appropriate level of compensation for each service-connected disability based on the severity of the condition as documented by supporting medical evidence. VA is in the process of updating all the body systems in the VASRD to reflect modern evaluative criteria based on advancements in medical terminology, diagnostics and treatment.
On Feb. 15, the Veterans Benefits Administration will publish proposed rules in the Federal Register regarding changes to the regulations for the two body systems: respiratory system; ear, nose and throat conditions, and auditory disorders; and mental disorders. Veterans and the public will have 60 days to comment on these proposed rules.
Since these are proposed changes, they will not affect evaluations of any Veteran currently receiving compensation for an impacted disability. Instead, this is an opportunity for Veterans and the public to comment on these proposed changes over the next 60 days. VA will consider the comments received and address them in a subsequent final rule which may make these changes effective.
Some of the proposed changes include modernizing the evaluation criteria for sleep apnea by evaluating it based on the symptoms' responsiveness to treatment. If symptoms are fully treated by a CPAP machine or other treatment, a Veteran would be rated at 0% and not receive compensation; VA will award progressively higher percentage evaluations based upon how symptomatic the condition remains after treatment. This will bring the rating criteria for sleep apnea more closely in line with the stated purpose of the rating schedule, which is to provide evaluations based upon average impairment of earning capacity.
For respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the proposed rules would slightly lower the requirements for a 100% rating. For tinnitus, the proposed changes would recognize that symptom within the Veteran's broader ailment and provide service-connected compensation for tinnitus through the disease to which it is attributed.
The proposed rules for mental health conditions would increase the minimum disability rating from 0% to 10%. The rule would get rid of a dated part of VASRD that prevents a Veteran from getting a 100% rating for a mental health condition if they are able to work.
VA will ensure Veterans get the compensation they need and deserve, especially when it comes to mental disorders. Under the proposed changes, VA plans to use new evaluation criteria to more accurately capture the different domains of impairment caused by mental disabilities and provide more adequate compensation for financial losses experienced by Veterans with service-connected mental disorders.
Rather than assigning an evaluation based on the number and type of symptoms present, these changes would evaluate mental disorders based on how impactful the disability is across five domains of impairment: Cognition, interpersonal interactions and relationships, task completion, life activities and navigating environments, and self-care.
Veterans, their caregivers and other partners can read the proposed rules for themselves on the Federal Register and are welcome to provide feedback.
Once again, there will be no change to any Veteran's current rating based on these proposed changes. When the proposed changes are finalized, Veterans who currently receive compensation for a service-connected condition can apply for increased compensation. And even if a Veteran' symptoms no longer warrant the current evaluation they have based on the finalized changes, no reductions shall be made unless an improvement in the Veteran' disability is shown to have occurred based on the last schedule used to assign their evaluation.
Since September 2017, VA has updated the rating schedule for the following body systems: