Posted by Gregory M. Rada | August 26, 2016 | Disability Compensation
The VA is offering new TBI exams to thousands of veterans who did not have their initial examination performed by either a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon, or neurologist. This action impacts more than 24,000 veterans and will ensure these veterans receive a proper initial TBI examination and a new rating decision. The VA is offering new initial TBI exams because it failed to follow its policy requiring that certain medical specialists conduct initial TBI examinations.
Secretary McDonald is attempting to undo the damage caused by VA’s failure to ensure proper initial TBI examinations. “We let these Veterans down,” Secretary McDonald said. “That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.”
The VA is already mailing letters to veterans who had initial TBI exams not conducted by one of the four designated medical specialties. VA’s letter offers “the option to undergo a new TBI exam by an appropriate specialist.” The veteran has one year from the date of the letter to notify VA if he or she would like VA to order a new TBI exam and reprocesses their initial TBI claim. Importantly, the veteran is also allowed to “provide copies of medical evidence from private physicians for consideration as part of this review.” The ability to add additional evidence gives the veteran the option to submit evidence other than the VA’s TBI examination. [x_pullquote cite=”VA Secretary Robert McDonald” type=”right”]We let these Veterans down. That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.[/x_pullquote]
VA’s letter warns that the new TBI exams and reprocessing of TBI claims can result in increased ratings, continued ratings, or reduced ratings. The potential for a reduction means it is important for a veteran who is already rated at least 10% to analyze the risk carefully. For a veteran who had an initial TBI exam not performed by one of the four medical specialties, but the exam and rating decision were nonetheless favorable, it generally would not make sense to request reprocessing. On the other hand, a veteran initially denied service connection, rated at 0%, or rated below their symptoms would probably only have to gain by reprocessing their initial TBI claim.
Further, if a veteran is eligible to request reprocessing of their initial TBI claim, I would argue that reprocessing would also include all residuals, including any mental conditions secondary to TBI, such as PTSD. Therefore, I believe there is the possibility of backpay recovery in cases where a veteran suffers from severe PTSD or other mental conditions secondary to TBI.
If you underwent an initial TBI exam between 2007 and 2015 and suspect you may be eligible for a new TBI exam and reprocessing, I would not wait for the VA to mail you a letter. Contact me today and I’m happy to discuss the potential of your case.
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Gregory Rada is a Veterans Benefits Attorney who practices Nationwide. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and has been practicing law for eight years. Gregory Rada believes in fighting for fellow veterans. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.