Higher Disability Ratings for Service-Connected Injuries
By Debbie Gregory.
Sharp v. Shulkin may be a game-changing decision for many disabled veterans who suffer from injuries to the back, neck, and joints.
Many veterans file claims for disabilities that, while chronic, are worse on some days than on others. So, while on a typical day a veteran with a disability may experience pain in the 3 or 4 out of 10 range, on another day when the veteran experiences a flare-up of his condition, he may experience 10/10 pain. Not observing the impact of a flare-up on the veteran’s functionality could result in a drastically lower rating for the veteran’s disability.
Bobby P. Sharp, a Korean War veteran who suffers from numerous musculoskeletal injuries, argued in his lawsuit that the VA medical examinations he received were inadequate because he was never asked about the frequency, duration, characteristics, severity, or functional loss when he was having a flare up that resulted in 10 out of 10 pain.
The court agreed that the system was inadequate, and now the VA must now ensure that Compensation and Pension (C&P) examiners do not overlook flare-ups and pain when assessing a disabled veteran.
The ruling also specified that the VA must try, whenever possible, to schedule the C&P examination when the veteran is experiencing a flare-up.
If that is not possible, the veteran can submit evidence for consideration, such as their own description of the flare-ups and pain they experience, or they can submit a “buddy statements” from a person who knows the veteran and can testify to the extent of their suffering.
Hopefully, this decision will make it easier for veterans to receive a higher disability rating for injuries sustained while in the military. This gives precedent for other veterans who want to challenge their disability ratings.
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