How to Get a Higher VA Disability Rating

Important: We updated this article in July 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. If you’re a veteran currently on VA disability benefits, you understand that getting them wasn’t easy. Often, there’s a serious claims backlog (right now it’s a little over 250,000 claims). But if your medical condition worsens over time (as many do), you may be entitled to a monthly benefits increase. No one at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is going to automatically give you a raise, though. The only way to do that is to get a higher VA disability rating for your medical condition.

Fortunately, getting your VA disability rating changed is simpler than applying for benefits the first time or filing an appeal. To get your own higher VA disability rating and secure more benefits, just follow the steps below.

Step 1: Determine What Type of Reconsideration Request You Need to Submit

Before you take any necessary steps to increase your VA disability rating, consider when the agency first awarded you benefits. If it’s been less than a year, you must file an appeal with the VA instead of a reconsideration request. (Not sure how to file your appeal with the VA? We’ll walk you through the appeals process and tell you whether you qualify for legal assistance before you file.) If it’s been more than a year, you must file a request for reconsideration with the VA. Luckily, the reconsideration process is much simpler than appealing an older, successful claim.

Step 2: Gather Medical Evidence Needed to Support Your Higher VA Disability Rating

Proving your health issues got worse is the most important thing you can do to boost your VA disability rating. Remember, it’s not enough for you to just feel worse. The VA needs medical records that support your request in order to assign you a higher disability rating. If you go to a private doctor instead of using a VA medical facility, your request must also include Form 21-4142. This form allows your private doctor to speak with the VA on your behalf about any changes in your condition. This form also allows your doctor to release your medical records to the VA for further review.

Of course, if you currently see a VA doctor regularly, then this process is much easier. Just include the name and address of your current VA Medical Center (or other military facility) along with your request. They should have all medical records needed to prove that your condition now merits a higher VA disability rating.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to submit proper medical evidence to the VA supporting your reconsideration request. All your medical evidence should be clear, material, relevant, competent, and credible. You should present it so the VA can readily assess your condition and how it affects you every day. Your doctor is the best person to effectively relay this information. However, you can always check with the VA to ensure they have all medical paperwork needed for your reconsideration request.

Step 3: Complete and Submit a Veteran’s Supplemental Claim for Compensation Form to Request a Higher VA Disability Rating

This form (also known as Form 526ez) allows vets to request a compensation increase from the VA. Describe the increased, new (must be service-connected), or secondary disability you wish to add to your original claim. You may also request the VA re-open a previously denied claim, if that applies to you. This form also lets you include a written letter that explains why you should receive a higher VA disability rating.

Pro Tip: The VA added 20 presumptive disability conditions that qualify for monthly payments under the 2022 PACT Act. Now is a great time to see if you deserve a higher VA disability rating!

Step 4: Weigh Any Possible Risks Before Contacting the VA

Before you take steps to boost your VA disability rating, remember that any request comes with its own risks. Any time the VA receives an appeal or reconsideration request, they review your entire benefits claim all over again. It’s possible you could receive a lower VA disability rating. Changes to your health or financial circumstances could affect the VA’s decision. If the VA discovers any mistakes while reviewing your claim during reconsideration, they could reduce your benefits.

Before you do anything else, weigh the pros and cons of asking for a higher VA disability rating. Medical evidence must clearly support your ratings change request and prove your health got worse since you first filed. Make sure you have all proper documents (including a doctor’s opinion) supporting your higher VA disability rating request.

Not everyone needs a lawyer to boost their VA disability rating and increase their monthly benefits. But for many vets, it can greatly improve your odds — just ask the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. According to the 2021 chairman’s report, vets with lawyers were most likely to win their appeals (40%). Our network of VA-accredited attorneys can help you, regardless if which state you live in. These legal professionals fully understand the ins and outs of the VA claims reconsideration process. They may be able to help you decide whether or not your medical condition justifies a higher VA disability rating.

Keep in mind the VA will insist you don’t need an attorney to file your request for reconsideration or appeal. However, the denial rates listed in the VBA annual report say otherwise, at least statistically. If you worry about dependents counting on your VA benefits or need to file an appeal, speak to an attorney. A lawyer gives you the best possible chance for a higher VA disability rating, which means more monthly pay.

Step 6: Appeal Your Denial, If Necessary

If the VA denies your reconsideration request for a disability rating increase, you have the right to appeal their decision. You may also appeal if the VA decreased your benefits. Because the appeals process is longer and more complicated than reconsideration, we recommend getting a legal consultation before you proceed.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.