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By Debbie Gregory.

If you’ve been approved for service-connected disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the agency will assign a disability rating that specifies the seriousness of your condition. You can be given a rating of 0 to 100 percent, and this percentage is associated with a certain monetary amount you’ll receive for the disability.

Your VA disability compensation benefit is not static. As a matter of fact, your benefit can be increased by the VA if you know the right steps to take.

Even if you are currently receiving compensation from the VA, you can still request an increase in your compensation for a new disability. For example, you are receiving disability for a back injury you received while in the military, and now you are experiencing hearing issues that may be related to your military service.

Additionally, you can file a secondary claim for a new disability that’s linked to a service-connected disability you already have. For example, you might file a secondary claim if you develop arthritis that’s caused by a service-connected knee injury you got while on active duty.

You can also file for an increase to an existing disability because the condition has gotten worse. You may experience greater pain, suffer broader or more challenging symptoms, or find that your day-to-day functioning has decreased.

Keep in mind that any time you request an increase in your VA disability rating, you are opening your claim for re-evaluation. The VA can actually lower or terminate your existing rating, so make sure you have all the proper documentation and paperwork to support your claim.

To reduce your disability rating, the VA must have specific evidence that your condition has improved. The responsibility of proof is on the VA. However, it’s important to be diligent in protecting your rating. It’s important never to miss a reexamination appointment because the VA can reduce or terminate your rating without warning because of this.

If you have been denied a rating or you feel it is too low, you can challenge the VA’s decision with an appeal known as a “Notice of Disagreement.”

By Debbie Gregory.

HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award shines a light on the employers who hire our nation’s veterans. Many veteran business owners fall into that category.

The program is set to kick off in 2019 and utilizes the requirements and criteria of the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 (HIRE Vets Act) to determine the recipients.

The program will recognize large employers (500-plus employees), medium employers (51-499 employees), and small employers (50 or fewer employees). Additionally, there are two award tiers: Gold and Platinum.

The demonstration will use the same criteria as the full HIRE Vets Medallion Program and enable more employers to prepare to successfully complete the medallion award application for the full implementation of the program in 2019.

The criteria for most of the awards are based upon the following measures:
1. Percentage of new hires during the previous year that are veterans;
2. Percentage of veteran employees retained for a period of at least 12 months;
3. Percentage of employees who are veterans;
4. Provision of an employee veteran organization or resource group to assist new veteran employees with integration, including coaching and mentoring;
5. Provision of programs to enhance the leadership skills of veteran employees during their employment;
6. Employment of a dedicated human resources professional or initiatives to support hiring, training, and retention of veteran employees;
7. Provision of compensation, to employees serving on active duty in the United States National Guard or Reserve, that is sufficient, in combination with the employee’s active duty pay, to achieve a combined level of income commensurate with the employee’s salary prior to undertaking active duty;
8. Provision of a tuition assistance program to support veteran employees’ attendance in postsecondary education during the term of their employment; and
9. Employer with an adverse labor law decision, stipulated agreement, contract debarment, or contract termination, as defined in the rule, pursuant to either of the following labor laws will not be eligible to receive an Award: Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); or Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).

“Military service develops leadership skills, technical expertise, and problem-solving capabilities — all in demand by America’s companies,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “The HIRE Vets Medallion Program provides a tremendous opportunity for employers to recruit talented veterans and demonstrate support for those who have sacrificed so much for their country.”

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