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By Ken Cruickshank
Tulare County Veterans Services Officer 

Two Important Letters


Last updated 11/9/2021 at 8:09pm | View PDF

When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decides on your claim, they will provide you with two important letters amongst all the paperwork they will send you. The first letter is called the award letter, and the second one is the rating letter. Both provide information that you will need to pay attention to.

The award letter is broken down into sections; the first section will tell you your benefit information. In this section, the VA will list each disability that you filed for and if it is approved, they inform you the rating percentage and the effective date of the disability (in most cases, it will be the date of your claim). If the disability that was claimed is not approved, they will notify you that it was denied.

The next area is what your combined rating with the VA is after the new award is established. Following that section, the VA will explain how they combine percentages to come up with your disability rating. Then the VA will inform you what your monthly entitlement is now and the effective payment date. Right after this is an area that quite a few beneficiaries miss; this is where the VA will let you know if they are paying you as a single veteran or a veteran with dependents. In most cases, if it is a new claim or if you have a rating from the VA below 30%, it will not list any dependents. You must have a disability rating greater than 30% for dependent benefits. If you have dependents but the VA is paying you for no dependents, we can assist in filing the correct form to add your dependents. The last section informs you what you can do if you disagree with the decision that was made in your case.

The rating letter is where the VA explains their rationale for the decision that was made on your claim. It is very important to look through this letter, especially if you are going to disagree with the decision. The VA rating letter begins with an introduction, which is where your military information and the specific claim information is provided. They then list the disabilities and ratings, after which the evidence listing is provided to you. The VA informs you what positive evidence was used and what negative evidence was used to decide the claim. This information will be important should you decide to disagree with a rating. Also in this area is where the VA will inform you what evidence is needed to support a higher rating. If you feel that it should be higher, you can take your letter to a doctor and see if the doctor agrees with the current findings of the VA or will support your claim for a higher rating.

Hopefully this will aid you in understanding how the VA decides your case. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact our office for assistance.

Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at


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