Navigating and understanding the range and breadth of benefits and benefit programs available through the Veterans Administration can be extremely difficult, if not mind-numbing. We will attempt to provide an overview and definition of specific veteran benefits and how they are categorized.
In simple terms, the VA provides degrees of financial compensation for those veterans who were disabled during service. Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in/or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. A disability can apply to physical conditions, such as a chronic knee condition, as well as a mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There is a scale gradient concerning service disability. The determined benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the Veteran’s disability. This is plotted on a scale range from 10% to 100% (in increments of every 10%). Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Generally, the degrees of disability specified are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from exacerbation’s or illnesses.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30% or greater. On the other hand, your compensation may be offset if you already receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments.
The claimant is categorized by family status and grade of disability. Here are some quick examples of disability compensation…Example # 1): A Veteran with no dependents, and 10% disability, is eligible for $130.94 /per month. Example # 2): A Veteran with spouse, two parents and a child; and who is 100% disabled, is eligible for $3390.10/per month.
There is also increased compensation for any additional children under age 18. (It should also be noted, the surviving spouse of a Veteran receiving disability compensation may be eligible to receive spousal pension benefits through Aid & Attendance.)
To be considered eligible to receive disability compensation, the Veteran must have: 1.) Served in the uniformed services on active duty; or on active duty for training; or inactive duty training. 2.) Have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. And, 3.) The Veteran was (at minimum) 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
The following examples are taken directly from the VA website: Example # 1): During a weekend drill, an Army Reservist injures her knee while participating in a physical training class. She is eligible for compensation for residuals of the knee injury. And, Example # 2): An individual enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1988, and served for a period of 3 years. He was honorably discharged on June 9, 1991. During his active duty, he fell from a bunk and injured his back. Based on his active service, he is entitled to service-connected benefits for the residuals of his back injury.
The VA will require medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability. This will necessitate the involvement of a primary physician, or a VA physician. In addition, evidence is required as to the relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service. Medical records or medical opinions are needed to establish this relationship.
Under certain circumstances, the VA may conclude that certain current disabilities were caused by service, even if there is no specific evidence proving this in your particular claim. For example, Vietnam Veterans and agent orange. Each and every veteran who was stationed in Vietnam is considered exposed to agent orange, which has presumptive health consequences including certain forms of cancer, type II diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Certain conditions are considered “presumed disability” by the Veterans Administration:
- Former prisoners of war
- Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specific period of time after discharge from service
- Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service
- Veterans who were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam
- Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War
How to Apply
There are numerous ways to apply for VA disability benefits depending on the type of benefit you are seeking:
- Once established, veterans may utilize an online “eBenefits” account
- Working with an accredited representative or local veteran agent (Veteran Services Officer) in your town
- Complete and mail your claim form to your nearest VA regional office
- Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you.
Much of the above information is detailed on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/