The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is a mixed blessing. When one can successfully navigate its complicated waters, a wonderful opportunity to help clients can be discovered. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs is also complicated and, too often, inefficient.
The other difficulty is that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is a large complex bureaucracy, offering so many different kinds of benefits, it is hard to keep the myriad of benefits straight. It is perfectly understandable to feel overwhelmed and even intimidated when setting out in these waters.
To make it easier, this is how I visualize it. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is not a huge skyscraper, modern in construction with elevators, phone lines and computer cables connecting all the floors and all the rooms in the building. It is not one place where every VA employee knows one another and have a company picnic each year. Rather, imagine a duplex with two apartments separated by a concrete, sound proof wall. One apartment is VHA, Veteran’s Health Administration and the other is VBA, Veteran’s Benefit administration. The VHA apartment houses medical services and the VBA apartment is cash. This apartment, VBA, has two rooms: service connected compensation and non-service connected pension.
Service connected disability, sometimes called “disability compensation” is a monthly benefit available to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled due to injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training. Both physical and mental disabilities are applicable toward compensation.
How much compensation could I receive?
Your benefit amount is calculated according to the degree of your disability; the higher the percentage of disability, the larger the amount of compensation. Generally, the degrees of disability and corresponding compensation are designed to offset money lost while disabled Veterans are unable to work. Furthermore, if you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if you are 30% or more disabled.
Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are related to disabilities occurring in service even though they may arise after service.
Am I eligible for Disability Compensation?
In order to be eligible to receive disability compensation you must have:
- Served in Uniformed Services on active duty, OR
- Active duty for training, OR
- Inactive duty training
AND, you must:
- Have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
AND, you must:
- Be at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
How do I prove my disability?
In order to show that you meet the 10% or greater disability requirement you must have:
- Medical evidence of your current physical or mental disability, AND
- Evidence of the relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event that occurred in military service. This evidence can be established by medical records or the opinions of medical professionals.
Are you a…
- Former prisoner of war?
- Veteran who has a chronic or tropical disease that became evident within a short time after your discharge from service?
- Veteran who was exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service?
- Veteran who was exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam?
- Veteran who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these descriptions, you may automatically qualify for disability compensation because the VA will presume disability under these circumstances.
How Do I Apply?
To receive disability benefits you may apply online or go to a VA regional office.