Disability Compensation

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Disability compensation is a benefit paid to a veteran because of injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, or were made worse by active military service.  It is also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care.  The benefits are tax-free.

Programs for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities Include:

  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
  • Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
  • Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payment (CRDP)
  • Benefits for Dependents of 100% Disabled Veter

See below for further information:

Q. What is service connected disability compensation?
A.
The VA compensation program provides monthly benefits if a veteran is disabled because of an injury or disease incurred in or aggravated during military service, and for certain conditions which may develop after release from active duty if you were released from active military duty with an other than dishonorable discharge. There is no time limit to apply for VA disability compensation. However, you are encouraged to apply within one year of your release from active duty as entitlement is established retroactively to the date of separation if your claim is filed within this period. The effective date of eligibility for benefits will be based upon the date of your claim if you apply beyond the one-year period. A claim for compensation may be established by evidence showing that an injury or illness arose or became worse during service and that the veteran currently suffers from that difficulty.

Q. How is the amount of disability compensation determined?
A.
The amount of compensation paid depends on how severe the medical problem is. Severity can vary from 10 percent to 100 percent disability. Benefits range up to a certain amount each month, with additional payments for certain severe disabilities. The rate of compensation may change as the severity of injury or illness changes. If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added id your disability is over 30%. An allowance for clothing or transportation is available if certain requirements are met.

Q. I receive military retired pay. Should I file for disability compensation and will my retire pay be affected?
A.
It is important to file a claim if you are disabled because of an injury or disease incurred in or aggravated during your military service. Service connected disabled veterans are afforded some benefits not offered to military retirees. By law, the payment of VA compensation benefits is affected by the receipt of military retired pay. If you receive military retirement, you may initiate a waiver of your retired pay to receive the full amount of VA compensation. Until the waiver takes effect, your compensation will be adjusted or withheld depending on the amount of military retired pay you are entitled to. The advantage of waiving military retired pay for VA compensation is that VA benefits are not taxable.

Q. I received disability severance pay when I left the military. Will this affect my VA compensation?
A.
Law prohibits payment of VA compensation and military disability severance pay for the same medical condition or disability. VA compensation will be withheld on a monthly basis until the total amount of military severance pay has been recovered. Special Separation Benefit (SSB) - VA compensation will be withheld in full until the amount of the SSB has been recovered.

Q. I plan to join the Selected Reserve or the National Guard when I leave active duty. Can I file a claim for service connected disability?
A.
Yes. You may file a claim if you are disabled because of an injury or disease incurred in or aggravated during your military service. Of course if your condition is severe, you may not meet the requirements of the Guard or Reserves. If you are an active member of the Selected Reserve or National Guard, your VA compensation will be withheld at the rate of one day of pay for each drill period served. Also, VA compensation is not payable while serving full-time on active duty.

Q. How do I file a claim for service connected disability?

A. The VA claims process can be very confusing and frustrating. We suggest you contact your local State Veteran Counselor or County Veterans Service officer for professional assistance and representation.

What supporting evidence and/or documents should I take with me when I visit my local representative?

The following supporting evidence and/or documents should be submitted with your application:

Service Medical Records - Those applicants who have their service medical records are encouraged to submit them with their application to expedite processing. Otherwise, VA will contact the service department to obtain them.

Other Medical Records - Medical records to substantiate any and all treatment by private doctors and hospitals.

Dependency Documents - Original or copies of birth and marriage certificates and copies of divorce/death record terminating all of your prior marriages and those of your spouse.

Military Discharge/DD Form 214 - (Copy 4 - Member Copy) Those applicants who have a copy of their DD-214 are encouraged to provide a copy with their claim to expedite processing. Otherwise, VA will attempt to obtain verification from the service department.

Q. If my service-connected condition becomes worse, will the VA automatically increase my rating?
A.
No. You must reopen your claim if your condition has worsened. The best way to do this is to contact your local State Veteran Counselor or County/City Veterans Service Officer. To request an increase in your percent of disability file a VA Form 21-4138 "Statement in Support of Claim." You may also use a blank sheet of paper to provide the pertinent information. The first paragraph should read "I am requesting reevaluation of my service-connected disability".

You need not submit conclusive evidence that a compensable condition has increased in severity. To persuade the VA to authorize a VA examination to assess the severity of the condition, you need only to submit evidence that leads the VA to conclude there is the "reasonable probability of a valid claim". The VA may accept a private medical statement, a lay statement, and even your own statement that the service-connected disability has increased in severity. Even a sketchy medical statement that you are being treated for the service-connected condition will almost always result in a VA examination.

Q. Over the past several years, my service-connected conditions have gotten so severe; I can no longer make a living wage. Should I inform the VA?
A.
Yes, there is a benefit called individual unemployability (IU). IU exists as a concept to cover the situation in which a service-connected disability makes the veteran unemployable, even though an average person with a similar impairment could secure and retain substantial gainful employment. Since the rating schedule focuses on the average person, the concept of IU is necessary to take into account circumstances such as education and past employment history that are peculiar to the claimant and to implement "the established policy of the Department of Veterans' Affairs that all veterans who are unable to secure and follow a substantially gainful occupation by reason of service-connected disabilities shall be rated totally disabled." If IU is granted your total rating will be 100%.