Eligibility and Benefits Compensation Criteria
To be eligible for disability compensation benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA):
- You must be a veteran of the United States military.
- You must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- You must have a disability that is service-connected.
1. You must be a veteran of the United States Military
The Veterans Administration supports American veterans and their families by providing a wide range of programs and services. Disability compensation is given only to deserving veterans who are disabled by injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated by active military service. It is also paid to veterans who become disabled from negligent VA health care or injury resulting from the pursuit of training under vocational rehabilitation.
2. You must have been honorably discharged from military service
A veteran must have served under conditions characterized as “other than dishonorable” to be eligible for VA benefits. A serious departure from the conduct performance expected of all military members brings discredit upon the service and would, therefore, disqualify that person from receiving benefits from the VA.
3. You must have a disability that is service-connected
Service connection generally means that a chronic disability arose coincidental with military service. It is important to establish that your injury or illness is service-connected to qualify for disability compensation. The following categories identify service-connected disability:
- Direct – The onset of disability is directly related to military service. Example: Complications from a gunshot wound to the left thigh.
- Secondary – A current disability caused by or aggravated by another service-connected disability. Example: Right knee problems from compensating for an altered gait because of the left-thigh gunshot wound.
- Aggravated – A chronic disability diagnosed prior to military service is aggravated beyond normal progression during military service. Example: A right-knee disability from high school football was aggravated by a parachute jump.
- Presumptive – A chronic disability that is related to some exposure during military service. Example: Diabetes mellitus type II related to exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
- Paired Organ – A veteran has loss of use of one extremity or organ (i.e. kidney) due to service- connected disability and later develops loss of use of the other extremity organ.
- VA Medical Negligence – A disability that occurred while a veteran was undergoing VA health care.
- Injury Resulting from VA Vocational Training – Injury that occurred while pursuing a vocational training plan with the VA.
Wartime Service-Connected Disabilities
There are service-connected disabilities that relate to specific war periods.
World War II: Exposure to radiation was common due to the extensive experimentation and nuclear testing of the Atomic Bomb. Diseases such as Leukemia, Lymphomas, Multiple Myeloma and Cancers could later manifest in veterans who were exposed to radiation at that time.
Korean War: Veterans who fought in the Korean War may have experienced cold-weather injuries and, later on, residual effects of frostbite.
Vietnam: Exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide used to kill off dense plant life caused multiple conditions in veterans of that war. Twelve specific illnesses have been identified as service-connected disabilities.
Persian Gulf War and OEF/OIF: Veterans have experienced chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed or unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses such as joint pain, fatigue, mental problems and headaches of unknown etiology.
Compensation is Based on Degree of Disability
Your compensation is based on a rating system that determines the extent, or degree, of disability.
- The range of disability starts at 0 percent up to 100 percent disabled.
- Each disability found to be service-connected is assigned a percentage rating based on its specific level of impairment.
- If there is more than one disability, the percentages are combined to determine the total rating.
The amount of compensation is based on this combined rating percentage and is adjusted annually.
Here is an example of the monthly benefits a veteran with no dependents may receive based on level of disability (source: 2009 VA Compensation Pay Chart):
10% = $123 60% =$974
20% = $243 70% = $1,228
30% = $376 80% = $1,427
40% =$541 90% = $1,604
50% = $770 100% = $2,673
Conditions Identified as Service-Connected
For a comprehensive list of war-related health conditions that the Veterans Administration has identified as service-connected, please refer to the “Wartime Veterans” tab or the “Your Condition” tab located on the homepage of this Web site.
Apply for Benefits with an Alpha Advocate – Vets Helping Vets
If you do not receive a fully favorable decision from the VA, or you disagree with the percentage given to your disability, we can help you appeal for more.
It can take months, in many cases, years, for the VA to grant benefits. If you think you have a service-connected disability, or need help to prove that you do, the Alpha team is ready to help you.
Contact us to get started on your claim.
Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.