VA Disability Frequently Asked Questions
ANSWERED FOR YOU
Many veterans suffer injuries and illnesses during their service time. While they are entitled to service-connected benefits in terms of monetary compensations, and healthcare services, many of them do not access these benefits. Others may receive the benefits but not the right amount, and some are not sure if they are eligible for the benefits. Check out some frequently asked questions about veterans disability benefits.
In order to be eligible for VA service-connected disability compensation:
- You must have actively served or been on active duty or active duty for training in the military (if on inactive duty, only disability related to heart attack, stroke or injury can qualify)
- You must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and
- You must meet the elements/requirements for one of the types of service connection.
The law has no time limit for veterans to apply for post-service claims. However, filing your claims as soon as you experience a service-related disability with attorneys is advisable. It may take a long time for your claim to be verified and for you to receive the benefits. The good news is that VA backdates your benefits to the date of your initial application.
Sometimes you may receive a rating you disagree with, your claim is denied, or you are not comfortable with your compensation’s effective date. In this case, you have exactly one year to file an appeal.
If you are assigned a single rating, the math is very simple. You are rated at whatever percentage the VA assigns for a specific service-connected condition based upon the severity of that condition and its related symptoms.
However, when you have a combined rating, the math can get a bit tricky. Each service-connected condition is assigned its own individual rating based on the severity of the symptoms.
While two individual service-connected conditions rated at 10% each do equal a 20% combined rating, beyond that, you cannot simply add the percentages together to get your overall percentage. In essence, two plus two does not equal 4.
Instead, it gets rather complicated to calculate the overall rating. The VA uses these individual ratings to create a combined ratings table (link below). The VA also adds additional compensation when bilateral upper or lower extremities are affected. https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp#combinedRatingsTable1
To estimate your VA Disability monthly compensation amount, visit our disability calculator here.
If you have never filed a claim for VA Service-Connected Disability, you must first file a Form 526EZ with the Veterans Administration.
If you have had a prior claim for the conditions you believe are service related, have new treatment or evidence concerning these conditions, and you are outside the one-year appeal deadline, you should file a Supplemental Claim Form 20-0995 to request a review of the conditions you previously applied for.
- Lack of treatment
- No diagnosis/unconfirmed diagnosis
- Wrong diagnosis
- No service treatment for the claimed condition,
- No continuity of treatment,
- No nexus or link between service and current diagnosis.
There are several ways to establish VA service connections.
The first and possibly the most common is called direct service-connection. In order to establish direct service connection you must have a current disability, an in-service event or injury, and a causal nexus linking the two. Another way to establish service connection is presumptive service connection.
Basically, the VA assumes that those direct service connection elements are satisfied for certain conditions. For example, the VA presumes service connection for some conditions associated with agent orange or herbicide exposure.
If the VA finds a veteran meets the requirements for exposure to herbicides, and they are diagnosed with certain conditions, the VA will grant service connection based upon the those conditions alone.
However, some presumptive conditions must manifest within a certain timeframe in order to be granted presumptive service connection. Another way is service connection due to aggravation and/or secondary service connection.
This is when the primary service connected condition causes another condition or worsens some other condition in some way. This can be something such as diabetes causing neuropathy, or an orthopedic condition causing overcompensation in another limb or joint, and so on.
Aggravation can apply to conditions that pre-existed service and worsened as a result. So, for example, if a person enters the service with flat feet, and upon separation finds that their flat feet condition is noticeably worse, they can receive service connection for aggravation.
If you have been denied service connection, here are some ways to strengthen your claim.
Treatment is key! To prove service connection for a claimed condition, getting a diagnosis is typically a big part of proving a current disability.
The longer the time frame between your discharge and the treatment for that condition, the harder it is to connect the condition to your service. This is often true even when the condition was treated in service. Especially when it was an acute condition.
So, if you are treated for a condition in service, have been discharged from the military, and are having the same or similar issues, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
In cases where there is no treatment for many years following discharge from service, the VA will often find there has been no “continuity of treatment,” and these claims will be denied. More importantly, there are certain conditions that are considered presumptive and must be diagnosed within a specified time period following service.
Additionally, the VA will need evidence of the severity of the condition to determine the severity, and getting treatment can help improve your chances of a higher rating.
Sometimes buddy statements or lay statements supporting your claim can help strengthen your claim, especially with issues where the VA doesn’t concede that some event or injury occurred.
For example, a stressor that the VA has no record of or makes no acknowledgment of can sometimes be corroborated by written buddy statements of those who served with you.
Additionally, lay statements from a spouse about certain symptoms that they have observed or the severity of those symptoms, etc., can be helpful.
The number one thing that can help to strengthen a claim for direct service connection, however, in addition to having medical treatment, is to obtain a doctor’s written nexus statement.
Some veterans may not qualify for healthcare benefits despite serving on active duty. Some reasons could hinder you from qualifying for healthcare compensation.
For example, veterans discharged from service on dishonorable conditions are not eligible for benefits. You may also fail to qualify for healthcare benefits if your disability is not service-related.
A nexus is a link between the in-service injury or condition and the current diagnosis or condition.
The VA must find it is “at least as likely as not” that your current condition was caused or aggravated by your service.
A doctor’s written nexus statement or nexus opinion can be helpful to establish this. This is where a doctor writes a statement in support of the current condition being a result of or at least aggravated by the in-service event or injury.
According to VA law, you must be a military veteran and meet the requirements for active duty to qualify for the disability benefits. It would help if you also had a discharge from service but not dishonorable.
Below are some particular requirements for veteran benefits eligibility.
• Must meet a true veteran. Meaning the person actively served in the air, naval, or military forces and was released under honorable conditions rather than dishonorable.
• Must fulfill active duty requirements
• Must meet the requirements of active service duty
• The disability or illness must result from active service or have worsened in the service
You must enroll with VA before applying for compensation if you are eligible for benefits. You must start your registration by filling out VA Form 10-10EZ. You can access the form via any of the following avenues.
• Apply online from the VA website
• Call the toll-free number 877-222-VETS (8387) to apply
• Visit your local VA office
You can also apply through a power of attorney. In this case, you must submit your application with the Power of Attorney form. Here is a detailed VA registration guide.
When applying for VA disability benefits, you'll typically need to submit your medical records showing your disability, any relevant military records (such as your discharge or separation papers, service treatment records, etc.), and personal identification documents, such as your Social Security card and driver's license.
Being connected for additional disabilities or increasing individual percentages of current service-connected disabilities can increase your overall percentage, subject to the VA ratings table if your combined rating is below 100%.
Additionally, if your combined rating is below 100% and if your service-connected conditions cause you to be unable to work full-time, you could also apply for TDIU.
It depends. VA backpay for service-connected benefits is the amount the veteran is owed from what VA calls the “effective date” of the claim.
Generally, the effective date is the claim was filed. If a claim is filed and a decision is made denying or otherwise deciding a claim, and that decision is not appealed within the specified time (usually one year from the date of decision) then the effective date will not be the date of original filing.
It will be the date of the new claim. However, there are some exceptions to the effective date rule and in a few very specific situations, the veteran can potentially get an earlier effective date.
- When the VA has received the veteran’s “intent to file” and a formal claim is filed within one year of the intent to file.
- When a veteran files a claim within a year following their discharge from service, the effective date can be the day after discharge, so long as the veteran had the disability at that time. This rule is slightly different for certain presumptive conditions.
- When there has been a “Clear and Unmistakable Error” in a prior decision or a CUE. A CUE is a very rare situation and as the name suggests, there must be “clear and unmistakable” evidence that the VA’s decision was erroneous.
Yes, you can continue to work while receiving VA disability benefits. Unlike programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the VA does not impose an earnings limit or employment restrictions for disability benefits recipients.
Once the VA has determined you are eligible for Service-Connected disability compensation, those benefits will last as long as your disability does not improve.
Under certain circumstances, VA disability payments can be continued for the veteran's life. However, a re-evaluation can result in an increase, decrease, ceasing, or no change in your disability payments/rating.
Therefore, it is important to be careful when requesting an increase in your benefits, as it can result in a rating reduction should medical evidence show significant improvement.
The short answer is, no. A veteran’s Service-Connected disability compensation does not continue for the surviving spouse.
However, surviving spouses can apply for DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation), Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits.
Under this rule, the VA cannot reduce a veteran’s disability rating that has been in place for 5 years or more, unless the condition shows sustained improvement over time.
This is called a “stabilized rating.” What this means is that the rating is considered a “protected” disability rating and can ONLY be reduced when medical evidence shows the condition is substantially improving over time on a sustained basis.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability or TDIU (also called IU) is an alternative route to getting a 100% rating. TDIU is similar to Social Security disability in that you must be unable to sustain gainful employment in order to qualify.
However, this benefit is only available for Veterans, and the inability to work must be a result of your service-connected conditions. With this benefit you can receive disability compensation at the same level as a Veteran who has a 100% disability rating. If your service-connected disabilities prevent you from holding a job, you should apply for TDIU.
Veterans are required to receive medical care from VA community-based healthcare clinics. However, you can visit any nearest hospital for treatment in an emergency.
VA will still pay for your treatment in a non-VA medical center, but you must contact the nearest center as soon as possible.
There’s an old saying “you get what you pay for”. Choosing a representative for your VA claim is no exception. An experienced accredited attorney can interpret complex regulations and legal precedents, and help you navigate the labyrinth of various VA appeal choices that are appropriate in your case.
Choosing the right representative is often key in helping you decide which path to take in the appeals process to obtain the compensation you deserve. Most importantly, we do not charge you for representation unless we win your appeal.
A VA accredited attorney is a lawyer who is officially recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs to represent veterans in their claims before the VA. VA accreditation is a special designation that requires a VA attorney to maintain specific levels of continuing education and adhere to the VA's standards of practice. Our VA attorneys are all accredited and fully prepared to assist you with your claim.
Wettermark Keith’s VA-accredited attorneys can offer you invaluable assistance throughout the claims process. With a deep understanding of the intricacies of VA law and procedures, they can effectively gather evidence, draft and file claims, and provide you with expert representation during hearings. Your VA attorney can also offer you professional advice concerning your claim, (potentially) speed up the claims process, and improve your likelihood of a successful outcome.