If you were injured or became seriously ill while serving in the military, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. In 2017, eligible veterans can receive up to $3,458 per month tax-free, depending on the level of disability and number of dependents.
According to the VA’s website, disability compensation is 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 mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You must also have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.
Medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability and its relationship to an injury, disease or event in military service is required. However, under some circumstances, the VA may conclude that certain current disabilities were caused by service, even if there is no specific evidence for your claim. For example, the cause of a disability is presumed for veterans who:
* are former POWs;
* have chronic/tropical diseases that become evident within a specific period of time after discharge;
* were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas or Lewisite while in service;
* were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam; and
* served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War.
The benefit amount is determined on a case-by-case basis and is graduated, on a scale of 10% to 100%, according to the degree of the veteran’s disability. 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. The degrees of disability are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30% or greater. Your compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments. More information about disability compensation benefit amounts can be found on the VA’s Compensation Rates page.
Claims can be submitted online, in person at a regional VA office, or through an accredited agent or representative. All supporting documentation should be submitted with your claim, including medical evidence and how the disability has affected your life; separation documents; and dependent records (such as marriage and children’s birth certificates). A change in family status can affect your benefits. Be sure to notify the VA immediately of a marriage, birth, divorce, death, parent moving in with you, or child aging out of dependent status.
Jason A. Waddell is a Board Certified Florida Elder Law Attorney who practices on the Panhandle of Florida.