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Learn About VA Disability Compensation
VA disability compensation is a monthly benefit payment the VA provides to qualifying veterans who have experienced illnesses or injuries from military service. VA disability pay helps to compensate for mental and physical disabilities that continue after separation from the military, and it also can be awarded for conditions that appear years after military service ends.
VA compensation for disabilities also extends to veterans with certain health conditions that were present before joining the military but were aggravated by active service. Veterans must meet a certain Disability percentage rating before being able to receive monthly disability compensation payments. Keep reading to learn more about VA disability pay, including how to qualify and apply for benefits.
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What are the requirements for VA disability benefits?
VA disability benefits eligibility begins with the veteran having an illness or injury that currently causes problems. To qualify for VA disability pay, the former service member must also have served in one of three specific types of active military duty at some point during their enlistment. Eligibility requires providing medical proof of the mental or physical health conditions obtained or made worse by military service. This proof is usually in the form of medical records of clinic and hospital visits.
Physical and mental health conditions that establish VA disability benefits eligibility can affect any part of the body and include ailments such as arthritis, digestive problems, chronic back pain and cardiac issues. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common reasons for compensation eligibility for mental health disabilities. VA disability staff must confirm the existence of the disabilities through a VA Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. These exams are an expected part of the claim review process.
Eligibility for VA disability pay is presumed for former military members who performed specific types of service in certain locations. This is due to known exposure to toxic substances or the health problems that are common to specific military experiences, such as being a former prisoner of war (POW).
VA disability dependent eligibility can also influence the amount of VA compensation received because certain veterans with dependents will qualify for an additional monthly allowance. For example, a veteran applying for VA disability pay may be eligible for increased compensation if they are married to a seriously disabled spouse. Spouses and children of veterans may also be eligible for VA family health care benefits.
What are the VA disability compensation rates?
VA disability rates are dependent upon the degree of the veteran’s disability, determined by the evidence provided by the veteran and obtained during the C&P exam process. VA compensation rates are expressed in terms of percentages of disability, up to 100 percent disabled. This total VA compensation rate figure can be calculated based on one disability or the combined effect of two or more disabilities or chronic health conditions. The higher the percentage of disability, the higher the compensation amount the veteran will receive. VA uses a specific method of calculating compensation for combined disability ratings.
Certain veterans will qualify for higher VA compensation amounts due to having certain severe disabilities or a disabled spouse. Veterans also receive higher VA disability rates if they are responsible for supporting dependent parents or children.
How to Apply for VA Disability Compensation
It is important to apply for VA disability as soon as you realize there may be a problem. Veterans disability claims can take a long time to process, so there is no benefit in waiting to file a VA disability claim. Even though understanding the calculation process can be confusing and it can take several months to process a claim, learning how to apply for VA disability is an easy process.
Every veteran submitting an application for VA disability pay must provide adequate supporting documents in addition to completing the official application forms. Supporting documents for VA compensation include the service discharge papers, also known as a DD-214. It is also important to acquire treatment records that show the claimed conditions exist and that you have sought treatment for them, including through VA medical facilities, non-VA hospitals and approved VA home health care.
After gathering all relevant supporting documents and records, veterans requesting VA disability compensation have several options for submitting an application. Applications can be submitted in person at a VA regional office. This option is particularly helpful for VA disability applicants who may need hands-on assistance with completing or submitting the application.
Other options for submitting a VA disability pay application are more convenient for those who do not live close to a VA regional office or a veteran service organization. Veterans can apply for VA disability through the online eBenefits system if they meet other account eligibility requirements. Another way to apply for VA disability compensation is to submit the application and supporting documents by mail or by fax. As mentioned above, keep in mind that it can take several weeks or months to receive a claim decision.
Note that if you disagree with the decision made on your VA disability claim, then you have the right to file an appeal.
What happens after being approved for VA disability compensation?
After your application for VA disability has been approved, your first payment should arrive within a few weeks provided that you met the minimum disability percentage to receive financial compensation. The way your VA compensation is paid depends on whether you chose to receive printed checks from the VA or opted to use direct deposit services.
If you notice that your physical or mental health condition is becoming worse over time, then you can submit a new VA disability claim to request an increase in your disability percentage rating. As with your initial VA disability claim, you must provide accurate documentation of your current condition and undergo a new C&P exam. Because of these requirements, increasing the amount of your VA disability pay can take as long or longer than processing your initial claim. However, if your life is being more severely impacted by your service-induced or aggravated condition, then it can be worth your time to submit a new claim.