A variety of benefits are available to disabled veterans and their families. Understanding what benefits programs exist and how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) deems eligibility for benefits are the first steps in getting the financial help you and your family need.
Disability lawyer Michael Hartup has extensive experience helping disabled veterans and their families from Tennessee navigate the complicated application process to recover the benefits they need.
The Law Offices of Michael Hartup is proud to represent disabled veterans from the greater Jackson, Tennessee, area.
Basic Eligibility for VA Disability Benefits
Eligibility for VA disability benefits varies somewhat based on the type of compensation sought. However, to receive any disability benefits the following must be true:
- You served on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training
- Your injury or illness has received a disability rating from the VA
Furthermore, one of the following statements must also be true:
- You have an in-service disability, i.e. you were injured or became sick while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and can link this service to your condition
- You have a pre-service disability, i.e. an injury or illness acquired before you joined the military, and serving made the condition worse
- You have a post-service disability, i.e. a disability-related to your active-duty service that appeared after your service ended
The actual compensation for which you’re eligible depends largely on how the VA rates your specific disability.
The VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities
Having a disability rating from the VA is required in order to determine your disability compensation rate.
Ratings are given in 10-percent increments on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent. Generally, the VA assigns less severe disabilities a lower rating and more severe disabilities a higher rating using its Schedule for Rating Disabilities.
The Schedule for Rating Disabilities breaks down disabilities into categories that include:
- The musculoskeletal system
- Organs of special sense
- Impairment of auditory acuity
- Infections diseases, immune disorders, and nutritional deficiencies
- The respiratory system
- The cardiovascular system
- The genitourinary system
- Gynecological conditions and disorders of the breast
- The hemic and lymphatic systems
- The skin
- The endocrine system
- Neurological conditions and convulsive disorders
- Mental disorders
- Dental and oral conditions
Each category is further sorted by groups of medical issues, with each condition having its own coded list of symptoms required to meet disability ratings. It’s important to note that rating disabilities is not always a black-and-white process.
For example, one disability may meet multiple categories and symptom codes, but you may only be rated for a single category and paid under one code. If you have multiple disabilities that align with multiple codes, the VA uses a special formula to calculate your total disability benefits.
In some cases, a particular disability may not be listed in the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities. In these situations, the VA may apply the code for a closely related disability instead.
Sometimes the VA rates disabilities incorrectly, and some otherwise valid claims for benefits are denied due to errors in the application process.
If you believe your disability was noted rated accurately, or if you believe your claim was wrongfully rejected, you have the option to file an appeal.
VA Disability Benefits Programs
The VA offers a number of disability benefits programs designed to help veterans and their families based on specific circumstances and needs.
Service-Connected Disability Compensation
This compensation is a monthly payment to veterans who became sick or were injured while serving in the military, or to veterans whose service made an existing condition worse.
Veterans may qualify for this VA disability benefit for physical or mental health conditions that developed during service or after service, or were present prior to service and made worse by active service.
This benefit includes monthly cash payments that assist disabled or retired veterans with low income and minimal assets. To qualify, you must have 90 days of service including at least one day during wartime and total permanent disability or be over 65 years of age.
Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP)
The CRDP is a program that allows certain military retirees to receive retirement benefits and disability payments at the same time.
To qualify, a military retiree must have at least 20 years of service and a service-connected disability rated 50 percent or more.
Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
CRSC is a program that gives compensation to certain military retirees for their combat-related conditions. To receive this benefit, a military retiree must have at least 20 years of service or a medical retirement, as well as a combat-related disability rated 10 percent or more.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit that is generally paid to a surviving spouse, child or parent of service members who died:
- While on active duty
- While on active duty training
- While on inactive duty training
- From their service-related disability or disabilities
A subset of DIC, called Parents DIC, is a benefit for parents who were financially dependent on a service member or veteran who died from a service-related cause.
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
SMC is an additional tax-free benefit that veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, or parents can receive. Veterans might be eligible for SMC if they require aid and attendance by another person or because of a specific disability, such as the loss of use of a limb. Spouses and surviving spouses may be granted SMC based on the need for aid and attendance by another person.
Claims for Special Circumstances
Other types of disability compensation include:
- Automobile allowance or clothing allowance
- Individual unemployability
- Prestablization, hospitalization, or convalescence
- Dental or birth defects
Veterans might be considered eligible for these additional types of claims after a disability has been deemed to be connected to or caused by service.
Experienced Legal Help for Disabled Veterans
Although you are not required to work with a lawyer to apply for VA disability benefits or to appeal a denied claim, a knowledgeable disability attorney can lead you through what is often a complex and time-consuming process.
At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we understand the challenges of applying for VA disability benefits, and we work hard to recover the benefits disabled veterans need and are entitled to.
To learn how we can help you apply for benefits or appeal a denied claim, please call our Jackson, TN, office at 731-513-5275 to arrange your free, no-obligation consultation. You can also contact us online to tell us your story now.