As a general rule, combat Veterans are individuals who served in a conflict zone while in the military. For example, they may have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether they are Iraq veterans, Afghanistan veterans, Gulf War veterans, or veterans of the Vietnam War, certain laws and regulations provide assistance to these veterans.
Veterans of the armed forces are entitled to a variety of VA benefits, and the VA has special criteria for awarding disability compensation to Veterans. In short, a veteran must be service connected for the condition to obtain VA benefits. We covered what you have to prove to be service connected in other articles on this website. However, to reiterate, you must have a current disability, an in-service event, and a nexus with service.
Being a combat veteran has significance in proving an in-service event. Often, during the chaos of combat, not every detail of a veteran’s service is recorded in official records. Recognizing this, Congress created a law contained in 38 USC § 1154(b).
The statute provides that in the case of any veteran who engaged in combat with the enemy, the VA shall “accept as sufficient proof of service-connection of any disease or injury alleged to have been incurred in or aggravated by such service satisfactory lay or other evidence of service incurrence or aggravation of such injury or disease, if consistent with the circumstances, conditions, or hardships of such service…” 38 USC § 1154(b).
A classic example would be a veteran is charging up a hill in retreat of an advancing enemy who is firing upon him, and he slips and falls on a rock and cracks his knee. He never reports to sick calls but later provides a statement in his VA appeal about what happened. Since it happened in a combat encounter, his lay statement alone as to an in-service injury would have to be accepted even in the absence of documentation in his service medical records.
Support for Combat Veterans
In VA Vet Centers around the country, combat Veterans can get therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans and their families can get free therapy at Vet Centers after they’ve been discharged from the military. Counseling options for combat Veterans include individual, group, and family sessions, all of which are geared at helping them transition to civilian life.
Combat Veteran Benefits
Serving in the military may entitle you to various government assistance programs. An overview of Veteran’s benefits and what you should know about them may be found below:
The cost of long-term care is high, yet it is often required to care for you and for your elderly family members. Veterans who qualify for the Aid and Attendance program might receive money to help pay for long-term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc.
Support for Caregivers
An assistance program for sick veterans’ family caregivers is available via the Department of Veterans Affairs. The program does provide a free phone line and a caregiver support coordinator to assist them in navigating military benefits and the burden of caregiving.
Benefits for the Deceased’s Loved Ones
Families have the option of requesting a Presidential Memorial Certificate in honor of the dead loved one’s service, as well as a U.S. flag to drape over the casket. Headstones or burial markers are also provided for free by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The GI Bill can be used to pay for training certification courses or other vocational training programs such as HVAC repair, truck driving, emergency medical training, barber/beautician schools, etc. Veterans who want to make a career shift or go into a field that doesn’t need a college degree would benefit greatly from this program.
Veterans’ spouses and dependents can get unused GI Bill credits. There are service restrictions that must be met for the transfer of the benefits.
Help with a Home Loan
Military Veterans who are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments may be able to get help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Special repayment arrangements, loan forbearance, and debt modification programs are all possibilities for assistance. Veterans with VA debts and homeless Veterans are eligible for additional assistance.
Making a Claim for Service-Connection for PTSD
When a Veteran has served in combat, he is often exposed to events or circumstances that resulted in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Congress enacted a special law to help veterans prove their claims for service connection because they know that records are not always preserved, or kept correctly, in conflict zones.
Typically, to win a claim for PTSD the stressor (the event that triggered the PTSD) must be corroborated by something other than the veteran’s own word. This requirement was relaxed to some degree with changes in the law that were made in 2010. Specifically, 38 CFR § 3.304(f)(3) lays out a mechanism for the stressor corroboration requirement to be relaxed if the stressor is related to the veteran’s fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.
However, prior to the amendments to the 38 CFR, being a combat veteran would make it easier to have VA accept a veteran’s word alone as to the PTSD stressor without independent corroboration.
A Veteran’s statements of battle injuries or traumatic events must be accepted by VA as accurate so long as they were “compatible with the circumstances, conditions, or difficulties of such service,” according to the law governing Veterans’ claims to VA benefits (38 USC 1154 (b)).
What Documents May I Need to Show That I Was in Combat?
You may establish your military service in multiple ways. This can be done in the form of simple assertions. To back up claims, Veterans should also provide further documentation. Your DD-214, the discharge papers you receive when you leave the military, can serve as further proof. Even though it may not mention “combat Veteran,” a DD-214 might prove that you experienced combat by listing specific accolades or medals, which are indicative of combat.
A Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, Medal of Honor, and Purple Heart are just a few examples. You can also offer proof that you got hazardous duty pay to prove your service in a war.
Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
CRSC affords veterans tax-free monthly compensation to eligible retired veterans with combat-related injuries. With CRSC, veterans can receive full military retirement pay and VA disability compensation if the disability is combat-related.
Eligibility: To qualify for CRSC, retired veterans with combat-related disabilities need to satisfy all of the following criteria:
- Active or Reserve component with 20 years of creditable service or medically retired.
- Receiving military retirement pay.
- Have a 10 percent or greater VA-rated disability.
- Military retired pay is reduced by VA disability payments (VA Waiver).
Moreover, veterans must be able to submit documentary evidence that their disabilities were caused by one of the following:
- Training that simulates war (e.g., exercises, field training)
- Hazardous duty (e.g., flight, diving, parachute duty)
- An instrumentality of war (e.g., combat vehicles, weapons, Agent Orange)
- Armed conflict (e.g., gunshot wounds, Purple Heart)
Obtaining the Proof the VA Requires to Verify Your Claim
Winning VA disability pay requires proof of an in-service event and a link between the in-service event and a current disability. For most veterans, obtaining the linking evidence is most difficult. For example, unsupported by medical evidence, many disability claims are turned down. Knowing how and where to find VA nexus evidence is where top-notch veterans benefits lawyers can help. Lawyers that specialize in VA disability benefits might help you in this situation. Disabled vets might benefit from their assistance in obtaining disability payments.
For years, the lawyers at Veterans Disability Info have been helping disabled veterans win VA disability payments. Contact us online or at 888.878.9350 if you are a combat veteran and need assistance with a VA claim or appeal.