Getting Help with Your VA Disability Claim from a VA Compensation Lawyer
The purpose of this VA compensation page is to provide you with a broad general overview of compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) available to persons with current disabilities as a result of their active service in the military. There are a variety of costs associated with disabilities, including the costs related to medical care, psychological care, and other necessary treatments, in addition to lost income and loss of enjoyment in life due to the condition.
Pursuing disability benefits from the VA is meant to provide you and your family with financial stability despite your service-related injuries. Various conditions can qualify a veteran for VA disability benefits, including post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Your VA compensation lawyer from our firm will carefully review your condition and its link to your service to identify how we can best help you collect the compensation you deserve.
When the outcome of injuries, illnesses, or events experienced during active service negatively impacts the life of a veteran, they can be eligible for monthly financial compensation. Additionally, compensation is available for unemployability, as well as for other special circumstances. To begin, you must determine your eligibility for VA benefits.
Eligibility for VA Benefits
To be eligible for VA disability benefits or other compensation, you must meet the following two requirements:
- You are suffering from a current injury or illness that impacts your body or mind, and
- You served in the military on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
In addition to the above, at least one of the following must apply to your situation:
- You became ill or were injured while serving in the military, and your condition can be linked to your injury or illness during active duty, generally referred to as an in-service occurrence, or
- You had an injury or illness before joining the military that was worsened by your service, known as a pre-existing condition disability claim, or
- Your disability linked to your active duty service did not appear until after your term of service ended, referred to as a post-service disability claim.
To be eligible, you must have engaged in active duty for the United States armed services under the criteria defined by the VA.
How is “Active Duty” Defined?
The VA defines active duty as full-time duty, including but not limited to:
- A unit deployment during a war
- Travel to and from active war deployment
Only veterans qualify for VA disability benefits, which are persons who served in the active military, naval, or air service and were released or discharged on conditions other than dishonorable. Merchant Marine Seamen who served under the Coast Guard, Army Transportation Service in active, oceangoing service from a certain period of time, persons who worked full-time duty by commissions officers of the Public Health Service, and others may be designated as veterans to collect benefits. In addition, if an injury or death is incurred in the line of duty during active or inactive duty for training, this will also qualify.
If you have a condition that resulted from service or work under the employment of the armed services, your VA compensation attorney can help determine what you are eligible for.
VA Benefits for Reserve Duty and National Guard Service
When it comes to VA benefits, the armed forces include the National Guard, and you may qualify for VA benefits for your condition if it was linked to active duty in the National Guard under certain circumstances. If you were activated for Federal purposes, you may fall under the active duty designation. Otherwise, you may have periods of active duty for training or other activity duty.
Criteria for Service-Connected Disabilities
Once you have established your eligibility for VA benefits, you must then “service-connect” your disability to obtain compensation for it. This means you have an illness or injury caused or worsened by your active military duty. To be eligible for VA disability benefits or other compensation, you must meet the following three elements:
- You must have a current injury or illness, referred to by the VA as a condition, that impacts your body or mind. This condition must be chronic and not an acute and transitory condition that healed without residuals;
- Something happened in service
- There is a link or a nexus between what happened in service and your current disability.
In addition to the above elements, there are different methods or strategies for obtaining service connection. For instance:
- You became sick or were injured while you were serving in the military and can prove a link between your condition and the in-service illness or injury (known as a direct service connection claim), or
- You experienced an illness or disability before joining to military, and your military service worsened it (knowns as service connection by aggravation), or
- You have a disability that is linked to your active-duty service; however, it did not appear until after your period of service had ended (referred to as a delayed onset service connection), or
- You have an existing service-connected condition and it caused an additional disability to develop later (known as a secondary service connection claim).
While you must generally prove the link or nexus between your active service and your current disability, there are three exceptions. The three exceptions are known as presumptive conditions and are as follows:
- A chronic or long-lasting illness that emerged within a certain time period after your discharge (often 1 year but it varies based on the condition)
- An illness that was caused by contaminants or other hazardous materials during your service (which is defined by statutes and regulations; e.g. Agent Orange, radiation, burn pits, Camp Lejeune toxic water, etc.)
- An illness that is on a list and associated with service in a particular time and place (e.g. service in Southwest Asia, etc.)
- An illness that resulted from your time spent as a prisoner of war (POW)
If your current condition does not meet these three presumptive conditions, you’ll need to prove a nexus between your service and the current condition. The presumptive service connection provisions make it easier to win service connection because they remove the requirement to prove the nexus with service, which is often the hardest element for veterans to prove. The nexus element will be discussed below.
The Nexus Between the Current Disability and Military Service
To be eligible to collect VA compensation, your VA compensation lawyer will gather evidence to support the link between your current condition and your service. This is often supported by evidence gathered from medical experts and presented in the form of a nexus letter report. Although these reports are often called nexus letters in the veteran community, they need to be more extensive than a mere letter. They should really be called expert reports. While a nexus letter is not a requirement for your VA disability benefits claim, it can make the difference between your application being denied or approved.
The nexus letter is an essential piece of evidence in support of the approval of your claim and awarding of the full benefits you are entitled to. You can provide it with your initial application, during the evaluation of your application, or along with your appeal. When it comes to submitting substantive evidence on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has recently confirmed that there are specific rules as to when new evidence can be submitted in connection with an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals and so it is best to consult with a VA compensation lawyer. If you fail to comply with those rules in connection with a Board appeal, the Board will not consider your evidence. One of the most common reasons that VA benefits claims are denied is insufficient evidence to prove the link between the veteran’s current condition and their service, and finding experts to provide you with such evidence can be difficult. When approaching the issue of medical experts, veterans benefits lawyers are usually the best source in finding an appropriate expert.
Our veterans’ benefits law firm has an in-house physician to assess the facts related to your condition. Our veterans’ compensation law firm also has a network of medical and occupational professionals to contribute valuable opinions concerning your case to support the best possible outcome. With the help of a VA compensation lawyer, you can assemble the strongest nexus letter possible to support your position.
Types of VA Compensation Available to Veterans
Various types of VA disability compensation provide qualifying veterans with coverage for the effects of injuries, diseases, or disabilities that happened or were magnified during active military service. Monthly payments are also available to surviving spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents in compensation for the economic loss caused by a service-connected disability.
Disability Compensation for Service-Connected Disabilities
When your disability resulted from a disease or injury experienced or worsened during military service, you are eligible for a tax-free monthly benefit. The benefit amount is determined by the degree of the veteran’s disability on a scale that ranges from 10 percent to 100 percent, increased in increments of 10 percent.
You could be eligible for disability compensation for those conditions that are considered to be related or secondary to disabilities that happened during service. Additionally, veterans are eligible for disability benefits when their disabilities are presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even if the condition arose after service. The degrees of disability are meant to compensate you for considerable loss of earning capacity as well concerning illnesses or exacerbations of conditions.
Special Monthly Compensation for Severe Disabilities or Special Circumstances
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) provides veterans, surviving spouses, or parents with an additional tax-free benefit. As outlined by the VA, SMC is a greater rate of compensation for the veteran that is paid as a result of special circumstances, including:
- The necessity of aid or assistance from another person
- Due to specific disability such as the loss of one hand or leg
For spouses and surviving spouses, aid and attendance is paid depending upon the need for aid and attendance by another individual.
Special circumstances can also entitle a veteran to special VA disability compensation programs, including:
- Automobile allowance – when a service-connected disability stops a veteran from driving, they can sometimes receive compensation to purchase a specially-equipped vehicle or to make necessary changes to an existing vehicle.
- Clothing allowance – clothing that is damaged by prosthetics, orthopedic devices, or medicines taken for a skin condition, the VA may be able to compensate you for new clothing.
- Hospitalization – if you had to spend time in a VA or VA-approved hospital for a disability connected to your service, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits for that period of time.
- Convalescence – when you are recovering from surgery and other treatments that impact your mobility, there may be temporary disability benefits and other benefits available to cover your costs.
- Dental – some veterans qualify for dental care through the VA.
- Individual unemployability – when a veteran is unable to work due to a service-connected disability, they may be eligible to receive increased disability payments.
The costs and obligations linked to your disability may result in immediate financial needs after you are discharged from the military. This could entitle you to temporary disability payments or other immediate payments known as prestabilization.
Compensation for Dependents and Survivors
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit that is payable to the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died while on:
- Active duty
- Active duty for training
- Inactive duty training
- Or as a result of service-connected disabilities
DIC is available to spouses and children, while Parents DIC is also available in some situations. Parents DIC is available to parents who were financially dependent on a service member or veteran who died due to a service-related cause. A VA compensation lawyer from our firm can help advise whether or not this benefit might be available in your situation.
Connect with a VA Compensation Lawyer for Help with Your Claim
If you or a loved one has a disability that resulted from service or was pre-existing and worsened by service, you could be entitled to compensation. Veterans and their families may qualify for benefits, and your VA compensation lawyer from our VA benefits law firm is standing by to review your case.
Your initial case review is free, and we only get paid if we win on your case. During your initial consultation, we’ll collect essential information about your condition and service and provide answers to questions about our attorney-client relationship. If we can take your case, we will do so so long as you have received an initial decision from VA already.