Wednesday, September 17, 2014   

Disability Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers two types of disability benefits; Service Connected Compensation and Nonservice-connected Pension.

Service Connected Disability Compensation
This compensation program is available to all veterans who have a current diagnosed condition that is a result of his or her military service. Disability ratings are determined by the level of impairment in accordance with the Schedule for Rating Disabilities (38 CFR, Part 4). There are eleven possible levels of disability assignable for any condition, from 0% to 100%, in 10% increments.

There are four possible ways to connect a disabling condition to the veteran's service:

Direct: The disability is a direct result of an injury in service (e.g., a combat wound, knee injury during PT or while out in the field), or as a result of an incident in service (e.g., cancer due to asbestos exposure), or a medical condition which began while on active duty (e.g., diabetes, reflux, hypertension).
Aggravation: A disability which existed prior to military service and becomes permanently worse during military service; not as the result of the condition's natural progress.
Presumption: Certain chronic and tropical diseases will be presumed to have begun during service if they become manifest to a compensable degree within a specified time. In addition, specified diseases are presumed to be the result of certain incidents of service (prisoner of war, participation in "radiation-risk" activities, herbicide exposure, undiagnosed illnesses associated with service in the Persian Gulf area) if they become manifest to a compensable degree within specified time periods.
Secondary: This may be established for a new condition, which is directly and proximately caused by an established service connected condition. (e.g., veteran is service connected for Type II Diabetes Mellitus and develops Diabetic Neuropathy).

Nonservice-Connected Pension
Pension is an income and net worth based program at poverty levels for disabled veterans and their eligible dependents. The veteran must meet the service requirements, which include at least one day of active service during a period of war, and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Prior to age 65 the veteran must be permanently and totally disabled to be eligible for pension. (The disability must also be for reasons other than the veterans own willful misconduct.) After age 65, no disability is required.

Periods of War recognized by the VA

     World War II - December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946.

     Korean Conflict - June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.

     Vietnam Era - August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975 (Feb. 28, 1961, for veterans who served "in country" before Aug. 5, 1964).

     Gulf War - August 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation.

Minimum Service Requirements

    Service prior to September 7, 1980:
  • Ninety days or more of active duty, one or more of which must have been during a period of war.
  • An aggregate of 90 days or more in two or more periods of service during more than one period of war.
  • If the veteran was released from active duty in less than 90 days, VA may determine if the veteran was released for a service connected disability or had a service connected disability at the time of release from active duty that would have warranted a discharge from disability.
    Service after September 7, 1980:
  • Twenty-four months of continuous active duty, with one day during a period of war; or
  • The full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty.

Pension payments are made to bring a veteran's total annual income, including other retirement or Social Security income, to a level set by Congress. Un-reimbursed medical expenses may reduce countable income for VA purposes.

Pension rates are adjusted annually with a cost of living increase. The rate tables may be accessed through the VA's website at http://benefits.va.gov/pension/spousepen.asp 

To apply for Service Connection or for Pension, complete VA form 21-526.