About 600,000 veterans have a service-connected disability – that’s one out of every four of the 2.3 million vets who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, disability compensation is “a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.” Monthly benefits are paid out based on the severity of the injury or illness, and the number of a veteran’s dependents.
Claims and Benefits Paid Out Continue to Increase
A decade of war has left thousands of disabled American veterans, with a wide range of physical and mental conditions that affect their daily lives. In addition, many new claims are coming from vets from the Vietnam era, some with illnesses now recognized to come from exposure to Agent Orange.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the second largest federal agency next to the Department of Defense, spent about $46 billion in 2012 on disability benefits and expects to spend $57 billion next year. That’s nearly four times the amount spent in 2000, which was $15 billion.
Since 2010, the number of new claims filed annually has increased by almost 50%. Over one million disabled American veterans filed new claims in 2011, which included vets from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
Don’t be ashamed to claim what you’re entitled to
Veterans groups report that the economy is causing some vets to apply for disability benefits who might otherwise just try to put up with their conditions. Some vets might be embarrassed that they can’t find a job – but the down economy is an even better reason to see if you are eligible for disability compensation.
There are at least four good reasons to go ahead and get an official designation for your condition:
- Extra money – Even if your condition is found to render you only 10% disabled, you could still receive about $127 each month, tax-free.
- Your condition may worsen over time – You may be young now and think that bad knee isn’t that bad, but it can decelerate into arthritis by middle age. Start now to accumulate those monthly payments you’ll be glad to have later.
- Access to more benefits – Once you receive a disability designation, the VA pays for the medical care you need for that condition. In some cases, you may also have access to medical care for problems not related to the disability. Disabled American veterans may also be eligible for other programs such as vocational rehabilitation, VA guaranteed home loans and other benefits.
- Survivor benefits – One reason not to delay applying for official designation of your disability is that the survivors of disabled vets can be eligible for education benefits and pensions.
If you are suffering from a physical or mental condition that stems from your military service for your country, you are entitled to be compensated for it. Don’t delay finding out what you need to know to make your application.