Understanding Veterans Disability Benefits
This overview of the veterans’ disability benefits program explains the type of military service that qualifies, which medical conditions are eligible, and how benefits are calculated.
Veterans’ are entitled to compensation for disability from an injury or disease that occurred (or was aggravated) during active military service. This applies to partial or full disability, on a scale from 0 – 100% disabled, depending on how much the condition interferes with your normal life functions.
Type of military service
In order to qualify for veterans disability benefits, your injuries or diseases need to have occurred, or been aggravated, during active military service, defined as:
- active duty, OR
- active duty for training, OR
- inactive duty training.
Eligible veterans need to have been discharged or released “under conditions other than dishonorable.”
Eligible medical conditions
Disability payments can be made for both physical and mental health conditions. Two examples provided on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website are:
- A reservist who injures her knee during physical training – she is entitled to compensation for residual problems from the knee injury.
- A veteran who served for three years in the Navy, fell and injured his back during active duty — after being honorably discharged, he is entitled to disability benefits for residuals from his back injury.
Compensation is available for a wide range of physical and emotional conditions. These include injuries during boot camp, ringing in the ears from driving a tank, or anxiety since combat experience. Claims and benefits are increasing for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – the most common mental health disorder from combat.
If you are found to have an eligible condition stemming from military service, you will be rated on a scale from 0 – 100% disabled. If you are at least 10% disabled, you will receive a monthly tax-free payment. The monthly veterans disability benefit currently listed for 100% disability is $2769 for a veteran with no dependents. From this base payment, additional benefits can be available, such as:
- Additional compensation is paid out for dependents, which can rise to a total of $3285 monthly for full disability.
- For certain conditions requiring the need of aid and attendance, an additional Special Monthly Compensation may be available.
- Other benefits – Once disability is established, funds may be available for other types of assistance, such as an automobile allowance, clothing allowance, convalescence, dental, etc.
Be sure to find out all you’re eligible for. There are no age or income requirements to receive benefits, and you can still work if you’re able.
Administration of Benefits
The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs administers health benefits to veterans. The DVA is the second largest federal agency, next to the Department of Defense. It has two separate health-related divisions:
- The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) runs the VA medical centers and provides healthcare to veterans. It does not run the disability benefits program.
- Veterans Benefits Administration – The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processes applications for veterans disability benefits.
Usually the two departments have offices in entirely separate facilities and are run separately. For example, a VHA doctor may be treating your service-related condition, but you are not technically a “disabled veteran” until you apply and are approved by the Veterans Benefits Administration.
There are many flaws in the application processing system, including long delays and very high error rates. See our articles for more details on how to apply for Veterans disability benefits:
- Veterans Disability Benefits – How do I apply?
- How You Can Qualify For VA Benefits
- Disabled American Veterans Are Entitled to Compensation