Military service comes with many rewards — and its fair share of risks. For many veterans, service in a branch of the military leads to lifelong disability due to an illness or injury. If that disability was connected to their service, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will typically pay benefits.
Like many types of federal benefits, it can be hard to understand the ins and outs of VA disability benefits. The process of applying can be incredibly overwhelming, requiring a substantial amount of paperwork. Some veterans are reluctant to undertake the process, daunted by the levels of bureaucracy and the possibility of having their claim rejected.
Despite all of the forms and evidence required, if you are disabled as a result of your military service, you may be entitled to compensation. According to the 2021 VA disability pay chart, your monthly benefits could be substantial based on your level of disability. Read on to learn more about VA benefits — and the amount of compensation you may receive in 2021.
What Is VA Disability Compensation?
The VA provides disability benefits to certain veterans. To qualify, a veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. In addition, a veteran must have a current illness or injury that either began during or was made worse during their military service.
The amount of disability benefits that a veteran receives will depend on their combined disability rating. This disability rating is assigned by the VA for each of their service-connected disabilities. The VA uses its Schedule for Rating Disabilities to assign a rating, which is based on the severity of the individual’s medical condition.
If a veteran has more than one service-connected condition, then the VA will combine their disability ratings using its combined ratings table. The final number will be expressed as a percentage, from 0% to 100%. The monthly compensation amount for a veteran is determined based on the VA disability compensation schedule.
A veteran with a combined rating of 30% or higher may be eligible for additional compensation for qualifying defendants. This may include a spouse, children under the age of 18, children between the ages of 18 – 23 who are still in school, and dependent parents.
The Current Chart — and How to Read It
Each year, the VA adjusts its monthly compensation amounts based on the increase in the cost of living, as determined by the Social Security Administration. The cost of living adjustment (COLA) allows the VA to increase compensation amounts with the rate of inflation. The 2019 veterans disability benefits compensation schedule became effective on December 1, 2020, and was first reflected on veterans’ checks on December 31, 2020.
|Combined Disability Rating||2019 VA Compensation Rates|
The above chart represents payments for veterans without dependents. If a veteran has dependents, then the amount that they receive each month will increase.
Reading the VA disability compensation schedule to determine your 2021 monthly benefit requires two pieces of information: your combined disability rating and number of dependents (if any). On the VA website, the tables are divided into charts for veterans based on their disability rating.
How Your Disability Rating Is Calculated by the VA
Disability benefits are granted to veterans based on a Ratings Schedule. Under this schedule, a veteran’s benefits will increase along with their level of disability (from 0 to 100%). For example, a veteran who is considered “totally disabled” due to service-connected impairments will receive a rating of 100%. In some cases, veterans with serious injuries may receive additional compensation.
The Ratings Schedule groups disabilities into categories, such as “the cardiovascular system” and “mental disorders.” Within each category, the VA has a schedule of ratings for specific diagnoses, with ratings awarded based on particular symptoms. A veteran must have those symptoms to qualify for that rating.
When rating a disability, the VA will first look at the category that your disability falls under, such as the musculoskeletal system, and then will find your diagnosis. Then the VA will select the diagnostic code that best fits your symptoms presented, leading to a disability rating.
Reading the Disability Compensation Schedule
To determine the amount of benefits you will receive, first look at the chart based on your disability rating. From there, select the life situation that applies to you. For example, if you have a 40% combined rating and no dependents, then you will choose the 30 to 60% chart and find the “veterans alone” dependent status to see that you are entitled to $635.77 per month in 2019.
Veterans with a combined disability rating of 30% or higher may be eligible for additional compensation if they have qualified dependents. This includes a spouse, children under the age of 18, children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are still in school, and dependent parents. The 2021 VA disability pay chart lists the disability benefit amounts for veterans with dependents based on their combined disability rating.
|Veteran with spouse & child||$535.35||$7756.77||$1056.04||$1328.39|
|Veteran with child only||$476.35||$681.77||$963.04||$1216.39|
|Veteran with spouse, one parent & child||$574.35||$812.77||$1126.04||$1412.39|
|Veteran with spouse, two parents & child||$616.35||$868.77||$1196.04||$1496.39|
|Veteran with one parent & child||$518.35||$737.77||$1033.04||$1300.39|
|Veteran with two parents & child||$560.35||$793.77||$1103.04||$1384.39|
|Add for each additional child under 18||$26.00||$34.00||$43.00||$52.00|
|Each child in school over 18||$84.00||$112.00||$140.00||$168.00|
|Additional for Aid & Assistance Spouse||$48.00||$64.00||$81.00||$96.00|
|Veteran with spouse & child||$1609.71||$1867.69||$2098.62||$3352.41|
|Veteran with child only||$1482.71||$1722.69||$1935.62||$3171.12|
|Veteran with spouse, one parent & child||$1704.71||$1976.69||$2221.62||$3489.20|
|Veteran with spouse, two parents & child||$1799.71||$2085.69||$2344.62||$3625.99|
|Veteran with one parent & child||$1577.71||$1831.69||$2058.62||$3307.91|
|Veteran with two parents & child||$1672.71||$1940.69||$2181.62||$3444.70|
|Add for each additional child under 18||$59.00||$67.00||$76.00||$84.69|
|Each child in school over 18||$191.00||$218.00||$246.00||$273.58|
|Additional for Aid & Assistance Spouse||$109.00||$125.00||$141.00||$156.32|
There are situations where you may be entitled to additional benefits. This includes a benefit known as special monthly compensation.
What Is Special Monthly Compensation?
Special monthly compensation (SMC) is an additional tax-free benefit that may be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses, and parents. It is an additional form of compensation paid to veterans based on unique circumstances, such as the need for aid and attendance (A/A) by another person or for a specific disability, such as the loss of a limb. The SMC rates vary based on the disability of the veteran and whether they have a dependent or dependents.
The VA will pay SMC to a veteran who lost or lost the use of specific organs or body parts due to their military service. This means either amputation or that there is no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ. SMC applies to:
- Loss or loss of use of a hand or foot
- Immobility of a joint
- Loss of sight of an eye
- Loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ
- Complete loss or loss of use of both buttocks
- Inability to communicate by speech
- Deafness of both ears
- Loss of a percentage of tissue from a single breast or both breasts from mastectomy or radiation treatment
The VA will also pay SMC for veterans who have a service-connected disability at the 100% rate, and who — as a result — is either housebound, bedridden, or requires the aid and attendance of another person. An individual who has lost the use of multiple body parts or organs may receive a higher rate of SMC.
Work with a New Jersey Veterans Benefits Attorney
The initial process of applying for VA benefits is non-adversarial, which means that a lawyer cannot represent you. However, if your claim is denied or if you want to appeal an aspect of your claim — such as your disability rating, a New Jersey veterans benefits attorney can help.
For more than 20 years, Bross & Frankel has served veterans throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We provide free consultations for all veterans and aggressively advocate for your right to veterans benefits, including special monthly compensation where applicable. To learn more, contact our office today at (866) 708-3985, or reach out online.