If you served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, then you may be eligible for certain benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA offers a range of benefits, from housing assistance to education and training to health care. It also provides disability compensation for veterans who have a disability that is connected to their military service.
Disabled veterans may be eligible for the primary type of benefits, disability compensation. This is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to vets with service-connected disabilities based on the percentage that they are disabled. There are additional types of compensation for family members whose loved one died due to their service, for veterans who need additional assistance, and for other special circumstances.
Bross & Frankel represents veterans in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware who are seeking compensation for their service-connected disability or disabilities. We offer free claim reviews and advocate for veterans in the VA appeals process. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a New Jersey veterans disability lawyer, give our law offices a call.
Types of Veterans Disability Benefits
The VA pays monthly cash benefits to veterans with disabilities that were either caused by or made worse through their military service. VA disability benefits can be for both medical and mental health conditions. To qualify, you must be a veteran with a current illness or injury that is related in some way to your military service.
The main disability benefit that most disabled veterans will qualify for is disability compensation. However, in some situations, veterans and/or their loved ones may qualify for additional types of benefits. These benefits are described in greater detail below.
Disability compensation is the primary type of benefit available to veterans who have been diagnosed with an injury or illness that was either incurred or aggravated by active military service. The VA maintains a list of presumptive service-connected conditions, such as disabilities caused by time spent as a prisoner of war (POW) or by exposure to toxic chemicals. In addition, a veteran may qualify for disabilities that are secondary to service-connected disabilities.
A veteran can qualify for disability compensation by filling out an application and submitting evidence, such as medical records and service records. If you qualify, then the VA will assign a disability rating between 0 and 100% (in increments of 10 percent). If the VA denies your application or assigns a low disability rating, you may appeal its decision.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
If a service member dies during military service or as a result of a service-connected disability, then their dependents may qualify for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC). Generally, surviving spouses, dependent children, and surviving parents may be eligible for DIC. However, they must meet certain criteria – such as a parent being financially dependent on their veteran child – to qualify.
To receive these benefits, a surviving spouse, child, or parent must fill out an application based on their specific situation. Once approved, a surviving spouse, dependent child, and/or surviving parent will receive a monthly tax-free benefit. The amount of benefits that you get will be based on the type of survivor.
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)
If a veteran qualifies for disability compensation and meets certain criteria, then they may be eligible for special monthly compensation (SMC). SMC increases a veteran’s monthly disability compensation payments, and may also be paid to a spouse or surviving spouse. The amount paid to spouses is referred to as “aid and attendance.”
SMC is generally available in situations where:
- A veteran has a very severe disability or loss of limb; or
- A veteran has one or more dependents (such as a spouse, child, and/or parent) and their combined disability rating is 30% or more; or
- A veteran has a serious disability and needs aid and attendance by their spouse.
The VA should automatically provide SMC if a veteran qualifies for it. However, if the VA does not award you with SMC and you believe that you qualify for it, you can submit an appeal to the VA.
Disability Claims Based on Special Circumstances
After the VA determines that a veteran has a service-connected disability, they may award additional compensation based on special circumstances. This may include:
- Automobile allowance and adaptive equipment, for veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from driving.
- Birth defects linked to Agent Orange, for children of veterans with spina bifida and other birth defects.
- Money for damaged clothing from orthopedic or prosthetic devices or from medication for a skin condition.
- Convalescence for recovering from surgery or another treatment related to a service-connected disability may result in temporary disability payments or other benefits.
- Dental care through the VA
- Time spent in the hospital for a service-connected disability
- Individual unemployability may allow you to receive increased disability payments if you can’t work because of your service-connected disability or disabilities
- Title 38 U.S.C. 1151 disabilities, which are added disabilities that occur while getting VA medical care or participating in a VA employment or training program
- Temporary disability payments for veterans who recently ended their active military service and have a service-connected disability.
These payments may be temporary, one-time, or may increase your disability compensation benefits each month. If you have questions about whether you may qualify for one or more of these special programs, talk to your New Jersey VA disability benefits attorney.
How VA Disability Compensation Is Calculated
For basic disability compensation, the VA calculates the amount of disability benefits that a veteran will receive based on its impairment rating table. As noted above, a disability rating is a percentage between 0 and 100% assigned to a service-connected disability. More severe disabilities will result in a higher disability rating (or combined disability rating) and typically, higher monthly payments.
The VA impairment rating chart is also referred to as the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. It is broken down into 13 major body systems, with each system listing specific diseases or conditions. A disability rating is based on a veteran’s symptoms for a particular disease on the chart. If you have more than 1 disability, then the VA will use a combined rating table to determine your disability rating.
Once you have your disability rating, you can then determine your monthly compensation. If your disability rating is between 10 and 20%, then you will receive a set monthly payment amount. If your disability rating is 30 to 100%, then you will receive a higher payment based on whether you have a dependent spouse, parent, and/or children.
DIC compensation rates are based on several factors. This includes your relationship to the deceased veteran (surviving spouse, child, or parent), when they died, and your unique circumstances. For example, if you are a surviving spouse who has one or more dependent children, then you may qualify for $1,612.75 per month plus $342 per month for the first two years and $399.54 for each eligible child. For surviving parents, the amount of DIC will depend on your income.
SMC rates are based on the type of disability, the level of the veteran’s needs, and whether or not they have dependents. For example, you will receive a higher level of SMC if you need daily help with basic needs and an even higher amount if you cannot leave the house because of your service-connected disabilities. You can also receive additional SMC for each additional dependent child and spouse receiving aid and attendance.
For special circumstances benefits, you may be entitled to:
- Up to $25,603.02 for an automobile allowance
- Up to $991.51 for replacement clothing
- $190 to $2,352 per month for a child with birth defects due to their parent’s exposure to toxic chemicals during military service.
- Temporary disability is based on your disability rating and typically lasts for 1 to 3 months (up to 6 months for more severe cases)
- Individual employability may increase your disability rate to 100%, which would increase your disability compensation based on the regular compensation charts
Understanding what type of compensation – and how much money – you may be entitled to can be challenging. If you have questions about your VA disability benefits, reach out to an experienced veteran disability lawyer to schedule a free claim review. They can help you understand your rights, and assist you with an appeal if the VA has denied your claim or provided you with a lower level of benefits.
Filing for Veterans’ Disability? Bross and Frankel Can Help You Get Approved.
Although applying for and receiving veterans benefits is supposed to be straightforward, the government rarely makes anything easy. It can be especially confusing when you have more unusual circumstances, such as a more severe service-connected disability. Our law firm is here to help. Note: Bross and Frankel attorneys cannot assist with initial filings, but can help with the appeals process.
At Bross & Frankel, we are proud to represent the men and women who have bravely served our country. We work with veterans to help them get the benefits that they are entitled to, including disability compensation and related benefits. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a veterans disability attorney, contact our office today at (866) 859-1061 or fill out our online contact form.
Related: How to Apply for Veterans Benefits
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.