If you served in the United States military, you may already be aware that you are entitled to certain benefits, such as healthcare and education. In addition, veterans with a disability that is linked to their military service may qualify for monthly cash payments. These benefits are available for service members whose physical condition or mental health condition was either caused or made worse by their military service. These benefits are technically called Veterans Disability Compensation. Compensation benefits are the focus of this overview. There are other benefits, like a VA Disability Pension that might be available to disabled veterans who served during a period of war even if their conditions aren’t related to service, but we’ll focus on compensation here.
Veterans disability benefits are offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To be eligible, you must have a service-connected disability and have an “other than dishonorable” discharge. The benefit amount that you receive is based in part on your disability rating.
At Bross & Frankel, we are committed to helping disabled veterans get the benefits that they are entitled to under the law. We offer free claim reviews, where we will explain your rights and options. Reach out to our law offices today to talk to a New Jersey veterans disability benefits attorney.
What Are Veterans Disability Benefits?
Veterans disability benefits – or VA disability benefits – are monthly tax-free payments that vets may be eligible for if they have a service-connected condition. Veterans with physical conditions (like cancer from exposure to a toxic substance) as well as vets with mental health conditions (like post-traumatic stress disorder/PTSD) may be eligible for these benefits.
To qualify for VA disability benefits, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must have a current illness or injury (condition) that affects your mind or body; AND
- You must have served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
In addition, your condition must be service-connected. This means your physical or mental health condition must either be linked to your service (an in-service disability claim) or was made worse by your service (a pre-service disability claim). It also includes conditions that appeared until after service (a post-service disability claim). For example, if you struggled with mild depression and anxiety before joining the military, and your service made these conditions worse, it may be considered a service-connected disability.
The VA also maintains a list of presumptive conditions, which are presumed to be caused by military service. This includes chronic illnesses that appear within a year of discharge, illnesses caused by contact with contaminants or other hazardous materials, and illnesses caused by time spent as a prisoner of war (POW).
The amount of disability compensation that you will receive will depend on their disability rating. This is a percentage that is assigned to a service-connected disability, based on the severity of the condition. A disability rating ranges from 0 to 100%. A disabled veteran with a rating of 100% is considered to be “totally disabled.”
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 vet has more than one service-connected condition, then the amount of disability compensation will be based on the VA combined ratings table. This combined disability rating is assigned by the VA for each of their service-connected disabilities. The monthly compensation amount will then be based on the VA disability compensation schedule.
The amount of compensation that a veteran can receive changes from year to year. In 2023, a disabled veteran with a 10% disability rating may receive a monthly benefit of $165.92. A totally disabled veteran with a 100% disability rating may receive as much as $4,081.14 per month if they have dependents. These numbers are based on the charts put out by the VA. Our veterans disability benefits calculator is an easy way to determine what you might be entitled to in terms of monthly benefits.
A veteran with a combined disability rating of 30% or higher may be eligible for additional benefits 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 VA offers other benefits for disabled veterans, including:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to surviving spouses, children, or parents of a servicemember who died during service or of a service-connected disability;
- Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), which is a higher rate of compensation that can be paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses and parents if the veteran needs additional aid and attendance because of the nature or severity of their disability.
You must otherwise qualify for veterans disability benefits to be eligible for these additional benefits. If you received an other than honorable (OTH) discharge, a dishonorable discharge, or a bad conduct discharge, you may not be eligible for VA benefits.
Common Types of VA Disability Claims
Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation benefits for any service-connected disability. This includes both medical conditions as well as mental health issues that were either caused by or made worse from military service.
The VA maintains data on disability claims, which is then released in its Annual Benefits Report. This report highlights the medical conditions that veterans experience, often at higher rates than their civilian counterparts. In 2022, the most frequent VA disability claims were:
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. This is often a symptom of an underlying condition such as a hearing loss.
- Limitation of flexion, knee, which involves a limited range of motion of the knee that is usually caused by an injury.
- Lumbosacral or cervical strain, which can include a range of back injuries and the associated pain.
- Limitation of the motion of the arm, which includes a limited range of motion that is typically from some type of arm or shoulder injury.
- Scars, burns (2nd degree), scarring related to your service – including from burns – can qualify for VA disability benefits.
- Hearing loss, which can include everything from total hearing loss to a more mild muffling of speech and other sounds.
- Limitation of the motion of the ankle, which often develops from an ankle injury that did not fully heal or was not completely rehabilitated.
- Paralysis of the sciatic nerve, which occurs when the sciatic nerve (that runs from the lower back through the legs) is compressed or pinched.
- Migraine, which may be connected to military service due to issues such as noise exposure, intense situations, and/or brain injuries.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that results from experiencing a shocking or traumatic event. Combat veterans often experienced PTSD.
Importantly, just because your medical or mental health condition is not on this list does not mean that you do not have a viable claim. This is just a compilation of the most common types of new veterans’ disability claims for 2022. There are a whole range of potential disabilities that could qualify a veteran for benefits.
Applying for VA Disability Benefits
If you believe that you qualify for veterans disability benefits, then you can fill a claim for benefits. Importantly, you cannot be represented by counsel at this stage. You can hire a New Jersey veterans disability lawyer if you need to appeal some aspect of your VA disability benefits claim.
To start, you will need to fill out VA Form 21-526EZ. Be sure to fill it out completely. This claim form, along with any supporting evidence, can be filed online, by mail, in person at a VA regional office, or with the help of a trained professional known as an accredited representative.
Supporting evidence for a VA disability claim may include information such as VA medical records and hospital records, other medical records and hospital reports, and supporting statements from people who know you and how your disability has affected your life. You are not required to submit additional evidence with your claim such as a statement in support of claim. However, doing so can help your claim to be processed more quickly.
Once your claim has been submitted, then the next step is simply to wait for a decision. You can also use the VA’s online tool to track your claim status. Once a decision has been made, you will receive a notice in the mail – often within 3 months, although the length of time may vary based on the type of claim filed, the complexity of your disabilities, and how long it takes the VA to gather evidence.
If you disagree with any part of the VA’s decision, such as your eligibility for benefits or your disability rating, you can file an appeal. This can be done by (1) filing a supplemental claim with new evidence; (2) requesting a higher-level review; or (3) filing an appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. A seasoned New Jersey VA disability attorney can help disabled veterans with the appeals process.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
The process of applying for and being approved for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be frustrating. If you have been diagnosed with a mental health or medical condition related to your military service, then you may be eligible for monthly disability benefits. After you have filed an initial application for benefits, our law office can assist you with any appeals or related proceedings after you file an initial application for benefits.
Based in Cherry Hill, NJ, Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities – including disabled veterans – in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. For each of our veteran clients, our goal is to get you the highest possible disability rating so that you can get the compensation that you deserve for your service-connected medical or mental health condition. 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.