Posted on behalf of The Nye Law Group on May 25, 2017 in Veterans' Benefits
If you suffered a serious injury during your service in the U.S. Armed Forces, you have probably heard that you might be eligible for veterans' disability benefits. In fact, you may have already applied for benefits.
Regardless of where you are in the process, or if you have yet to apply, you probably have many questions about veterans' disability compensation. Below, the Nye Law Group's Savannah veterans' disability lawyers answer some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic.
Disability benefits provide financial support to veterans who have disabilities caused by injuries that occurred or were aggravated by their military service. Benefits are tax-free and distributed monthly for veterans and their dependents.
The amount and types of benefits you receive are determined by the severity of your disability and whether you have dependents.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awards disability compensation to veterans who meet three qualifications:
In some cases, it is relatively easy to prove that your injury is directly connected to your service. For instance, it should not be too hard to establish that your paralysis is the result of a back injury sustained in combat. This is known as a direct service connection.
There are four more ways to establish a service connection so you can qualify for disability benefits:
The VA will automatically assume there is a service connection if you have certain disabilities. For instance, the VA presumes a service connection for prisoners of war who have a stroke, heart disease and psychosis, among many other conditions.
If you had a medical condition listed on your initial medical exam when you enlisted, you should be able to recover compensation if the injury was aggravated during your service and you have proof of an incident that caused the aggravation.
This is for disabilities caused by another disability you have already proven to be connected to your service. You do not need to establish a service connection for secondary disabilities.
If you can prove that your injury was caused by poor health care from the VA, it will likely be deemed service-connected.
There are three ways to apply for disability compensation:
You will need the following documentation to complete your application, whether you are applying online, by mail or in person:
You must go through a VA medical evaluation unless your primary care provider completes a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) that applies to the category of your disability or medical condition.
The VA has more than 70 DBQs for a wide variety of medical conditions, including:
The purpose of a DBQ is to document your diagnosis and all related symptoms. These forms have long lists of symptoms and all your primary care provider needs to do is mark the boxes next to the symptoms you are experiencing. There are also a few places where your primary care doctor can explain some of your symptoms in greater detail.
This is a much easier way to document your diagnosis and symptoms, as opposed to providing a long narrative summary in your application for benefits.
The lists of symptoms on these forms use standardized language, which helps the VA make a decision about your application more quickly. These forms were designed to help streamline the process of applying for benefits.
The only downside to using a DBQ is that you are responsible for all co-pays and related costs for visiting the doctor to complete the form.
When you submit your application, the VA will calculate your percentage of disability, also known as your disability rating. You must be at least 10 percent disabled to receive disability benefits.
Your disability rating determines the amount of compensation you receive. The higher your disability rating, the more compensation you receive.
There are different types of compensation depending on the severity of your disability, including:
This is the standard form of compensation paid to veterans and their dependents. You could receive anywhere from $133.57 per month if you have a disability rating of 10 percent to $2,915.55 per month if you are 100 percent disabled.
Rate tables on the VA website show how much you could receive if you have dependents, such as spouses, children and parents. The more dependents you have, the more compensation you could receive.
This is only available in special circumstances, such as when the veteran needs assistance from another person to handle activities of daily living due to:
Compensation is available for spouses, surviving spouses and parents.
Disabilities are divided into different groups to determine the amount of compensation received. For instance, a veteran who lost the use of an eye would receive $103.54, in addition to his or her regular disability compensation.
This form of compensation is for spouses, biological children and biological, adoptive or foster parents.
The general rate for spouses is $1,257.95 per month, while the rate for parents is dependent on their marital status. For example, parents who are still married could receive anywhere between $5 and $423 per month.
The VA disability program is currently backlogged. Most veterans experience a wait of about one year before receiving a decision on their application.
Filing an appeal may add another eight to 12 months to the process. However, if your appeal is unsuccessful and you file another one, you could wait several more months for a final decision.
Veterans may work while receiving disability benefits. However, if the VA rates your disability at 100 percent and you continue working, the VA may lower your rating. This is because the VA considers those with 100 percent disability ratings to be unemployable.
If you qualify for both programs, you can receive benefits from each one at the same time. Eligibility for one program does not affect eligibility for another or the amount of compensation you will receive.
After reviewing your notice, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will send you a Statement of Case summarizing the evidence in your case and the reasons why the original decision was upheld or reversed.
If the original decision is upheld, you can file a Substantive Appeal with the VBA within 60 days of receiving the Statement of Case. If you are denied again, you have four options:
The Nye Law Group's Savannah injury attorneys have in-depth knowledge of the process of applying for veterans' disability compensation. We can guide you every step of the way, from your initial application to any appeals.
We know how to collect the information you need to build a strong case for why you should receive compensation.
We do not charge for your initial consultation and do not recover legal fees unless you receive compensation.
Contact The Nye Law Group right now for a free legal consultation.