Unfortunately, some people who join the armed forces are killed or suffer physical or psychological injuries that cause long-term or permanent disabilities that make it more difficult to take care of themselves and support their families.
That is why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides disability benefits to veterans and the families of veterans who died during their service, assuming the veteran or his or her family meet certain eligibility requirements.
The experienced Savannah veterans’ disability lawyers at The Nye Law Group can help determine all types of benefits you are eligible to receive, which may include:
This is a monthly, tax-free benefit that ranges from $133.57 to $2,915.55. The more severe your disability, the more money you receive.
In order to qualify for disability compensation, the veteran must prove that his or her disability or medical condition was caused or aggravated by an injury suffered during military service, which includes active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training.
The disability can be physical, such as a spinal cord injury, loss of a limb or traumatic brain injury, or psychological, like post-traumatic stress disorder. However, you are eligible for compensation only if the VA’s rating of your disability is 10 percent or higher.
If your disability is rated at 30 percent or higher, you can receive additional compensation for your dependents, if you have any.
If you are a military retiree, applying for disability compensation does not affect your eligibility for retirement pay. However, your retirement pay will be reduced by the amount of disability benefits you receive, unless you qualify for one of these programs:
- Concurrent retirement disability pay – This is for military retirees who have a disability rating of 50 percent or higher. If you qualify, you can receive your full retirement pay in addition to disability compensation, with no offset.
- Combat-related special compensation – This is for military retirees who qualify for disability compensation but have a disability that is the result of a combat-related incident. However, this only applies to your combat-related disability. If you have other non-combat-related disabilities, your retirement pay will still be offset by the amount of compensation you receive for those medical conditions.
DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION
This is reserved for the spouses and biological children of veterans who were killed while on active duty. Like disability compensation, this benefit is also tax free.
There are different compensation rates for veterans who died on or after Jan. 1, 1993 and those who died before that date.
The basic monthly rate for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for spouses of veterans who died on or after Jan. 1, 1993 is $1,257.95.
More compensation will be added if the deceased veteran or surviving spouse meet certain conditions. For example, if the surviving spouse is eligible for aid and attendance benefits, the VA will add $311.64 to the monthly amount of DIC. The VA also adds $311.64 in monthly compensation for each dependent child under the age of 18, regardless of when the veteran died.
The amount of compensation for surviving spouses of veterans who died prior to 1993 is based on the veteran’s pay grade. Compensation ranges from $1,257 for an enlisted service member to as much as $2,882.42 for officers.
Spouses have to meet one of several conditions to qualify for DIC. For instance, they have to have been married to the veteran for at least one year; married to a service member on active duty, duty for training or inactive duty; or married the veteran before Jan. 1, 1957.
Surviving children can qualify if they are unmarried, not included on the surviving spouse’s application, and are younger than 18 years old or between the ages of 18 and 23 attending school.
PARENTS’ DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION
This is reserved for the parents of service members who were killed in the line of duty. These individuals can be biological, adoptive or foster parents.
In order to qualify for this type of compensation, parents have to prove the veteran was their child and establish that he or she had a service-connected disability.
If the parents are still married to each other, they can receive anywhere from $5 to $423 per month. The higher their monthly income, the less compensation they receive. This also applies to a parent who has remarried someone.
If one parent is no longer married to the other and did not get remarried, compensation ranges from $5 to $450.
The rate tables on the VA website explain compensation amounts in more detail.
SPECIAL MONTHLY COMPENSATION
This benefit is in addition to standard disability compensation, but it is reserved for severe disabilities and medical problems, including:
- Loss or loss of use of a foot or hand
- Loss of vision
- Loss or loss of use of a reproductive organ
- Loss of the ability to speak
You will receive more compensation if you have a combination of these types of disabilities. For example, you would receive more compensation if you have paraplegia with a complete loss of bladder control.
The VA divides disabilities that are eligible for special monthly compensation (SMC) into different groups. For instance, SMC-K covers the loss of use of an eye, ear, hand, foot, buttocks or creative organ. The veteran receives $103.54 for each condition he or she has that falls under SMC-K.
A veteran with a SMC-L condition who lives alone can receive $3,627.87 per month, according to the SMC rate table. SMC-L includes conditions for which the veteran needs regular aid and attendance. SMC-L also covers veterans who are permanently bedridden or have a combination of losses or loss of use of extremities.
DISABILITY PENSION BENEFITS
Veterans who are disabled but do not qualify for disability compensation can receive a disability pension.
The VA also offers two improved pension programs for veterans in certain circumstances.
This is reserved for veterans who have a disability that leaves them substantially confined to their home.
AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFITS
This is for veterans who require assistance with at least some daily living activities. Veterans are eligible even if they are not currently paying a caregiver to come to their home.
Veterans can also apply for this if they are not disabled but their spouse is and needs daily assistance.
ELIGIBILITY FOR PENSION BENEFITS
There are several eligibility requirements for pension benefits, including aid and attendance and household benefits. The veteran must:
- Have assets and income below income limits
- Have not received a dishonorable discharge
- Have served for at least 90 days, including one day of service during wartime
- Be totally and permanently disabled or 65 years old or older
The income limits vary based on the veteran’s living situation. For instance, if the veteran does not have a spouse or child, he or she must be making less than $12,907 per year. If two veterans are married to each other and are housebound, they must make less than $19,770.
The skilled attorneys at The Nye Law Group can help you determine your eligibility for these forms of compensation. We offer a free, no obligation legal consultation and do not charge for our services unless you receive compensation.
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