Disability Compensation is a tax-free cash benefit program, administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for veterans with disabilities resulting from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. Millions of veterans across the country depend on Disability Compensation benefits to meet their basic needs.
How many veterans receive disability compensation?
An estimated 4.26 million veterans received Disability Compensation benefits in 2015, according to a VA report. Each year, the VA publishes a report that provides county-level estimates of the number of veterans who received VA Disability Compensation, and breaks down the recipients by total disability rating group, age, and gender.
For example, in the Compensation and Pension by County: 2016 report, the VA reported the following information for Wake County, NC veterans:
- Total number of Wake County veterans who received Disability Compensation: 9,680
- Number of veterans who had a zero to 20 percent disability rating: 2,840
- Number of veterans who had a 30 to 40 percent disability rating: 1,849
- Number of veterans who had a 50 to 60 percent disability rating: 1,571
- Number of veterans who had a 70 to 90 percent disability rating: 2,420
- Number of veterans who had a 100 percent disability rating: 1,180
- Approximate ratio of male to female Veteran Disability recipients: 8.9 to 1.3
- Recipients under age 35: 1,443
- Recipients ages 34 to 44: 1,690
- Recipients ages 45 to 54: 2,144
- Recipients ages 55 to 64: 1,830
- Recipients ages 65 to 74: 2,217
How has the veterans disability benefit program changed in recent years?
There has been a marked surge in the number of veterans receiving benefits in recent years. In 2016, the number of veterans receiving disability benefits rose to 4.6 million. Enrollment in the VA benefit system has climbed steadily over the past 15 years. In the year 2000, only approximately 2.3 million veterans received Disability Compensation for which the government spent approximately $20 billion. By 2013, the number of veterans receiving disability increased to 3.5 million, for which the VA spent $54 billion.
Veterans from recent wars are filing for disability much more frequently than veterans from earlier times. Over 40 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans (about 875,000 people) were on disability as of 2014, reports the Los Angeles Times. And annual disability costs have more than doubled since 2000, reports the VA.
We can attribute the increase in VA Disability Compensation benefits to several factors:
- Changes in federal policies (The Obama administration made it easier to get approved for benefits.)
- Sustained warfare overseas
- Veterans of the recent wars with disabilities have an average of 6.3 medical conditions each, much higher than past wars.
- The expanded eligibility for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other common afflictions
- The federal government has increased its incentives and campaigns to encourage veterans to apply for VA benefits.
How much are monthly Disability Compensation benefits?
A veteran’s Disability Compensation monthly benefit depends on his/her disability rating and the number of dependents s/he has. Benefit amounts also change periodically due to Cost of Living Adjustments or COLAs. Effective December 1, 2016, a veteran with no spouse and no children would receive the following amounts:
- 10 percent disability rating: $133.57
- 20 percent disability rating: $264.02
- 30 percent disability rating: $408.97
- 40 percent disability rating: $589.12
- 50 percent disability rating: $838.64
- 60 percent disability rating: $1,062.27
- 70 percent disability rating: $1,338.71
- 80 percent disability rating: $1,556.13
- 90 percent disability rating: $1,748.71
- 100 percent disability rating: $2,915.55
Of course, veterans with dependents receive much more. A veteran with a 100 percent disability rating who has a spouse and child would receive $3,197.16/month. Each additional child under the age of 18 adds $80.76 to the benefit. For more information about benefit amounts, you can review the Veterans Compensation Benefits Rate Tables.
For what types of Disability Compensation claims can veterans file?
There are numerous types of Disability Compensation claims that servicemembers can file for. The type of claim a veteran should file depends on when his/her condition arose:
- Pre-Discharge Claims: A servicemember can file a pre-discharge Disability Compensation claim when she is within 180 days of separation or retirement from active duty or full-time National Guard duty.
- Pre-Service Disability Claims: Veterans who entered service with known disabilities can file a pre-service Disability Compensation claim if their military service aggravated their condition. (The VA will only pay for the “level of aggravation,” not the total disability. For example, if a veteran entered service with a 10 percent disability rating and his condition worsened to a 30 percent rating, the VA will only pay compensation for the 20 percent aggravation.)
- In-Service Disability Claims: Veterans can file an in-service disability claim for disabilities that result from an injury or disease that occurred during active service.
- Post-Service Disability Claims: Veterans can file for Disability Compensation after they have been discharged for secondary disabilities that arose later which are connected to a service-related disability.
How do I apply for Disability Compensation?
There are several ways to apply for Disability Compensation: online, mailing an application to the nearest VA regional office, going to a VA office and applying in person, or having a Lunn & Forro, PLLC veterans disability attorney assist you with the process.
To ensure your paperwork is complete and accurate, and that you have met all the evidence requirements, your best bet is to enlist the help of a lawyer. At our firm, we provide free legal consultations and we do not charge veterans for legal services unless and until they receive their benefits. It is worth the peace of mind to have a lawyer’s assistance.
Contact Lunn & Forro, PLLC to learn more. We would be happy to review your case and tell you which benefits you may qualify for, including VA Disability Compensation, Social Security benefits, and retirement from the Department of Defense. We explain your rights and help you pursue the full amount of benefits for which you are eligible. Call 888-966-6566 to schedule a free consultation.