Veterans of the United States military are often entitled to a wide range of benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs upon receiving their discharge. For vets who have a disability that was caused or aggravated by active duty, the VA may offer monthly veteran’s disability benefits on a temporary or permanent basis.
Much like receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, the process of applying for veteran’s disability and proving your need can be time-consuming and tedious. The VA is not known for easily granting benefits, and many vets have to go through several levels of appeals before receiving their veteran’s disability benefits.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs allows vets to be represented by an attorney or advocate if they wish to appeal a denial of an initial claim. If you are a veteran who was disabled while on active duty, you can speak with an attorney or advocate near you to learn more about your rights.
Requirements for Disabled Veteran’s Benefits
In order to be eligible to receive veteran’s disability benefits through the VA, a veteran must meet the following qualifications:
- Currently suffering from a temporary or permanent disability that was caused by or aggravated by active service
- Must have received a discharge status other than dishonorable
- Medical evidence must link the disability to active duty service
- The disability was not the result of willful misconduct or abuse of alcohol or drugs
Based on these factors, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will decide three things:
- If the veteran is entitled to disability compensation
- How severe the disability is, based on the VA’s rating system
- When any compensation will start being paid
In its assessment of your claim, the VA will rate your disability on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent to reflect the severity of the disability. Veterans with multiple disabilities may rate at a higher level, but the disabilities will not simply be added together.
Veterans with dependents to support may be able to receive a larger amount than those supporting only themselves. Spouses, children and live-in parents may be qualified dependents, allowing a disabled vet to receive a larger sum of benefits each month.
Filing and Appeals Process for Veteran’s Benefits
- Submitting a claim: Claims for disabled veteran’s benefits must be filed with your VA Regional Office. There is no statute of limitations for filing claim. A disabled veteran may file a claim at any time after serving active duty.
- Appealing a denied claim: Often, the VA will reject an initial application, or accept it but give it a rating that results in little compensation for the vet’s disabilities. When this happens, the applicant can appeal the decision. An applicant has one year to appeal by filing a Notice of Disagreement with the Board of Veteran’s Appeals.
- Submitting a brief: A legal brief that details your disability and provides medical evidence of temporary or permanent disability can be submitted along with the Notice of Disagreement to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals. The BVA will either reverse the decision of the Regional Office, or send the claim back to the Regional Office. A stronger argument for receiving benefits can often help the process go more smoothly for the applicant.
- Second appeal of a claim: If the Board of Veteran’s Appeals denies a claim, or approves a claim at a low rating, the decision can be appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims. This appeal must be filed within 120 days of the BVA decision, and requires a much more formal legal brief.
- Third appeal of a claim: If the claim is denied by the United States Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims, the decision can again be appealed, this time to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Speak with a Disability Attorney or Advocate and Learn Your Rights
If you’re dealing with a disability that is the result of your active duty service, you may be entitled to compensation from the VA. However, the process is not easy, and can take months or years.
Consider speaking with a disability attorney or advocate in your area to learn what to expect. If you decide that pursuing veteran’s disability benefits its right for you, your attorney, or advocate, can handle the complexities of the case while you focus on what’s most important in your life.