The Amount of Veterans’ Benefits
Once this paperwork has been submitted, the file will be reviewed by the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). The BVA will determine whether or not the veteran qualifies for disability benefits. If he or she does qualify for benefits, the BVA assigns the veteran’s disability a rating ranging from 10 to 100% in 10% increments. The percentage rating directly correlates to a pre-determined monthly payment amount laid by law. For example, a veteran determined to be 10% disabled would receive $123 per month, while a veteran who is 50% disabled would receive $770 per month. A 100% disabled veteran would receive $2,673 monthly payment.
In addition, if a veteran is deemed to be 30% or more disabled and has a spouse and/or dependent children, the monthly payment is higher. Additionally, for certain more serious injuries or disabilities, such as blindness or loss of a limb, the disabled veteran would be entitled to receive a higher monthly compensation.
For more information on disability ratings and payments, see our article on how veterans disability ratings work.
The Service-Connection Requirement
As noted earlier, for a veteran to qualify for disability benefits, his disease or disability must be service-connected, meaning that the veteran’s active service (or an incident/injury during active service) caused or helped to cause the disability.
There are three different types of service connections: direct service connection, aggravated injury connection, and presumed service connection.
Direct Service Connection
A direct service connection occurs when the disability occurred directly due to military service, such as the loss of eyesight due to an in-combat injury. In such cases, the veteran must show evidence of his current disability, evidence of the incident that caused the disease or injury, and medical evidence that the occurrence caused the current disability or disease.
Aggravated Service Connection
An aggravated service connection can be established in cases where a veteran entered military service with a pre-existing condition that is noted in his or her entrance medical exam and can provide evidence that active military service or an incident during service aggravated that condition.
Presumed Service Connection
A presumed service connection can be established when a veteran (who has served at least 90 days) develops a disability or condition of a 10% degree or greater that is presumed to be related to active service. Federal law lists the disabilites and illnesses that are presumed to result from active military service, including certain chronic illnesses, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, Hansen’s disease, and certain tropical illnesses. The disability must appear within a certain amount of time after active service (the lengths of time vary by type of disease/disability).
POWs. Veterans who were prisoners of war suffering from conditions such as frostbite, anxiety, or post-traumatic osteoarthritis are presumed to have a service connection between military service and the disability. Those who were prisoners of war for more than 30 days are presumed to have a service connection if they develop conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, malnutrition, chronic dysentery, osteoporosis, or liver cirrhosis.
Cancer. Veterans exposed to radiation during active service (for example, during nuclear testing) who later develop certain cancers are presumed to meet the service connection criteria. Likewise, veterans exposed to herbicide agents (such as Agent Orange) during active service who suffer from specific diseases and disabilities (including some forms of soft-tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, some forms of respiratory cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s disease) are presumed to meet the service connection requirement.
Gulf war. Chronic health problems and symptoms lasting longer than six months may also be presumptively service-connected for veterans who served in the Gulf conflict.
The VA has streamlined rules for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, so that a veteran applying for disability benefits for PTSD does not need to provide evidence of the traumatic event that caused the PTSD. As long as the veteran has a PTSD diagnosis related to a traumatic event that a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms was enough to cause PTSD, and the event is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is likely to have happened during the veteran’s service, the veteran will be granted benefits. For more information, see our article on veterans disability benefits for PTSD.