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Disability Compensation Benefits
A veteran is entitled to disability compensation if he or she were (1) discharged or released from the military under conditions other than dishonorable, (2) their disease or injury was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, and (3) the disease or injury was not the result of the their own willful misconduct or abuse of drugs.
If entitled to disability compensation, a veteran will receive monthly monetary payments, which for a single veteran with no dependents ranges from $133.17 for a disability rated at 10 precent and up to $2,906.83 for a 100 percent rating. Severely-disabled veterans may be eligible to receive special monthly compensation which can exceed the 100 percent payment rate.
Line of Duty Requirement
The “line of duty” requirement is generally satisfied when a medical condition occurs or is aggravated during a period of active military service. There is no requirement that the medical condition be casually related to actual military duties. Generally, the only element needed to satisfy the “line of duty” requirement is a time based connection between the manifestation or aggravation of a medical condition and a period of military service. For example, a veteran who injures his back while on leave at home is just as entitled to disability compensation as a veteran who injures his back in a Humvee rollover accident while serving in Afghanistan.
Requirements to Receive Disability Compensation
The first requirement is competent evidence of a current disability. This means a veteran must be able to show that he or she currently suffers from a disability. An injury or illness incurred during service without lasting symptoms is not eligible for compensation.
The second requirement is evidence of an in-service precipitating disease, injury, or event – in other words, evidence that the disease or injury occurred during service. The standard for proving that a disease or injury occurred or was aggravated during service is called the “at least as likely as not” standard, which means the evidence must show there is at least a 50% chance the disease or injury occurred or was aggravated during service.
The third and final requirement for entitlement to disability compensation is a nexus between the current disability and the in-service precipitating disease, injury, or event. This is commonly referred to as the nexus requirement for service connection. Failure to show service connection is the most common reason disability claims are denied so it is important to know the type of evidence required to support a successful claim.
Multiple Types of Service Connection
There are four main legal theories to establish service connection. They are:
- Direct service connection means a direct causative link between a current disability and an event that occurred during service, or a disease or mental disorder first diagnosed in service. Two examples of where direct service connection could be established are where a veteran is first diagnosed with depression during service, or where a veteran suffers a muscle injury due to a gunshot wound during service.
- Secondary service connection means either a service-connected disability caused another medical condition or a service-connected disability made a condition that pre-existed service (“pre-existing”) worse. For example, a veteran with a service-connected knee injury may be able to establish secondary service connection for their back if the medical evidence shows her knee condition caused or aggravated the back condition. The veteran would then be compensated for both her knee and back.
- Aggravated service connection means a pre-existing medical condition was aggravated by or got worse during service. When a service member’s preexisting injury or disease increases in disability during service, the injury or disease is considered aggravated by service unless VA makes a specific finding that the increase in disability was due to the natural progression of the medical condition.
- Presumptive service connection means service connection for a medical condition is established by legal presumption. The most well-known example of presumed service connected medical conditions is the list of presumptive medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure.
How I Can Help
I represent veterans and their family members at every level of the VA benefits adjudication process including the local Regional Office, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If you disagree with a recent VA rating decision, contact me to review your appeal options.
I work on a contingency fee basis which means you pay no up-front fees for my representation. You only pay my fee if I successfully resolve your appeal. My fee is a reasonable percentage of your backpay award, and does not impact your future benefits.
In addition, I advance all costs of your appeal including the cost of obtaining independent medical examinations (when appropriate). You are only responsible for repayment of expenses upon successful resolution of your appeal, or if you terminate my representation before final conclusion of your appeal.
I handle every aspect of your case from initial intake to resolution, and as a disabled veteran myself, I understand what you are going through. I don’t use support staff, so you are always dealing with me and I pride myself on responding to my clients in a timely manner.