VA Disability Benefits and Pay

Va Disability Insurance

One part of being a service member is receiving the right benefits and compensation based on your experiences in the military, any disability you have, and any injuries you sustained. It is important to know what the VA Disability Benefits and Compensation is all about.

What is Veterans Disability Compensation?

The disability compensation you might receive is a tax-free monetary benefit that is paid to veterans that have disabilities. They must be disabilities that were a result of diseases or an injury or those that were aggravated during active military service. A disability can be a physical one or a mental health condition.

You also might receive compensation for post-service disabilities that are considered to be related to or secondary to disabilities that occured during military service as well as disabilities that are presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even if they come out after military service.

The different degrees of a disability are designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from the exacerbations or illnesses.

How Much Is VA Disability Pay Compensation?

Your benefit amount depends on the degree of your disability on a scale from 10% to 100%. This goes up in increments of 10%. You can check the current Veterans Compensation Benefits Rates on this website.

As an example, a veteran alone with no children at 30% would receive $435.69 a month, while if they were at 60% they would receive $1,131.68.

>> UPDATE:

Potential COLA Increase for 2020 Passes US House

On May 28th, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6168, the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2020. If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it would authorize a COLA adjustment that applies to veterans benefits.

The benefits to which a COLA adjustment would apply are wartime disability compensation, dependent compensation, clothing allowances, and compensation for surviving spouses and children. It’s not yet certain what the adjustment will be, but the text if the bill states that the amount of the increase will be the same percentage as that under title II of the Social Security Act. Whatever the amount, if anything, it will take effect on 1 December, 2020.

The COLA adjustment usually moves in tandem with the COLA adjustment applied to social security benefits; except that the adjustments for veterans benefits must currently be passed annually, while the SSA benefits are automatic.

According to data on the SSA website, the 2020 increase (implemented 1 December 2019) was 1.6%, while 2019 saw a 2.8% increase. For perspective, there was only a 0.3% increase in 2017, while 2012 saw a whopping 3.6% adjustment.

From here, the bill heads to the United States Senate, where it will be added to the schedule for discussion. As it usually does, it will likely be routed to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for review before a vote is taken. 

The COLA adjustment will not go into effect until December 1, so there is still time. As of this writing, H.R. 6168 was still not on the legislative calendar for the Senate. Rest assured, as soon as we know, you’ll know!

What If I Have Dependents?

There may be an additional allowance added if your combined disability is rated 30% or more.

The same veteran alone, with a child at 30% would then receive $469.69 a month, with $1,200.68 a month if they were at 60%.

The VA will compensate you with a modest amount for every dependent you have registered with them. These criteria must be met:

  • You are eligible for VA disability compensation, and
  • You have a combined disability rating of at least 30%

Normally, your dependents will be listed on your claim when you first file, but sometimes mistakes happen when they process your information. Or, if you’re like me, you had three kids when you retired but now have six. Whenever this happens, head over to the eBenefits site and file your new claim. 

There are different categories of dependents under the VA system. You can add a dependent if:

  • You get married
  • You have or adopt a child
  • Your child is between 18 and 23 and is enrolled in school full time
  • Your child, of at least 18 years old, became permanently disabled before turning 18
  • You become the caregiver for a parent whose income and net worth is below a certain amount

If any of these describe your situation, use the link above to file a claim

You can also receive additional pay if you have a very severe disability or loss of a limb, have a spouse, or dependent parents, or a seriously disabled spouse. These amounts are also listed on the Veterans Compensation Benefits Rates page.

What If I Receive Other Types of Pay?

If you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive pay, your compensation might be offset.

What If I Have a 100% Disability Rating?

In this case, if you are a veteran alone you would receive $2,973.86 a month, with $3084.75 for a veteran alone with one child.

What If I Am the Spouse of a Service Member Who Died While on Active Duty?

If you are a surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training or if you are a survivor of a veteran who died from their service-connected disability, you can receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

A surviving spouse must qualify under one of these:

  • Married to a service member who died on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
  • Validly married the veteran before January 1, 1957.
  • Married the veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the disease or injury that caused the death began or was aggravated.
  • Was married to the veteran for at least one year.
  • Had a child with the veteran.

In addition to that you will need to have cohabited with the veteran continuously until the veteran’s death or if separated, not at fault for the separation and not currently remarried. If a surviving spouse remarries on or after December 16, 2003 and on or after the age of 57, they are entitled to continue to receive DIC.

A surviving child will need to be:

Not included on the surviving spouse’s DIC, unmarried, and under the age of 18 or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school. A child that is adopted out of the veteran’s family may be eligible for DIC if all other eligibility criteria is met.

There will need to be evidence provided in order to receive this DIC benefit.

What is the Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)?

SMC is an additional tax-free benefit that is paid to veterans, their spouses, surviving spouses and parents. This is a higher rate of compensation that is paid due to special circumstances. SMC-L through SMC-O have lists of specific conditions and combinations of conditions. SMC-K is for those that have experienced the loss or loss of use of an extremity or organ. SMC-S is for veterans that can’t leave the house. SMC-R is for those that need daily aid and attendance from another person.

All of the SMCs except for SMC-K are instead of the standard disability amounts. SMC-K is in addition to them. All disabilities will need to be service related.

You can see the SMC amounts on the Special Monthly Compensation Pay Chart.

What Other Benefits Can You Receive as a Disabled Veteran?

Other benefits that are given to disabled veterans are Adapted Housing Grants, Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance, and Veterans’ Mortgage Life. There might also be state-specific benefits depending on where you live.

How Do The Disability Payment Amounts Go Up?

The VA will make cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to VA compensation and pension benefits so that those benefits do not get eroded by inflation. These rates will be the same percentage as they are for social security benefits.

What if I Have More Than One Disability? Is There Such a Thing as Combined Ratings?

If you as a veteran have multiple disabilities, the VA will use a combined ratings table to calculate your combined disability rating. The ratings do not just get added together.

For example, if you have a 20% rated disability, and a 40% one, you would not then have a 60% rating. You can see the ratings on the Combined Ratings Table.

How To Apply for Disability Compensation?

If you want to apply for disability compensation, the best way to do so is by obtaining an eBenefits account and applying online. You will need to have your discharge or separation papers, medical evidence, and dependency records.

If you don’t want to apply online, you can also print and mail in the VA Form 21-526EZ, which is the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits. You can also apply for benefits before your discharge through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) or Quick Start pre-discharge programs.

For DIC you would use the VA Form 21P-534EZ and for SMC, the VA will automatically award the special monthly compensation if your disability qualifies. If you do need to apply for SMC, you can do so with the VA Form 21-2680.

What is a Fully Developed Claim?

If you file a Fully Developed Claim (FDC) veterans, service members, and survivors have the option to participate more fully in the claims process. If you can provide all of the required evidence at the same time, you can submit a claim and certify that you have no more evidence, then the VA an issue a decision faster.

If you have an injury, disability, or condition that you believe occurred or was aggravated by your service, or a condition caused or aggravated by an existing service-related condition, you can file a FDC claim electronically.

You would need to go to eBenefits.va.gov to start the process.

Remember that in order to qualify for VA Disability Benefits and Compensation you will need to have served in the Uniformed Services on:

  • Active duty
  • Active duty for training
  • Inactive duty training

and have been

  • Discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
  • As well as being at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

You will need to provide the evidence of your current physical or mental condition.  In addition you will need to provide evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service.

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About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.