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VA Disability Conditions

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability pensions to veterans and servicemembers who were injured or became ill during their service in the military. You may qualify for a monthly pension or other types of benefits depending on the type of condition you have and its severity.

Page Last Updated
September 9, 2022

Military veterans and servicemembers who are injured, become ill, or have a pre-existing medical condition become worse due to their military service are eligible for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). 

VA disability compensation is tax-free and issued monthly. There are other kinds of benefits available in addition to the monthly stipend, including vocational rehabilitation, disability pensions, medical care, and even benefits to help dependent spouses. Eligible amounts for each type of benefit are determined by a few different factors.

If you’ve been injured or ill due to military service, a local VA representative can help you learn more about the procedure to obtain benefits. If the VA denies or reduces your claim, you have a legal right to appeal.

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    Who is eligible for VA disability benefits?

    To qualify for VA disability benefits, the veteran or honorably discharged serviceman must meet two conditions:

    • Served on active duty, or served on active or inactive duty for training (including reserves)
    • Have a current physical or mental illness or injury

    Furthermore, they must meet at least one of the following conditions:

    • Became injured or sick during military service and are able to link the condition to their time in service
    • Had a pre-existing physical or mental health condition that was exacerbated during their time in service
    • Developed the condition during service, but the symptoms didn’t present or the condition wasn’t discovered until after their term of service ended (most common for toxic exposure)

    If you meet these conditions, you may be eligible to receive VA disability compensation. The Veterans Administration will examine your medical records, term of service, and service records to determine whether you qualify. 

    Your benefits are determined on a sliding scale of severity. If you have multiple injuries or illnesses, you may be eligible to receive additional benefits. In some conditions, your dependent spouse or minor children may be eligible to receive benefits, too.

    What conditions are eligible for VA disability?

    The Veterans Administration classifies disability benefits into three categories: mental, physical, and toxic exposure.

    Mental

    Military service, especially active duty in a combat zone, can be mentally and emotionally taxing for many servicemembers. It’s not uncommon for military personnel to have difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life after service or to develop conditions like chronic adjustment disorder. 

    Some forms of mental disabilities can get better with care and therapy, while others may be semi-permanent or permanent, making it difficult for individuals to work, go to school, or maintain healthy relationships with others.

    Common mental health conditions covered by VA disability benefits include:

    • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
    • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Depression
    • Anxiety

    This isn’t an exhaustive list of disability-covered conditions, however. If you were diagnosed with a psychiatric condition during service, or if your condition was triggered by your time in service and symptoms only became evident after discharge, you may still qualify to receive military disability benefits.

    Physical

    Physical injuries are common for servicemembers and veterans. Some veterans may suffer a diminished quality of life due to their injury. They may be unable to engage in activities, hobbies, or sports they enjoyed prior to their injury. Others may be unable to complete tasks of daily living independently due to their injury. This can make veterans unable to work or perform the roles that they could prior to their injury. 

    Some individuals may need 24/7 personal and medical care after a military injury, putting a strain on their families.

    Certain military injuries can leave people permanently disfigured, which can trigger the onset of mental health concerns like depression or anxiety. 

    If you’ve been physically injured while serving in the military and notice a change in your mental state, including feelings of hopelessness, trouble eating or sleeping, intrusive thoughts, or even thoughts of self-harm, seek mental health care. You may have a physical and mental disability due to your time in service.

    Common kinds of physical injuries that qualify for VA disability benefits include:

    • Chronic back pain resulting in a medically diagnosed back disability
    • Breathing problems from a current lung condition or disease
    • Partial or severe hearing loss
    • Disfigurement or scar tissue
    • Loss of range of motion within the limbs, neck, spine, or other body parts
    • Ulcers

    This isn’t a complete list of all injuries that a military member may suffer in active training, inactive training, active duty, or combat. If you’ve been injured while serving and it has affected your independence or quality of life, consult your local Veterans Affairs representative to file a claim.

    Toxic Exposure

    Some military occupations may raise the chances of exposure to toxic chemicals, fumes, materials, or radiation. In the course of their jobs, some servicemembers may develop chronic lung conditions, skin lesions, or even cancer from exposure.

    Oftentimes, these conditions aren’t discovered until the veteran’s term of service has ended. Their physician may diagnose cancer or another concern, attributing the cause to exposure to certain chemicals or other materials.

    Dangerous toxins some servicemembers may be exposed to include:

    • Chemical weapons agents
    • Asbestos
    • Nuclear radiation
    • Environmental hazards in the water, soil, or air

    For example, servicemembers and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 may have been exposed to toxic chemicals in the water and therefore be eligible for special benefits under the Benefits for Camp Lejeune program.

    Need help proceessing your disability claim?

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    How does the VA determine my benefit amount?

    The Veterans Administration classifies disabilities in terms of severity and a person’s ability to care for themselves independently. The VA uses a rating system, expressed in percentages from 1 to 100%. 100% refers to an individual who is completely disabled. 

    The disability rating is used to determine the disability compensation you’ll receive and factor into whether you (and your dependents) may be eligible to obtain other benefits.

    If you have multiple disability ratings, such as a physical disability rating for one condition and a mental or toxic exposure rating for another, then the VA will calculate a combined disability rating. 

    However, a combined disability rating isn’t simply just adding two individual percentages together to arrive at a compensation level. Disability ratings determine how much the disability decreases your ability to function independently with consideration to your overall health.

    Supporting Your Claim

    It’s important to schedule regular doctor’s visits, not just to take care of yourself but also to have a medical record of the severity of your condition and how your injury or illness is affecting your life.

    To file your claim, you can present your medical records, test results, and doctor’s reports. You may also be required to undergo a VA physical exam or have a second opinion to file for benefits with certain conditions. 

    The VA examines your claim, which is referred to as the Compensation and Pension (C&P). The agency may also ask for information from other sources, including federal or state agencies. 

    For example, if you’ve filed for Social Security Disability or food stamps because you’re unable to work, that may be taken into consideration for your claim.

    If you have questions about how the VA arrived at your disability rating, you can reach out through their helpline. Alternatively, you may want to retain an advocate or attorney who is experienced with veteran’s affairs and disability claims to help you file a claim for a higher disability rating.

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