Chapter 2 Service-connected Disabilities
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors
Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are determined by VA to be disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service connected. To be eligible for compensation, the Veteran must have been separated or discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Monthly disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of eligible dependents. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation (SMC). Disability compensation benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.
The payment of military retirement pay, disability severance pay and separation incentive payments, known as Special Separation Benefit (SSB) and Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI), may affect the amount of VA compensation paid to disabled Veterans. For additional details on types of disability claims and how to apply, go to www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/ or apply online at www.ebenefits.va.gov/.
* Veterans with disability ratings of at least 30 percent are eligible for additional allowances for dependents, including spouses, minor children, children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending school, children who are permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability arising before age 18, and dependent parents. The additional amount depends on the disability rating and the number of dependents.
Additional Benefits for Eligible Military Retirees Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) is a DoD program that allows some individuals to receive both military retired pay and VA disability compensation. Normally, such concurrent receipt is prohibited.
Veterans do not need to apply for this benefit, as payment is coordinated between VA and the military pay center.
To qualify for CRDP, Veterans must have a VA service-connected rating of 50 percent or greater, be eligible to receive retired pay, and:
- Be retired from military service based on longevity, including Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA)
- Be retired due to disability with 20 or more qualifying years of service*; or
- Be retired from National Guard or Reserve service with 20 o rmore qualifying years.
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* For Veterans who retired due to disability with 20 or more qualifying years, CRDP is subject to an offset for the difference between retired pay based on disability and retired pay based on longeviy.
Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) is a DoD program that provides a tax-free monthly payment to eligible retired Veterans with combat-related disabilities. CRSC, in effect, restores retired pay lost due to VA disability compensation offset. Veterans must apply for CRSC through their branch of service.
To qualify for CRSC, Veterans must be eligible to receive retired pay, and:
- Be retired from military service based on longevity, including Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) retirees; or
- Be retired due to disability, including Veterans with less than 20 years of service*; or
- Be retired from National Guard or Reserve service with 20 or more qualifying years, and
- Have waived retired pay to receive VA compensation, and
- Have a compensable service-connected disability
*For Veterans who retired due to disability, CRSC is subject to an offset for the difference between retired pay based on disability and retired pay based on years of service.
Disabilities related to in-service exposure to hazards (e.g., Agent Orange, Gulf War illnesses, radiation exposure) for which VA awards compensation are considered combat-related for CRSC purposes. However, Veterans still must apply to their branch of service for a combat-related determination.
For more information, visit www.defense.gov, or call the toll-free phone number for the Veteran’s branch of service:
1-877-366-2772, www.public.navy.mil/asnmra/corb/CRSCB/Pages/CRSCB%20main%20page.aspx or email at email@example.com
Disability Compensation for Presumptive Conditions
Certain chronic and tropical diseases (for example, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and arthritis) may be service connected if the disease becomes at least 10 percent disabling within the applicable time limit following service. For a comprehensive list of these chronic diseases, see 38 CFR 3.309; for applicable time limits, see 38 CFR 3.307.
All Veterans who develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, at any time after separation from service may be eligible for compensation for that disability. To be eligible, the Veteran must have served a minimum of 90 consecutive days of active service.
Prisoners of War: For former prisoners of war (POWs) who were imprisoned for any length of time, VA presumes the following disabilities to be service connected if they become at least 10 percent disabling any time after military service: psychosis, any of the anxiety states, dysthymic disorder, organic residuals of frostbite, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, atherosclerotic heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease and their complications, stroke and its complications, and, effective Oct.10, 2008, osteoporosis if the Veteran has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For former POWs who were imprisoned for at least 30 days, the following conditions are also presumed to be service connected: avitaminosis, beriberi, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis, malnutrition (including optic atrophy associated with malnutrition), pellagra and/ or other nutritional deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral neuropathy except where related to infectious causes, cirrhosis of the liver, and, effective Sept. 28, 2009, osteoporosis.
Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides
A Veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9,1962, and May 7, 1975, is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in support of military operations.
VA presumes the following diseases to be service-connected for such exposed Veterans: AL amyloidosis, chloracne or other acneform disease similar to chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma or mesothelioma), Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, acute and sub-acute peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), all chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia), Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic heart disease.
Veterans Exposed to Radiation
For Veterans who participated in radiation risk activities as defined in VA regulations while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, the following conditions are presumed to be service connected: all forms of leukemia (except for chronic lymphocytic leukemia); cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract (renal pelvis, ureter, urinary bladder and urethra), brain, bone, lung, colon, and ovary; bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma; multiple myeloma; lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s disease), and primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated).
To determine service connection for other conditions or exposures not eligible for presumptive service connection, VA considers factors such as the amount of radiation exposure, duration of exposure, elapsed time between exposure and onset of the disease, gender and family history, age at time of exposure, the extent to which a nonservice exposure could contribute to disease, and the relative sensitivity of exposed tissue.
Gulf War Veterans with Chronic Disabilities
Some Veterans may receive disability compensation for chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses and/or medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms. A disability is considered chronic if it has existed for at least six months.
The undiagnosed illness must have appeared either during active service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991, or to a degree of at least 10 percent at any time since then through Dec.31, 2016. This theater of operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.
Examples of symptoms of an undiagnosed illness and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness defined by a cluster of signs and symptoms include: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, signs or symptoms involving the skin, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological signs or symptoms, neuropsychological signs or symptoms, signs or symptoms involving the respiratory system (upper or lower), sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal signs or symptoms, cardiovascular signs or symptoms, abnormal weight loss, and menstrual disorders. Presumptive service connection may be granted for the following infectious diseases if found compensable within a specific time period: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetti (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, non-typhoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus. Qualifying periods of service for these infectious diseases include active military, naval, or air service in the above stated Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, until such time as the Gulf War is ended by Congressional action or Presidential proclamation; and active military, naval, or air service on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.
Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans
Certain Servicemembers and Veterans with service-connected disabilities may be entitled to a housing grant from VA to help build a new specially adapted house, to adapt a home they already own, or buy a house and modify it to meet their disability-related requirements. Eligible Veterans or Servicemembers may now receive up to three grants, with the total dollar amount of the grants not to exceed the maximum allowable. Previous grant recipients who had received assistance of less than the current maximum allowable may be eligible for an additional grant.
Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant: VA may approve a grant of not more than 50 percent of the cost of building, buying, or adapting existing homes or paying to reduce indebtedness on a currently owned home that is being adapted, up to a maximum of $67,555. In certain instances, the full grant amount may be applied toward remodeling costs. Veterans and Servicemembers must be determined eligible to receive compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability due to one of the following:
- Loss or loss of use of both lower extremities, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair.
- Loss or loss of use of both upper extremities at or above the elbow.
- Blindness in both eyes, having only light perception, plus loss or loss of use of one lower extremity.
- Loss or loss of use of one lower extremity together with (a) residuals of organic disease or injury, or (b) the loss or loss of use of one upper extremity which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude locomotion without the use of braces, canes, crutches or a wheelchair.
- Severe burn injuries, which are defined as full thickness or subdermal burns that have resulted in contractures with limitation of motion of two or more extremities or of at least one extremity and the trunk.
- The loss, or loss of use of one or more lower extremities due to service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair.
Special Home Adaption (SHA) Grant
VA may approve a benefit amount up to a maximum of $13,511 for the cost of necessary adaptations to a Servicemember’s or Veteran’s residence or to help him/her acquire a residence already adapted with special features for his/her disability, to purchase and adapt a home, or for adaptations to a family member’s home in which they will reside.
To be eligible for this grant, Servicemembers and Veterans must be entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability due to one of the following:
- Blindness in both eyes with 20/200 visual acuity or less.
- Anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands.
- Severe burn injuries (see above).
Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA)
Eligible Veterans and Servicemembers who are temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member may also receive a TRA grant to help the Veteran or Servicemember adapt the family member’s home to meet his or her special needs. Those eligible for a $67,555 grant would be permitted to use up to $29,657 and those eligible for a $13,511 grant would be permitted to use up to $5,295. Grant amounts are adjusted Oct.1 every year based on a cost-of-construction index. These adjustments will increase the grant amounts or leave them unchanged; grant amounts will not decrease. Under the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, TRA grant amounts do not count against SAH grant maximum amounts starting Aug. 6, 2013.
The property may be located outside the United States, in a country or political subdivision which allows individuals to have or acquire a beneficial property interest, and in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in his or her discretion, has determined that it is reasonably practicable for the Secretary to provide assistance in acquiring specially adapted housing. For more information on SAH, visit www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/sah.asp.
Veterans and Servicemembers with available loan guaranty entitlement may also obtain a guaranteed loan or a direct loan from VA to supplement the grant to acquire a specially adapted home. Amounts with a guaranteed loan from a private lender will vary, but the maximum direct loan from VA is $33,000. Additional information about the Specially Adapted Housing Program is available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/sah.asp.
As of Oct. 1, 2013, Veterans and Servicemembers may be eligible for a one-time payment of not more than $19,817 toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if they have service-connected loss or permanent loss of use of one or both hands or feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a certain degree.
They may also be eligible for adaptive equipment, and for repair, replacement, or reinstallation required because of disability or for the safe operation of a vehicle purchased with VA assistance. To apply, contact a VA regional office at 1-800-827-1000 or the nearest VA health care facility.
Any Veteran who has service-connected disabilities that require a prosthetic or orthopedic appliances may receive clothing allowances. This allowance is also available to any Veteran whose service-connected skin condition requires prescribed medication that irreparably damages outer garments. To apply, contact the prosthetic representative at the nearest VA medical center.
Allowance for Aid and Attendance or Housebound Veterans
A Veteran who is determined by VA to be in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person, or a Veteran who is permanently housebound, may be entitled to additional disability compensation or pension payments. A Veteran evaluated at 30 percent or more disabled is entitled to receive an additional payment for a spouse who is in need of the aid and attendance of another person..