Many Americans become mentally or physically disabled in the line of duty every week. While no amount of money can fully compensate for these disabilities, the U.S. does provide tax-free benefits to help many veterans with disabilities related to or made worse by their time in the military.
Who is Eligible for VA Disability Compensation?
VA disability benefits can cover both partially and fully disabled veterans. To be eligible for VA disability compensation, you must:
- Have served on either active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training.
- Have a current mental or physical injury or illness which is related to or was made worse by your service. This can be any of the following:
- An illness or injury that occurred during military service (an inservice disability claim).
- A preexisting illness or injury that was made worse by your service (a preservice disability claim).
- A disability-related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service (a postservice disability claim).
- A Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) disability rating.
VA disability benefits can cover both veterans and qualified dependents. Veterans deemed to be 30% or more disabled who have a spouse and/or dependent children can receive higher monthly compensation.
What if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?
Veterans who received these discharge statuses may not be eligible for VA disability benefits. However, you may still be able to qualify by applying for a discharge upgrade.
What Conditions Are Covered by VA Disability Benefits?
The VA recognizes a wide range of disabilities. Qualifying conditions can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Chronic illnesses that appeared within a year of discharge
- Illnesses caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials
- Loss of range of motion
- Illnesses caused by time as a prisoner at war
- Severe hearing loss
- Scar tissue
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
How to Apply for VA Disability
To receive veterans disability benefits, you can file VA Form 21-526EZ, the Veteran’s Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, and include records proving your eligibility, which we will discuss below. You can either download the form at the Department of Veterans Affairs website and submit it to your nearest VA Regional Office or fill it out online at the Veterans Online Application (VONAPP) website.
To prove your eligibility, you will also need to include:
- A DD214 (separation or discharge paperwork) for all periods of service.
- Copies of medical records.
- Evidence of the claimed disability.
- Evidence that the disability was caused or increased by active service.
- Copies of marriage certificates, divorce records, and birth or adoption records for all dependent children.
- (If applicable) Nursing home records.
When to Hire a Veterans Lawyer
VA laws and regulations are complex and subject to frequent change, so hiring a veterans lawyer is nearly always to your advantage. A veterans lawyer cannot make the VA decide on your claim faster, but they may be able to prove your eligibility better and help you get more of the benefits you are entitled to for your service.
It is especially helpful to consult a veterans disability attorney if you received a denial letter and intend to file an appeal or if you need a discharge upgrade to qualify for VA benefits. With legal assistance, you stand a better chance of proving you deserve compensation for your disability.
Tips for Hiring a Veterans Lawyer
Before hiring a veterans lawyer, be sure to ask:
- Are you a VA-accredited attorney?
- How much experience do you have with veterans law?
- Have you been through any recent veterans law training?
- Will you be able to represent me all the way through my appeal?
You may be able to find a great veterans disability attorneys through word-of-mouth referrals or via a directory such as the National Organization of Veterans Advocates website or Nolo’s directory of disability lawyers. We generally recommend coming up with a list of several veterans lawyers to consider, then interviewing each one and checking references before making a hiring decision.
If you live in Washington State, consider hiring an experienced veterans lawyer through the Anderson Hunter law firm. We have been serving Washingtonians’ legal needs for over 100 years and are proud to represent veterans seeking disability compensation for service-connected conditions. Contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable veterans disability attorney.