Veterans Disability Claims
We help veterans and their families!
Over the years, we have represented many veterans and surviving spouses. We have helped Veterans with service connected disabilities such as Traumatic Brain Injuries, Spinal Injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and Veterans with non-service connected illnesses qualify for the benefits they have earned. For VA disability or pension entitlements, Veterans must be age 65 or disabled to be eligible. Serious medical conditions, higher ratings of disability, the inability to perform Activities of Daily Living, and a rating of 100% unemployability merit higher awards. The level of disability or chronic illness must be certified by a physician. We help Veterans in both VA and Social Security claims. The most common types of benefits for disabled veterans are as follows:
VA Disability Compensation
VA Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a veteran for disabilities that are a result of or made worse by injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training. It is also paid to certain veterans disabled from VA health care. A discharge under dishonorable conditions prohibits eligibility. The amount of payment varies from $123 to $2,673 per month depending on the severity of the disability. Additional amounts are payable in certain instances if you have very severe disabilities or loss of limb, you have a spouse, children or dependent parents, or you have a seriously disabled spouse.
VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. VA does this because of the unique circumstances of their military service. If one of these conditions is diagnosed in a veteran in one of these groups, VA presumes that the circumstances of his/her service caused the condition, and disability compensation can be awarded. For a listing see the VA website at: http://benefits.va.gov/benefits/
VA Individual Unemployability
Individual Unemployability is a part of VA’s disability compensation program that allows VA to pay certain veterans compensation at the 100% rate, even though VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the total level.
A veteran must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of his/her service-connected disabilities. (similar to the SS standard) Additionally, a veteran must have:
- One service-connected disability ratable at 60 percent or more, OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities, at least one disability ratable at 40 percent or more with a combined rating of70 percent or more.
Can I Work? Veterans who are in receipt of Individual Unemployability benefits may work as long as it is not considered substantially gainful employment. The employment must be considered marginal employment.
- Substantially gainful employment is defined as employment at which non-disabled individuals earn their livelihood with earnings comparable to the particular occupation in the community where the veteran resides.
- Marginal employment is generally deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Census Bureau as the poverty level for the veteran only. See the U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds.
What If I Don’t Meet the Percentage Criteria?
Special consideration will be given for veterans when the following criteria is met:
- The veteran is considered unemployable due to a service-connected disability(ies) but fails to meet the minimum percentage standards, OR
- There is evidence of exceptional or unusual circumstances to impairment of earning capacity due to disabilities (for example, interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization)
Note: Veterans may have to complete an employment questionnaire once a year in order for VA to determine continued eligibility to Individual Unemployability.
VA Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled. Veterans who are more seriously disabled may qualify for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. These are benefits that are paid in addition to the basic pension rate.
VA Death Pension for Widows / Widowers and Surviving Children
Death Pension is a needs based benefit paid to an unremarried surviving spouse, or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran.
Social Security Disability
Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application. The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.
Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program, which pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes; and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which pays benefits based on financial need.
How does military pay affect eligibility for SS disability benefits? Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of Social Security disability benefits. Receipt of military payments should never stop you from applying for disability benefits from Social Security. If you are receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, we will evaluate your work activity to determine your eligibility for benefits. You cannot receive Social Security disability benefits if you engage in substantial work for pay or profit. However, the actual work activity is the controlling factor and not the amount of pay you receive or your military duty status.
VA disability ratings and the additional rating of 100% employability are considered by SSA in a Social Security disability application although the finding of disability by other agencies is not dispositive for SSA.
One of our 2010 success stories was helping a veteran with PTSD and Depression qualify for SS disability benefits with an onset date of July 2002. By appealing her prior denial of benefits to federal court and obtaining a remand, we were able to reopen the denied claim and prove disability as of July 1, 2002 to obtain the benefits this Veteran earned. Read the federal court remand decision.>>
How Do I Apply for VA Benefits?
You can apply by calling 1-800-827-1000 or online through the VA web site at http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov