Do Combat Veterans Automatically Get VA Benefits?

Under the “Combat Veteran” authority, the VA provides health care services and community living care for any condition possibly related to the veteran’s service in a combat theater. The VA will automatically enroll the veteran in Priority Group 6, unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group.

Applying For VA Benefits: Where Do You Begin?

If you are a Veteran with a physical or psychological disability, you may be eligible to receive tax-free compensation from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). However, the VA won’t recognize you as a disabled Veteran unless you apply for benefits. The VA requires any Veteran who applies to receive benefits to get an in-house examination, verify their military medical records, and sometimes provide confirmation of the connection between their service and their disability.

When reviewing a disability Veteran’s claim, the VA is looking for a verifiable connection between a disability and a Veteran’s military service. This connection is known as a nexus, and it is one of the key factors that can get your application approved. In most cases, the VA won’t approve a Veteran’s claim without a verifiable nexus that confirms that their disability is service-related. 

Because of the need for a disability to be service-related to qualify for VA benefits, you cannot automatically qualify for compensation – you’ll need to file a claim first.

So, how do you apply to receive disability benefits from the VA? 

What Does The VA Require Of A Veteran When Applying For Benefits?

When you file a claim to receive disability benefits from the VA, they will ask you to fulfill a few specific requirements to move forward with your application.

The Compensation & Pension Exam

The VA requires any Veteran who applies for disability benefits to get a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. This  in-house examination from a VA physician or psychologist helps the VA get a sense of how your disability affects your ability to function. The C&P exam typically involves a basic physical or psychological examination that the VA will use to verify the legitimacy of your disability. Your C&P results can also help the VA establish a connection between your disability and your military service.

Your C&P exam results play a key role in the VA’s decision-making process regarding your claim. If your C&P exam indicates no verifiable connection between your disability and your service in the military, the VA may deny your claim. However, a denial of your claim from the VA is not necessarily the final decision. You can appeal any VA decision to get a better outcome.

Military Records

In addition to taking the required Compensation & Pension exam, you’ll also need to provide the VA with records from your military service. These documents include your military medical records and military personnel records. The VA will use this documentation to verify your Veteran status. Your military-medical records can also play a role in the VA’s decision-making process regarding your claim.

Private Medical Records

If you have received a diagnosis from a doctor who is unaffiliated with the VA, this diagnosis can impact your VA claim. The VA carefully reviews private medical records if presented as part of a Veteran’s disability claim. To provide additional medical evidence to support your claim, you can attach doctor’s reports, lab and test results, X-rays, and other helpful documentation to your application.

What Qualifies A Veteran To Receive Disability Benefits From The VA?

The VA recognizes any service-related disability, either physical or psychological, as potential grounds to give a Veteran monthly benefit. Some of the primary service-related disabilities that can qualify you to receive VA benefits are listed below.

Mental Health Issues

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This condition can have severe long-term effects for many Veterans. PTSD is often directly linked to a specific experience from your time in the military. For Veterans with service-related PTSD, the VA does not always rule accurately since this disability is more difficult to assess and rate. If you have PTSD and are given a rating from the VA that is lower than you deserve, you can appeal the VA’s decision with the help of an attorney.
  • Anxiety & Depression: These mental health conditions affect many Veterans in the years and decades following their military retirement. Traumatic experiences from military service can affect a Veteran’s mental and physical well-being in the long term, leaving a former member of the military with chronic anxiety or depression. Adjusting from military service back into civilian life can also cause anxiety and depression.
  • Mental Health Problems Caused By a Traumatic Brain Injury: A TBI can dramatically affect a Veteran’s ability to function normally, both physically and mentally. A Traumatic brain injury can leave a Veteran with an altered personality in some cases. The psychological impact of a TBI can be listed as a secondary condition on a VA disability claim. In many cases, the psychological effects that TBI victims often deal with are directly linked to the injury.
  • Military Sexual Trauma: SomeMany Veterans endure sexual abuse or assault while serving in the military. If you experienced a traumatic sexual experience during your service, you should file a VA claim might qualify to receive benefits.
  • Service-Related Schizophrenia: This mental illness can develop in a person’s early adulthood, often when a Veteran first begins serving in the military. For Veterans dealing with the effects of schizophrenia, the impact on everyday life can be overwhelming. Additionally, certain military experiences can exacerbate pre-existing schizophrenia.
  • Service-Related Bipolar Disorder: Like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder’s onset often occurs during a Veteran’s service. For many soldiers, it is made worse by experiences during military service. Bipolar disorder that is linked to military service can qualify a Veteran to receive benefits from the VA.
  • Adjustment Disorder: The transition from military service into civilian life is jarring for many Veterans. This transition can often lead to the development of symptoms like anxiety, depression, and apathy. The combination of these symptoms resulting from major life changes – including the transition out of the military and into civilian life – is often called adjustment disorder. When linked to military service, the symptoms of adjustment disorder can qualify a Veteran to receive benefits.

Agent Orange Exposure And Its Side Effects

If you served in Vietnam during a specific time period, the VA presumes that you have been exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange. Agent Orange Exposure is linked to several serious long-term health problems, including several cancers

Exposure to Agent Orange has also been linked to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. For Veterans who have presumed Agent Orange Exposure, the benefits from the VA can be significant.

Back Problems, Neck Pain, And Other Service-Related Injuries

If you can link chronic pain in a specific part of your body to your military service, you may qualify to receive significant disability benefits from the VA. Additionally, you can often list chronic pain in certain parts of your body as a secondary condition on a VA disability claim. Secondary conditions are disabilities that arise as a direct or indirect result of a service-related injury or experience. 

A secondary condition can increase the disability rating that you can receive from the VA. Your disability rating directly corresponds with the monthly benefits you qualify for. 

What If The VA Denies My Claim?

The VA does not always give a Veteran the disability rating that they deserve. In addition, the VA sometimes denies a claim that should be approved. These inaccurate rulings do not mean that the VA is malicious or seeking to short-change Veterans. It does, however, mean that the VA is not perfect and that they can sometimes make a decision that does not accurately reflect the severity of a Veteran’s disability status.

If the VA denies your claim or gives you a lower disability rating than what you deserve, you can appeal their decision with the help of a veterans attorney. Getting the right ruling from the VA is essential for any Veteran – a high disability rating means you can support yourself and your loved ones, even if your disability makes you unable to work. With an experienced and compassionate attorney working alongside you, you can dispute any VA decision and attempt to get a better outcome for your claim.

VA appeals start at the regional level, taking place in your local VA office. If the VA does not reach a satisfactory decision at the regional level, a VA appeal can then move to higher courts the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. From there, the appeal can move to higher courts if necessary. Our team of Veterans helping Veterans can support you in your efforts to get the rating you deserve from the VA.

Contact veterans lawyer at Berry Law Firm today to see how we can help you appeal a VA decision on your claim. 

 

Sources:

Impact of Agent Orange Exposure among Korean Vietnam Veterans | jstage

Agent Orange and Cancer: An Overview for Clinicians | ACS Journals

Personality disturbances associated with traumatic brain injury | Psychnet