Protected Veteran Status: A Comprehensive Guide

What Is Protected Veteran Status?

Protected Veteran status was created to make sure that Veterans have employment opportunities available to them without discrimination. This status applies to any disabled Veteran, any Veteran who has served in a war with an authorized campaign badge, recently discharged Veterans (as long as the discharge is honorable), or Veterans who have an Armed Forces Service Medal.

Under any of these conditions, any employer who is doing business with the federal government is obligated to grant job opportunities to a Veteran. These employers are required to grant not only recruitment and employment opportunities to protected Veterans but also must provide upward mobility opportunities. These opportunities for upward mobility must give the Veteran the chance to move up economically and socially.

Protected Veteran status helps prevent employers from discriminating against Veterans, especially when a Veteran is disabled. This status can also prevent employers from underpaying Veterans. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Disabled Veteran?

There are many types of disabilities, both physical and mental, that can be acquired during military service. Veterans may leave the service with serious injuries that significantly affect their lives. A serious disability, or a combination of disabilities, can make it especially difficult for a Veteran to find employment and go about everyday tasks.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers disability benefits to disabled Veterans who suffer from service-related conditions. This compensation can be given to Veterans who suffer from a wide range of service-related mental and physical disabilities. Below is a list of a few of the most common service-related conditions that can make a Veteran eligible to receive compensation from the VA:

  • PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many Veterans in a way that is directly connected to their military service. Veterans with PTSD may experience nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, depression, and other symptoms that can make everyday life extremely difficult. If you are a Veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, you can qualify to receive benefits from the VA. Your PTSD is not a weakness, and it should never be a grounds for discrimination from employers.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: A TBI is a serious form of brain trauma with debilitating long-term effects. This type of injury can permanently affect a Veteran and is often grounds for receiving a high disability rating and benefits from the VA. If you are a Veteran with a TBI, your condition may make it difficult or impossible for you to work. In this case, you can receive protected Veteran status and receive significant benefits from the VA.
  • Gulf War Syndrome: Many Gulf War vets suffer from a series of symptoms often called Gulf War Syndrome. Gulf War Veterans suffering from symptoms including significant weight loss, fatigue, headaches, psychological problems, and more that can be connected to their service are eligible for protected Veteran status. In addition, Gulf War Syndrome is recognized as a disability by the VA that makes a Veteran eligible to receive benefits.
  • Other Service-Related Mental Health Issues: In many circumstances, service-related mental health issues are especially difficult for the VA to assess. Mental health issues are not weaknesses, but they can be painful, frustrating, and discouraging. Mental health issues connected to military service can often cause a Veteran to experience workplace discrimination and other unfair treatment. A service-related mental health issue is recognized as a disability by the VA and makes a Veteran eligible for protected Veteran status.

In addition to these conditions, there are many other service-related disabilities that can make you eligible for protected Veteran status. If your disability is causing you to experience discrimination from potential employers, you may be experiencing treatment that is extremely unfair and even illegal. 

What if I Am a Protected Veteran With a Disability That Makes Me Unemployable?

Some service-related disabilities are more severe than others. In some situations, you may have a service-related condition that is so severe that it makes it impossible for you to work a normal job. If this is your situation, you are likely to qualify for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). If your disability has made you unemployable, you can receive enough compensation from the VA to still support yourself and your loved ones.

In circumstances where a Veteran has a disability that is so severe that it prevents them from completing most tasks, the VA is much more likely to give a 100% disability rating, leading to the highest possible benefits. Benefits from the VA are tax-free and can help disabled Veterans stay afloat financially even when they cannot work. 

In some circumstances, the VA will not give a disabled Veteran a 100% rating – even when they should. If the VA gives a Veteran an inaccurate rating, it can mean that the disabled Veteran will not have the resources that they need and deserve. If you believe that you have received an inaccurate disability rating from the VA, you can dispute the VA’s rating by making an appeal.

How to Receive Higher Benefits From the VA

If you are a protected Veteran with a service-related disability, you may still be able to work and function normally. However, if you are dealing with a more severe service-related disability, it may be much harder, or even impossible, for you to hold down a job. 

Remember, it’s not your fault if you cannot work due to a disability! Serving your country comes with many risks, including coming home dealing with the long-term effects of injuries and traumatizing experiences. If you are suffering from a condition that was caused by your military service, there is no shame in accepting assistance from the VA. 

While protected Veteran status can make it easier for many Veterans to find employment, many disabled Veterans rely on support from the VA to keep supporting themselves and their families. If you are unemployable due to service-related disabilities, there is a high likelihood that you can receive the same benefits as a Veteran with a 100% disability rating from the VA through TDIU. However, if you receive a lower rating from the VA than what you think you deserve, there are still ways to raise your score and get the benefits you need.

What If the VA Rejects My Disability Claim?

If you apply to receive disability benefits from the VA, you can dispute their decision by making an appeal with the help of an experienced attorney.

There are several reasons why the VA might reject your application for disability benefits. If you apply for benefits but cannot provide sufficient medical evidence to verify your disability, the VA may be unwilling to give you benefits. 

However, you reserve the right to get an independent medical examination from your doctor to provide additional evidence to the VA. Presenting the results of an IME to the VA can show them that a doctor has carefully examined your service-related medical records and assessed your condition accurately. If a physician determines that there is sufficient medical evidence of your disability, you can potentially change the VA’s decision to deny you benefits.

The VA may also withhold benefits from you if they do not recognize a connection between your disability and your military service. Even if the VA acknowledges the legitimacy of your disability, they can still deny you benefits if there does not seem to be a connection between your condition and your service. 

One of the best ways to verify the connection between your condition and your military service is by presenting testimonials from trusted individuals you served with in the military. These “buddy statements” can help prove to the VA that your disability is service-related since they are coming from people who served alongside you and witnessed the connection between your disability and your service firsthand.

If you have been denied disability benefits or feel that the rating you received is too low, you can also make an appeal to the VA to potentially change your outcome. It’s best not to go through the appeals process alone, though – the help of an experienced attorney can make it much easier to make an appeal successfully.

Navigating the appeals process with an attorney’s help can make it a much less frustrating undertaking. You shouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail to get the benefits that you deserve from the VA. Instead, enlist the support of Berry Law Firm’s experienced attorneys to help you out. Our firm is made up of Veterans who are committed to helping other Veterans get the benefits they deserve.

 

Sources:

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/understanding-your-employment-rights-under-americans-disabilities-act-guide-Veterans

https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/vetsdisc

https://www.worker.gov/concerns/Veteran-or-service-member-rights/