What is a Veteran? The Difference Between Types of Military Service and How it Relates to VA Benefits

The Official Definition Of Veteran

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a Veteran is a formerly active member of the Army, Navy, or Air Force who finished their time in the military honorably. A former soldier is granted Veteran status if they have served in any branch of the military and retired from the service without receiving a dishonorable discharge. If a soldier is dishonorably discharged, they will lose their Veteran status and be unable to receive any benefits awarded to Veterans by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. 

What Is Full-Time Military Service? 

A full-time member of the military is a soldier on active-duty service. Active-duty service means being readily available for work or deployment at all times. Active-duty members of the military, regardless of the branch, must be available 24/7. The only exception to this rule is for those serving in the military who are permitted to take a leave of absence. 

What Is Part-Time Military Service? 

Part-time military service is typically a commitment of at least one weekend out of each month of the year. This type of military service often applies to the coast guard or national guard members — those serving in the Army, Navy, and Air Force are typically engaged in full-time service.

What Are The Reserves? 

Any member of the reserves for a branch of the military has made a commitment to being deployed and providing assistance to their branch if necessary. Members of the reserves will go through similar training to those serving full-time, and they will typically start a military-affiliated career after going to the military’s job school. After receiving basic training and career training, members of the military reserves are essentially civilians again. However, if needed, they can be called on by their branch and deployed if necessary.

Although members of the reserves do not qualify for all of the same benefits that active-duty members of the military do, they can still qualify for VA disability benefits. Since those in the reserves can be deployed at any point, the VA can still accommodate them for service-connected injuries or disabilities. 

In addition to being ready to be deployed if needed, members of the reserves must also complete two weeks of full-time training per year. This training prepares members of the reserves for deployment and ensures that they will be ready for active duty service if necessary.

What Is The National Guard? 

Members of the National Guard receive similar training and have similar responsibilities to members of the reserves. However, instead of being on call for active-duty deployment, the national guard is overseen by individual state governments. This branch of the military can help deal with statewide emergencies and other major crises, and members can receive many of the same benefits that members of the reserves receive.

In addition to serving stateside, some members of the National Guard are also deployed overseas. Like the reserves, the national guard can assist other branches of the military when necessary. However, the National Guard’s primary role is handling crises stateside.

What Is Active Guard/Reserves?

Similar to all members of the reserves, Active Guard/Reserves (AGR) members receive training to be deployed if necessary. However, AGR members are in the reserves or national guard and have volunteered to be deployed for active-duty service. These members of the reserves can receive the same benefits as they would for full-time military service. However, the requirements and responsibilities placed on AGR members are often higher than those placed on other members of the reserves.

Disability Benefits For Veterans 

Any Veteran of any branch of the military can potentially qualify for disability benefits if they suffer from a service-connected disability. These disabilities can be either physical or psychological, and the conditions recognized as warranting benefits from the VA can vary in severity. Some Veterans may receive compensation for conditions that are severely disabling, while others might get less benefits for conditions that are less severe. The VA grants benefits to disabled Veterans on a case-by-case basis. The Department’s assessment of each disabled Veteran will depend on the nature of their condition and the evidence presented in their disability claim.

Disability payments from the VA are delivered monthly. These benefits are tax-free, and they can help provide Veterans with the resources that they need to seek treatment and continue recovering from their service-connected disabilities. VA benefits can also help a disabled Veteran support their dependents and self, even if they are unable to find employment due to their disability. 

How VA Disability Ratings Work

The VA rates service-connected disabilities on a percentage-based scale. The ratings Veterans can receive range from 0 percent to 100 percent, increasing in increments of ten. A disabled Veteran can receive a higher disability rating if they suffer from an extremely debilitating service-connected condition or a combination of multiple service-related disabilities.

If a Veteran is given a disability rating that is lower than 10 percent, it means the VA recognizes that they have a service-connected disability, but that it is not severe enough to qualify the Veteran for monthly benefits. Without at least a 10 percent disability rating, a Veteran will not receive monthly compensation.

Disability ratings of at least 10 percent can qualify a Veteran to receive monthly tax-free compensation. If a Veteran’s disability is especially severe, they should be able to qualify for a higher disability rating. Veterans who suffer from multiple service-connected conditions can also qualify for benefits for each of their disabilities. The only criteria for getting disability benefits from the VA is that a Veteran’s condition can be directly linked to their military service, and that it is severe enough to affect their quality of life significantly. 

Who Can Qualify For VA Disability Benefits?

If you are a Veteran of any branch of the military and have a diagnosable disability, you may be able to qualify for VA benefits. If you can verify that your disability developed as a result of an injury or experience during your time in the military, you are highly likely to qualify for monthly compensation.

Veterans may not be able to qualify for disability benefits if:

  • They have been dishonorably discharged. A soldier with a dishonorable discharge will not have access to any benefits offered by the VA.

  • Their disability is not severe enough to warrant compensation. Sometimes, a Veteran will be recognized as having a service-connected disability, but the VA may not view it as severe enough to qualify the Veteran for benefits. If a Veteran files a claim for a service-connected disability with only mild symptoms, they may not be approved for benefits.

  • They do not provide evidence that can connect their disability to an event that occurred during their time in the military. Without this connection, the VA cannot grant benefits, even if a Veteran has a diagnosable disability. Many VA disability claims are denied due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

  • A Veteran has a disability, but it is not service-connected.  If a Veteran is dealing with a severe, diagnosable disability, they may still not have all they need to be approved for disability benefits. Without a link connecting their disability to their military service, the VA cannot provide compensation to a Veteran, even if their disability is extremely severe.

What To Do If You Are Denied Benefits

If you are a Veteran with a service-connected disability, you should be able to receive disability benefits from the VA. If the VA has denied a claim that you filed for disability benefits, don’t give up – there are steps that you can take to get a better outcome.

If the VA has denied your claim for benefits, follow these steps:

  • Appeal the VA’s decision. You can appeal the VA’s decision, whether your claim is denied or approved. Some Veterans may receive an approval but get a lower disability rating than they deserve. Don’t settle for fewer benefits than you need and deserve — make an appeal and have the VA review your claim.

  • Recruit an experienced attorney. The VA appeals process can be convoluted and complicated, and you don’t want to have to go through it on your own. A Veterans’ disability attorney can help you establish service connection, compile and present compelling evidence, and make a strong case to the VA that the outcome of your claim should be changed.

  • Get an independent medical examination (IME). If the VA has denied your claim based on lack of medical evidence, you can get a second opinion from a private doctor. A non-VA-affiliated doctor can make a statement that you can present to the VA to influence the outcome of your claim.

If you are struggling to get the benefits that you need and deserve from the VA, contact Berry Law today. Our team of experienced and dedicated attorneys have experience navigating the VA appeals process. We will do what it takes to get your claim approved if it has been denied, or help you raise your VA disability rating if it is too low.

Contact Us Today For A Free Consultation.

 

Sources:

https://militarybenefits.info/types-of-military-discharges-2/

https://www.goarmy.com/reserve/jobs.html

https://www.nationalguard.com/basic-combat-training