If you are a Veteran who has a service-connected disability, you may qualify for monthly tax-free benefits from the VA. The VA offers disability benefits to any Veteran (a former member of any branch of the military who was discharged honorably) who has a mental or physical condition that is directly linked to their military service. The VA awards benefits to Veterans with disabilities that are both mild and severe — the primary factor that qualifies a Veteran to receive disability benefits is a verifiable connection between their disability and their military service.
Many Veterans do not realize that the health problems they deal with on a regular basis may be directly linked to their time in the military and these service-connected conditions can qualify them to receive disability benefits from the VA. If you are dealing with either a psychological or physical disability and feel that it may be linked to your military service, make sure to visit your doctor and have your condition assessed. Your medical care provider will be able to help you determine whether you have a service-connected disability.
In this post, we will cover the process of qualifying for VA benefits. We’ll also go over the timeline for receiving your first disability payment from the VA and what to do if your disability claim is denied. Keep reading through to the end to learn how Berry Law’s dedicated attorneys can appeal the VA’s decision on your claim and help you get the benefits that you need and deserve.
Getting disability benefits from the VA starts with filing a claim through your regional Department Of Veterans’ Affairs Office. You can apply for VA benefits online, mail your claim in, or drop it off in person at your VA regional office. Once the VA has received your claim, they will start the process of assessing your condition(s) to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits. If the VA determines that your disability is severe enough and that it can be directly linked to your military service, you will most likely be approved to receive monthly payments.
After you file your claim, it typically takes the VA several months to make a decision regarding your benefits. The VA currently takes an average of 154 days to determine whether a Veteran should qualify to receive disability benefits. If you are still waiting on a VA decision after this point, it does not mean that something has gone wrong in the claim-filing and decision-making process. Unfortunately, the VA moves very slowly and some decisions can take over six months.
The amount of time that it takes for the VA to reach a decision regarding a Veteran’s disability claim depends on several key factors. These factors can cause a Veteran’s claim to take longer for the VA to assess and review:
After an average wait time of around 150 days, the VA will let you know whether they have approved or denied your claim. If your claim is approved, you will typically receive your first disability payment within 15 days of approval. After this, your disability payments will recur monthly on set dates. These dates are typically near the beginning or end of a month.
If your disability claim was approved, it means the VA recognizes that your condition is service-connected and severe enough to qualify you for monthly compensation. However, the VA does not grant the same levels of compensation to every Veteran with service-connected disabilities. Instead, the VA gives benefits through a percentage-based rating scale. This rating scale increases in increments of ten, and the score — between 0 and 100 percent — that a Veteran receives directly corresponds with their monthly disability benefits.
A 10% disability rating means that while a Veteran does have a service-connected disability, their condition is only severe enough to qualify them for the lowest possible level of compensation. A rating that is any lower than 10% will result in no monthly compensation. A 0% rating means that a Veteran may have a service-connected condition but that it is not severe enough to justify them receiving monthly disability benefits.
Higher disability ratings are often given to Veterans who suffer from service-related conditions with severe symptoms. These disabilities may severely affect a Veteran’s ability to function at work, in relationships, and everyday life. Depending on the amount that your disability affects you, you can potentially qualify for up to a 100% disability rating.
The VA rating system can also account for multiple service-connected disabilities. If a Veteran is dealing with several conditions that can be linked to their military service, the VA may award them a higher disability rating. Many disabled Veterans may qualify for higher benefits based on a combination of conditions that can all be verified as service-connected. For example, a Veteran may suffer from both PTSD and a leg injury, both of which qualify them for significant disability benefits if these conditions are connected to their military service. However, it is not as simple as adding the ratings for each condition to determine your total VA disability rating. Utilize our VA disability calculator to determine your combined disability rating.
Although Veterans can receive benefits for multiple service-connected disabilities, they cannot qualify for more benefits than a 100% disability rating can grant them. In this sense, the disability rating system is not exactly cumulative — the disability ratings for multiple service-connected conditions can only be combined to add up to a maximum of a 100% rating. However, some Veterans may qualify for Special Monthly Compensation.
In order to continue receiving disability benefits from the VA, you will need to demonstrate that your disability still has a negative impact on your life and that you are still suffering from symptoms. In some cases, a Veteran’s condition may improve over time, resulting in a decrease in the disability benefits they qualify for. The VA periodically re-evaluates a Veteran’s condition in the years after they initially qualify for disability benefits to determine whether their condition will improve over time.
If a VA re-evaluation shows that your symptoms have improved, you may end up getting your disability rating decreased. In some cases, the VA may find that you have made a full recovery from your service-connected disability. If this is the case, your disability benefits may be discontinued – you can only receive compensation for a service-connected condition if its symptoms and need for treatment persist.
Sometimes, the VA will decrease a Veteran’s disability rating based on an inaccurate re-evaluation of their condition. Since the symptoms of many disabilities can increase and decrease in severity from day to day, many Veterans may have their condition inaccurately evaluated by the VA, resulting in a decrease or discontinuation of benefits. If you feel that the VA has inaccurately assessed your disability status, you can request a re-evaluation or appeal the VA’s decision with the help of an attorney.
If you filed a claim for VA disability benefits and got denied, you don’t have to give up. If you feel that you should have received disability compensation for a condition that you developed as a result of your military service, you can appeal the VA’s decision to deny your claim with an attorney’s help.
Berry Law’s team of attorneys have been helping Veterans successfully appeal VA decisions and get their claims approved for over 20 years. Our team is made up of Veterans from multiple branches of the military, and we are well-versed in the inner workings of the VA decision-making process. We know what the VA looks for in a Veteran’s disability claim, and we’re here to do whatever it takes to get your claim approved.
If you need help appealing a VA decision, contact us today for a free consultation.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.