Benefits for Disabled Veterans (part 1)

October 29, 2015   |   Elizabeth Lunn

There are several types of benefits that may be available to Veterans who cannot work due to their physical and/or mental health.

Veterans Compensation

Veterans who have health problems that are service-connected should file for Veterans Compensation benefits. VA Compensation is a non-taxable payment available to any Veteran, even if they are still able to work. In order to qualify, the Veteran must show that their medical or physical problem either started while they were in service, was caused by their service, or if it existed prior to service, that the condition was made worse by their service. Many people think of service-connected disabilities as combat related. But any condition that started while on active duty service can qualify. For example, an injury that resulted from a bad landing during a parachute training exercise can be service connected. Injuries from a car accident while on leave can also be service connected. A Veteran with a mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD may be eligible for compensation payments.

Payment amounts for Veterans Compensation depend on the type of condition and the severity. A condition is assigned a rating from 0% to 100% and the payment amount goes up accordingly.  Veterans who have a rating less than 100% but who are unable to work due solely to service-connected conditions may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (“TDIU”). Veterans who receive TDIU benefits are paid at the 100% rate.

Non-Service Connected Pension

A Veteran may qualify for a non-service connected (“NSC”) VA pension if they are unable to work, but the inability to work is not due to service-connected conditions. For example, a Veteran who suffers serious injuries in a fall and can no longer work, but the fall occurred after their discharge from the military, may apply for a NSC pension. To qualify, a Veteran who entered military service prior to September 7, 1980 must have served at least 90 days on active duty and at least one of those days had to be during a period of war.  The Veteran need not have served overseas or in combat. If a Veteran entered service after that date they must have served at least 24 months or half of their required time in addition to serving at least one day during a period of war.

Periods of War

  • World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)

Veterans must also meet low-income and asset requirements for this benefit. The benefit payment amount is higher than SSI benefits from Social Security, so any Veteran who meets the requirements for service during a period of war and is on SSI benefits from the Social Security Administration should apply for this benefit. Typically the Veteran will receive the NSC pension instead of SSI payments.

Elizabeth Lunn is a partner at Lunn & Forro, PLLC. The firm limits its practice to representing disabled individuals seeking Social Security and Veterans benefits. For more information about qualifying for benefits, you can contact the firm at 888-966-6566 or download the free Social Security Disability guide on the firm’s website.