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Veteran Disability

What Disability Benefits are Available for Veterans?

Veterans Benefits are perhaps the most misunderstood and underutilized resources available to millions of veterans and their families.  While it is commonly known that certain benefits are available for the brave men and women who served in our armed forces, many veterans (and their families) are unaware that they could be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.

The VA provides several types of disability benefits for veterans. The first of these is the healthcare benefits described above. Secondly, there is disability compensation,  which provides monthly compensation payments based on the veteran's disability rating. Third, disability pensions may be awarded to veterans who served during wartime and received a disabling injury. To obtain any healthcare or disability benefits, you must file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA will then determine which services you are eligible for.

Veterans Benefits offered to eligible beneficiaries include:

  • Burial and Memorial: In exchange for the service that Veterans have selflessly given to The United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense provide several memorial and burial services for eligible active-duty, Reserve, Guard, retired and veteran members.  All Veterans and military family members should be aware of the memorial benefits offered by the Department of Veterans affairs before they are actually needed.
  • Death Pension: The VA Death Pension is a benefit paid to eligible dependents of deceased wartime veterans.
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: This is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of certain deceased veterans.
  • Disability Compensation: Certain military veterans with a service-related disability may qualify for regular monthly benefits. These benefits are generally tax-free and are paid to veterans who have injuries or diseases that occurred while on active duty, or were aggravated and made worse by active military service. It is also paid to certain veterans disabled as a result of care provided by VA medical facilities.
  • Employment & Training: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Labor (DoL) and the Department of Education (DoE) all administer a number of employment, education, and training programs for veterans.  These programs include, but are not limited to The Montgomery G.I. Bill - Active Duty, The Montgomery G.I. Bill – Selected Reserve, Veterans' Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), Veterans Upward Bound and Veterans' Employment and Training.
  • Parents DIC: Parents' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is an income-based monthly benefit for the parents of a military service member or veteran who has died.
  • Special Monthly Compensation: Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is a monetary compensation (in addition to the regular VA Disability Compensation) to a veteran who, as a result of military service, incurred the loss of or the loss of use of specific organs or extremities. Loss, or loss of use, is described as either an amputation or having no effective remaining function of an extremity or organ. 
  • Survivor Benefits: Surviving family members of veterans are entitled to certain benefits that can help ease their financial difficulties.  When a loved one dies, it can be emotionally difficult to look into available benefits, but this process should be done as soon as possible to prevent eligibility problems.
  • Veterans Health Care: The Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act was passed by Congress in October of 1996, paving the way for the Medical Benefits Package plan to be made available to all enrolled veterans. The Medical Benefits Package emphasizes preventive and primary care and offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient services. 

    In addition, combat veterans returning from active military service may be eligible to receive free health care services and nursing home care for up to two years, beginning on the date of separation from active military service. This benefit covers all illnesses and injuries except those clearly unrelated to military service.  Dental services are not included in this health care package.
  • Veterans Life Insurance: Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is a program which proves low cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the National Guard, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

What If My Claim for Veterans Benefits was Denied, Can I Appeal?

Unfortunately, many of the eligible beneficiaries are initially denied these benefits when a claim is filed.  Applicants should be aware that the decisions for these claims can be appealed by veterans and their eligible family members.  The process for appeals generally begins with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington, D.C.  Once a claim has been filed and consequently denied, the veteran or other potentially eligible beneficiary has sixty days to file for an appeal with their regional office. Legislation was passed and came into effect on June 20, 2007 which provides veterans the option of retaining an attorney after the first denial by the Department of Veterans Affairs at the “Notice of Disagreement” (NOD) stage.

If you receive a decision from the VA regarding your eligibility, and you do not agree with it, you may file an appeal with the VA.

If you have received a denial of eligibility for benefits, and you wish to appeal the decision, you will first need to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within one year of your notice of denial. The NOD can be written on a form provided by the VA.  The statement basically states that you disagree with the decision and wish to appeal it. Once the form is completed, you can take it to your local VA or mail it to the address listed on the form.

After filing your NOD, a Decision Review Officer reviews your appeal. If they disagree with your appeal, they'll send you a Statement of the Case document in which they summarize their review. It will come along with a form (VA Form 9) which you must complete and return within 60 days if you wish to appeal further, to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. You may request a hearing with a Veterans' Law Judge. The Board then reviews your appeal and makes a decision, which will be relayed to you in written form.

What Can I Do If My Appeal for Veterans Benefits is Denied?

If your appeal is still denied following the Board's decision, you can further appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. This court is independent of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims can be a complex process. If you wish to appeal to the Court of Veterans' Claim, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney.

The Department of Veterans Affairs benefits claims and appeals process can be complicated.  If a veteran or a veteran's family members have received a denial of benefits to which they believe they are entitled, it is in their best interest to contact an attorney who is familiar with veterans benefits to assist them with the application and appeals process.  

For many military servicemembers and veterans, a disabling injury or illness is an unfortunate aftermath of their time spent in service to our country. If you've sacrificed during your service and feel you've lost something due to your disability, you do not need to suffer alone. We can help you with service-connected injuries, survivor claims, and more.

Our VA Disability attorneys hold a strong commitment to making a difference in the lives of veterans who need a voice. We strive to help you navigate legal and personal challenges that you may run into when working with the VA.

Is a Veteran's Surviving Spouse Eligible for Benefits?

The surviving spouse of a veteran can potentially be eligible for veterans benefits. It depends, but probably. Certain people who are spouses of military personnel with wartime service may be eligible for a survivor's pension. Many of these benefits are tax-free.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

This pension is a monthly benefit paid to survivors of certain deceased veterans. There are certain requirements that must be met.

Veteran Requirements – For the veteran to be considered eligible, the veteran must have died:

  • On active duty
  • While training
  • Due to service-connected disabilities
  • Died from non-service-related causes, not as a result of willful misconduct, and were receiving, or eligible to receive, disability compensation from the VA for service-connected disabilities. The veteran also must have been: 1) Completely disabled for 10 years prior to death, 2) Discharged 5 years prior to death, 3) 1 year after being a prisoner of war after September 30, 1999.

Recipient Requirements – For spouses to be eligible, they must have:

  • Been married to the veteran for at least one year before the death, or
  • Had a child with the veteran,
  • Or, if the couple has been married within 15 years of the discharge, and the veteran left the military due to a service-connected disability, cohabited with the veteran for the duration of the marriage unless the couple went through period of separation that was not the fault of the surviving spouse; and
  • Not remarried before reaching the age of 57.

The current amount available under Dependence and Indemnity Compensation pension is $1,195 if the veteran died on or after January 1, 1993. There are certain additional increases available.

Veteran's Death Pension

Below are the requirements that must be met to be eligible for this pension.

  1. Length of Service – The veteran must have served a minimum amount of time, and for a specific period of time. If the military veteran served before September 7, 1980, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during wartime. If the service member joined after September 7, 1980, that individual must have served at least 24 months or the full term ordered of active duty, with at least one day during wartime.
  2. Not Dishonorably Discharge – The service member must have not been dishonorably discharged.
  3. Income – There are certain income restrictions that apply. These limitations are set by Congress, and they discount an individual's countable income from the set income limit. For instance, if the maximum income rate is $12,000, and the survivor earned $10,000, they will be eligible for $2,000 under the survivor's pension. The maximum income rate varies from year to year.

Who Else May Be Eligible for Survivor Benefits?

In addition, parents and children may be eligible for survivor benefits. Similar restrictions and requirements must be met.

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