Military members are exposed to a variety of dangers including combat, traveling to foreign countries, unsanitary environments, and diseases. Sometimes this results in a lifelong medical condition or disability that can interfere with a veteran’s ability to get and hold a good job.
The U.S. government takes care of veterans who have disabilities and medical conditions that were caused or worsened by military service by providing monthly disability compensation. It also takes care of low-income veterans who are totally and permanently disabled due to non-service-connected medical conditions and disabilities by providing a monthly disability pension. Finally, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a lifelong pension to veterans who have earned our nation’s highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor. Keep reading for more details.
Checking Your Eligibility for Disability Compensation
The VA provides monthly disability compensation to certain veterans. To be eligible:
- Your disability or medical condition must have been caused or made worse by your service in the military, as determined by the VA. The VA makes determinations based on service connection and presumed service connection.
- You must have a disability or a medical condition that the VA has assigned a disability rating.
- The amount of monthly tax-free disability compensation you can receive is based primarily on the disability rating you receive from the VA. The VA rates medical conditions and disabilities on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent in 10-percentage-point intervals (in other words, 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and so on).
- You must have either an honorable or general discharge. If you have any other kind of a discharge, such as an other than honorable conditions (OTHC) or a bad-conduct discharge awarded by a special court-martial, then the VA must determine that your discharge was not under dishonorable conditions.
Establishing the Service Connection
To qualify for VA disability compensation, the VA must determine that your medical condition was caused or aggravated by your military service. Service connection for a disability or death can be established through many ways. To learn more on the four most common visit:
Your Disability Rating
The VA has a massive listing of medical conditions and disabilities, along with rules and conditions that ultimately result in the assignment of a disability rating. You can see the entire list online at www.warms.vba.va.gov/bookc.html. The Schedule for Ratings Disabilities can be found in Part 4 of Title 38. For more information on your rating visit:
Figuring Monthly Rates
Your monthly disability compensation depends primarily on your disability rating. For those rated at 30 percent or more, rates increase based on the number of dependents you have.
If you are rated at 10 percent disabled, your 2008 monthly disability rate is $117 per month. If you are 20 percent disabled, it’s $230 per month.
As with most veterans benefits, children are considered to be those under the age of 18, or under the age of 23 if attending a college or university as a full-time student. Also included are children who are incapable of self-care if the incapability happened before the age of 18 (or 23 if enrolled in school).
The VA adjusts the rates on December 1 of each year to account for inflation.
For the latest rates, visit the VA’s Web site at www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates.
For more information on your compensation and what is offered please review the following information:
Counting Your Income
Your countable income includes income received by you or your dependents, if any, from most sources. It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business.
There is a presumption that all your child’s income is available to or for you. However, you can exclude a portion of your child’s income. For 2008, the annual exclusion limit is $8,950.
Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit. For example, welfare benefits, food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) aren’t counted. Additionally, you’re allowed to deduct certain medical and educational expenses. When you apply for a VA pension, you should include all income and deductions. The VA will exclude any income and include all deductions allowed by law when computing your annual family income.
Assuming you qualify, your annual pension is the difference between your countable family income (after exclusions and deductions). This amount is then divided by 12 and rounded down to the nearest dollar. This gives you the amount of your monthly pension payment. VA pensions are exempt from income taxes.
You cannot receive a VA non-service-connected pension and service-connected disability compensation at the same time. However, if you apply for the pension and are awarded payments, the VA will pay you whichever benefit is the greater amount.