Harsh environments, long durations traveling, hazards of combat, and exposure to potentially threatening germs or chemicals are inherent factors in being employed with the military. Enlisted members run the risk of sustaining injury, medical conditions, or disabilities that could be lifelong and disrupt an individual’s capacity in finding employment outside of the military.
Conditions or disabilities sustained or intensified in service-related situations are provided for by the U.S. government with monthly disability compensation. This includes low-income veterans completely and permanently disabled from non-service-related medical conditions and disabilities who the government takes care of with monthly disability pensions.
Veterans who have earned the highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—are given lifelong pensions distributed by the Veterans’ Affairs (VA).
Eligibility for Disability Compensation
To qualify for monthly disability compensation through the VA, a veteran must fit these criteria:
- The veteran’s disability or medical condition must have been caused or aggravated by or during their time in the military. This is decided by the VA, who make these decisions in relation to service connection and reputed service connection (more information on this in this chapter).
- The VA has assigned a disability assessment to the veteran’s disability or medical condition. This VA rating also determines the amount of monthly tax-free disability compensation a veteran is eligible for. The VA evaluation of disabilities and medical conditions is based on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent in intervals of 10 (such as 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc.).
- A veteran must have been discharged with a characterization of honorable or general, otherwise the VA must prove a Veteran’s other than honorable conditions (OTHC) for discharge were not a result of misconduct. (Chapter 2 explains this further.)
Establishing the service connection
The VA is required to establish service connection to a disability or medical condition in order for a veteran to qualify for a VA disability compensation. Service connection can be recognized in multiple ways, including:
- The disability or condition was sustained in military service. The evidence to prove a disability or condition was sustained during service is taken from medical records.
- The exacerbation of a non-service-related disability during military service. Exacerbation of non-service-related disabilities does not include conditions sustained before service that are agitated in relation to the internal development of the disease or condition.
That is to say that a military employee would not receive benefits or qualify for benefits if they had asthma prior to enrolling in the military and their condition worsened while they maintained a military desk job. The same individual might qualify for VA benefits if they were deployed to an environment with hazardous circumstances such as oil well fires.
Chapter 2 discusses how the VA makes their decision after evaluating the places traveled, types, and circumstances of a veteran’s military service as recorded in their military record. Those having experienced combat duty and other hardships are considered with certain merit.
- An additional condition materializes contingent to a service-related disability. Under particular circumstances it is possible for one medical condition to cause another. Doctors understand that those with amputations occurring above the ankle are apt to develop heart disease and in the case that an amputation is required as a result of an injury sustained in combat, then heart disease is considered service-related by the VA.
- Presumption the disease or disability was sustained during military service. The VA has the capacity to presume a medical condition or disability is service-related. This is related in the next section.
Evidence must be provided a veteran has an ongoing disability for all cases.
Making a presumptive service connection
Under the particular conditions of a veteran’s service, the VA can allocate a presumptive service-connection determination. Presumptive service-connection determinations are made when the VA presumes a particular disability diagnosed in a veteran that resulted from their military service. The veteran is awarded disability compensation if eligible.
These presumption qualifications are categorized below.
- Veterans within one year of release from active duty: Veterans diagnosed with arthritis, diabetes, hypertension or other chronic diseases are eligible for benefits if the VA presumes the condition is service-related, even if there is no evidence of service connection.
- Veterans with ALS: If a veteran served in the Persian Gulf (Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or neighboring locations) from August 2, 1990 to July 31, 1991, and are identified as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), the VA is likely to consider the condition service-related. The VA also presumes a service connection if a veteran served on active duty in any location for 90 days or more and was diagnosed with ALS.
- Former prisoners of war for any length of time: POWs diagnosed with a disability of at least 10 percent disabling for the following issues are presumed to have service-related conditions:
- Dysthymic disorder (clinical depression)
- Heart disease or hypertension vascular disease and its complications
- Mental health conditions
- The consequences of frostbite
- Post-traumatic osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Stroke and the subsequent aftermath
- Former prisoners of war for at least 30 days: A POW captive for at least 30 days diagnosed with a disability at least 10 percent disabling for the following conditions is also considered as having a service-related condition:
- Avitminosis (a disease resulting from chronic or long-term vitamin deficiency)
- Beriberi (a nervous system condition caused by thiamine deficiency)
- Pellagra (a disease caused by lack of niacin)
- All other nutritional deficiency
- Chronic dysentery (an inflammation causing severe, bloody diarrhea)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Helminthiasis (a macro-parasitic disease caused by an infestation of parasitic worms)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (a symptom-based condition caused by chronic stomach discomfort and alteration of bowel habits)
- Peptic ulcer disease
- Peripheral neuropath (numbness of extremities)
- Vietnam Veterans: A veteran having served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 who was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, the VA presumes service connection concerning the following medical conditions:
- Peripheral neuropath (numbness of the extremities) if developed within a year of herbicide exposure
- Chloracne (a skin disease manifesting as extreme acne as a result of chlorinated chemical exposure) or other related diseases if developed within one year of herbicide exposure
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease (type of lymphoma cancer)
- Multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Porphyria cutanea tarda (blistering skin) if developed within one year of herbicide exposure
- Primary amyloidosis (hazardous protein fibers imbedded in tissues and organs)
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers (this includes lung, bronchus, larynx, and trachea cancers)
- Soft-tissue sarcomas (cancer of the soft tissues of the body)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gulf War veterans: Those having served in the Persian Gulf with any of the following conditions are considered by the VA to have Gulf War Syndrome and designated as service-related issues, so long as the condition was diagnosed before December 31, 2011:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Fibromyalgia (widespread pain)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Any disorder the secretary of Veterans’ Affairs deems as requiring a presumption of service connection, whether the condition is diagnosed or undiagnosed.
This currently includes: fatigue, skin symptoms, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological symptoms, respiratory symptoms, sleep disturbance, GI symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms, weight loss, and menstrual disorders.
- Other presumptive conditions: There are alternative conditions or situations the VA has a proclivity to presume is service-related in regard to the date and location a veteran carried out their military service.
A list for these conditions is included in Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), in sections 3.307, 3.308, and 3.309:
- Section 3.307: warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKB/PART3/S3_307.DOC.
- Section 3.308: warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKB/PART3/S3_308.DOC.
- Section 3.309: warms.vba.va.gov/regs/38CFR/BOOKB/PART3/S3_309.DOC.
Determining disability rating
A comprehensive list of the VA’s medical conditions and disabilities, including their rules and conditions and required rules and required conditions is available at www.warms.vba.va.gov/bookc.html.
Title 38, Part 4 contains the VA’s schedule for Ratings and Disabilities.
A VA rating schedule regarding employment is predominantly founded on the amount of earnings a veteran is capable of with respect to their disability. The capacity to overcome a disability ranges widely contingent upon the individual. The VA doesn’t account for the veteran’s personal ability to overcome a disability during evaluation of employability and compensation.
In some cases, the disability rating schedule requires a disability rating of less than 100 percent but the VA ultimately determines that the veteran is unemployable with regard to individual circumstances. In these situations, it is possible the VA will distribute disability compensation equal to 100 percent.
In order to qualify for this benefit the veteran must meet these standards:
- The VA considers the veteran’s service-related disability to have an impediment on them finding and maintaining a moderately paid job.
- A rating of 60 percent or more must be determined if the veteran has only one service-related disability.
- A rating of 40 percent of more must be determined if the veteran has two or more service-related disabilities. Also, the combined disability rating is at least 70 percent or more. Combined disability ratings can be found in the next section.
If a veteran has one or more service-rated medical condition or disability, each with its own rating, the VA utilizes a chart that determines a combined disability rating. The VA rating chart is recreated with Table 6-1.
How to determine a rating with more than one service-related medical condition
Veterans with more than one service-related medical condition or disability can find their combined disability rating by:
- Taking the highest rating disability and locate it at the top of the chart.
- Find the next highest rating and locate it on the left side of the chart.
- The combined disability rating is where the two lines intersect.
How to determine a rating with more than two service-related medical condition
If a veteran has more than two disabilities they can:
- Take the next highest disability rating and locate it at the top of the chart.
- Take the previous combined rating and find it on the left side.
- The combined rating for three disabilities is where the lines intersect.
- Continue this process for all disabilities applicable.
- After accumulating the ratings, round the number to the nearest multiple of 10 for the combined disability rating.
(TABLE 6-1: Combined Disability Ratings)
|Table 6-1||Combined Disability Rating|
An example for finding disability rating would be assuming a veteran has been granted a rating of 10 percent for one condition, 20 percent for another condition, and 40 percent for a third disability:
- Take the highest rating (40) and locate it at the top of the chart.
- Take the next highest rating (20) and locate it at the left of the chart.
- The lines for these two ratings meet at a rating of 52.
- Locate the last rating (10) at the top of the chart.
- Locate the combined rating (52) on the left side.
- The combined rating for the three conditions is 57.
- Round the final rating (57) to the nearest multiple of 10 for a combined disability rating of 60 percent.
If a veteran has two disability ratings of 10 percent each, a combined disability rating would be 19, though the chart does not provide this.Do not round to the nearest multiple of 10 unless the ratings process is finished