If you have been injured while in service of the military, you may be entitled to qualify for VA service-connected disability benefits based off of your injury, disease, or disability.
However, it’s quite easy for one to feel more than a little confused about whether or not they even qualify to gain service-connected disability benefits from the VA,to begin with. This shouldn’t be something that disabled veterans struggle with, especially if you have a disability and are looking to obtainbonuses to help you in daily life.
This list was created to go through, in detail, the conditions that you may have that qualify you for VA disability benefits. While not all situations are listed here, these conditions are the most common and most discussed when talking about VA disability benefits. We’ve also listed some vital information that you must know before applying for benefits, such as who even qualifies and what VA disability benefits are.
What do VA disability benefits encompass? What are they?
Basically, VA disability benefits are monthly payments that are sent to individuals who qualify for benefits based off of their own, individual situation. You canbe eligible for these benefits by applying and completing a disability claim.
The amount that disabled veterans receive monthly depends on the individual situation this person faces. Some veterans may receive more monetary payments than others, depending on their degree of disability and currentstatus. Through the VA disability program, veterans also gain benefits that can include coverage of travel expenses if used for medical treatment or rehabilitation.
You can apply if you meet these guidelines:
- You must be a veteran of the US military service
- You must have been recently diagnosed or have a disease
- There must have been some type of incident during your time of service that resulted in your disability
- The disability must be proven to have been work-related; you must have gotten this disability through what you were doing while in the military (meaning you wouldn’t have got this disability if you weren’t an active service member)
Conditions that qualify for VA disability benefits
Veterans that are eligible for VA disability benefits must have a disease or illness that is service connected. These situations are commonly split up between three different connections: a direct service connection, a presumed service connection, and an aggravated injury connection. These three connections are very differentand we’ll break down each one, including the conditions that fall under them, below to make things as transparent as possible. We’ll also discuss some other, less common connections you may find yourself under if your disability doesn’t fall into the first three categories.
Direct Service Connection
A direct service connection is declared when the disability is directly related to military service, with no qualms. There are a variety of scenarios and situations that fall under direct service connections. The veteran must be able to show that their current disability happened while they were active in the military, they must have evidence of the situation that an event occurred that then resulted in this disability, and they must then have medical proof that the incident resulted in a disability.
Some common direct service connection disabilities include (but are not limited to):
- Loss of eyesight from any given situation (such as a combat injury)
- Shrapnel wounds from combat that have resulted in physical problems
- Heavy lifting that has led in back pain
- Any type of immediate, physical pain from conflict or while on the front line
Presumed Service Connection
A presumed service connection is declared when a veteran has developed a disability that is assumedto be from their time in active service. This veteran must have served for at least 90 days,and the disability must be considered a 10% degree or higher. These presumed service connection disabilities include a variety of illnesses such as, but not limited to, chronic diseases, tuberculosis, and some tropical diseases and illnesses. To have a presumed service connection declared, a disability must have appeared within a specific time frame after completing an active service. However, this does depend on the given impairment or disease the veteran has.
Some common presumed service connection illnesses include (but are not limited to):
- Cancer:If a veteran is diagnosed with any type of cancer, they must be able to clearly show that they havecontracted this illness because of their time in the military. For the most part, those who were exposed, in any variety, to radiation during their active service and later are diagnosed with cancer more than likely are qualified for benefits under the presumed service connection criteria. Veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents (e., Agent Orange) during their active military service can also gain disability benefits through this presumed service connection criteria. Also, cancer is one of the illnesses that don’t necessarily have a time frame where a veteran needs to have shown symptoms.
- Disabilities stemming from times spent as a POW: If a veteran was a prisoner of war, there are many physical, mental, and emotional disabilities that can be traced to this time as a POW. Because of this, these disabilities are considered to be presumed service connection disabilities. These include illnesses or disabilities like frostbite and anxiety disorders to malnutrition, chronic dysentery, and irritable bowel syndrome. Of course, many diseases canbe traced to this time, and every scenario is different.
- The Gulf War: If a veteran has served during the Gulf War and is experiencinglong-term problems that are lasting more than six months, these disabilities may be traced to their time spent during the Gulf War conflict. Because of this situation, they can be qualified for benefits under the presumed service connection criteria.
Aggravated Service Connection
Anaggravated service connection is declared when a veteran entered the military with a preexisting condition (one that is noted in their entrance medical exams), but yet can show that this condition has spiked or become aggravated because of their time in the military. Simply put, this means that a veteran’s preexisting condition has worsened because of their active duty while in the military. However, there does need to be proof that there was a preexisting condition,to begin with. If this wasn’t declared on the entrance medical exams, it needs to be proven in another way when applying for benefits. There also needs to be proof, in whatever form, that the condition worsened because of the active duty in the military, and not just because there had been a progression of time. Because of this need for proof that an event caused this, there may need to be a note or an evaluation from doctors to show that this wasn’t just a natural progression.
Aggravated service connection illnesses and conditions really do vary, depending on the person and their situation.
Accidents related to service-connected disabilities
While most benefits cover anyonewho experienced an event or situation while on duty in the military, there are specific clauses that are put in place to those who have developed any type of injury or disability while in the military, even if they weren’t on duty.
Technically speaking, when you are on active duty, you are on active duty 24/7, no matter what. Even if you’re “off duty”, you’re really “on duty.” Therefore, if there is an accident or event that has resulted in an injury, a veteran can claim this is service connected.Thus, any kind ofaccident a veteran may have experienced while on or off duty could be considered service connected.
These service-connected injuries or disabilities can also include if a veteran was traveling to and from work and/or leave, when a vet was on a military base at any time or off hours, or when a vet was on leave. Every situation is different, but most will be covered (if they can be proven) because an active service member is always an active service member, no matter what. So, if an accident has occurred while you weren’t on duty (but were still considered active), you might be able to gain some benefits from that harrowing situation.
Now, if you were at fault for the accident, that’s completely different. In any situation, if a veteran was at fault for an accident that resulted in theirown disability, they will not be able to gain benefits from the VA benefits system. We simplify and discuss those that are considered ineligible for disability benefits, and their situations, below.
Secondary Service Connection
If a veteran is already eligible for VA disability benefits because of a disease, injury, or illness but yet has another, possibly even newer, a disability that stems solely from their original disability, they may be able to gain more benefits. These types of situations are called secondary service connections. These types of connections also cover if you had a preexisting illness or disease before service, but then the disability you gained while in service is aggravating your preexisting disability.
These type of connections or disabilities might not appear until later on after you initially gain VA disability benefits. This is okay. You can always contact the VA and inform them of new situations that you are facing, especially if they are a result of your active duty and the disabilities that have come from this active duty. Because you already are qualified for VA disability benefits, all you then have to do is show evidence that the new disability or disease you are struggling with is because of the one you had prior.
Of course, you will need to be able to show proof that the new disability stems solely from the condition that you already struggle with. You must also be able to show evidence that your preexisting condition has worsened from the disabilityyou acquired while you were in the military.Thisis best done with a doctor’s help and medical evaluation. Some common scenarios include chronic pain that then leads to depression or diabetes that then leads to heart disease.
PTSD is under a different branch than most other conditions that qualify for VA disability benefits. This is because there sometimes isn’t one definitive situation that occurred to result in PTSD that can be proven; often, it is through the time spent in the military that can result in PTSD.
Because of this, if you have PTSD, you do not need to have proof of one situation that resulted in this disability. Instead, you just need a diagnosis from a military or VA doctor/psychologist that determined that the PTSD you are suffering from was from a traumatic experience that occurred while you were an active member of the military.
PTSD is treateddifferently than the other conditions that qualify and, therefore, have a lot of different benefits that go with them. Because of this, it is difficult to narrow down the specifics of PTSD and how the VA helps those that are diagnosed with this, as everyone is different and has different experiences with PTSD benefits.
Can you be considered ineligible for VA disability benefits?
Yes, you can be considered ineligible for VA disability benefits based off of a number of reasons, sometimes even if you do have a disability. These scenarios include (but are not limited to):
- If a veteran was dishonorably discharged, they would not be able to be considered eligible for any type of benefit
- If the disability that the veteran acquired was caused because of misconduct on the veteran’s behalf, they would not qualify for disability benefits
- If the injury or disability event occurred during a time when the vet was AWOL, deserting, or avoiding duty, they would not be eligible for any benefits
- If the injury or disability event occurred while the veteran was in any type of prison, jail, court, or detained because of being court-martialed, they would not qualify for any kind of benefits
VA disability benefits
As you can see, many conditions qualify for VA disability benefits. If you are a veteran that has any type of disability, the best thing you could do for yourself would be just to apply. The worst thing? Not doing anything! By just applying, you could potentially gain access to an excellent benefits system that helps you with the injuries or disabilities that you acquired while you were an active duty member.