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Basic Eligibility for Compensation

Basic Eligibility For Compensation

To be eligible for disability compensation benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA):

  1. You must be a veteran of the United States military.
  2. You must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  3. You must have a disability that is service-connected.

You must be a veteran of the United States Military

The Veterans Administration supports American veterans and their families by providing a wide range of programs and services. Disability compensation is given only to deserving veterans who are disabled by injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated by active military service. It is also paid to veterans who become disabled from negligent VA health care or injury resulting from the pursuit of training under vocational rehabilitation.

You must have been honorably discharged from military service

A veteran who has more than one period of service, may be eligible for disabilities from any eligible period of service.  A veteran must have served under conditions characterized as “other than dishonorable” to be eligible for VA benefits for disability related to that period of service.  An other than honorable (OTH) discharge generally results in a bar to VA benefits for disabilities related to that period of service, but there are a few exceptions.  A medical discharge is generally considered an honorable discharge for VA purposes.  A bad conduct discharge (BCD) or dishonorable discharge is a bar to VA benefits for disabilities related to that period of service.

You must have a disability that is service-connected

Service connection generally means that a chronic disability arose coincidental with military service. It is important to establish that your injury or illness is service-connected to qualify for disability compensation. The following categories identify service-connected disability:

The onset of disability occurred coincidentally with active duty military service.

Example: Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.

A current disability caused by or aggravated by another service-connected disability.

Example: Service connected diabetes mellitus contributed to the development of peripheral neuropathy in the lower extremities.

A chronic disability diagnosed prior to military service is aggravated beyond normal progression during military service.  Note: the VA cannot rely on the veteran’s statement alone to find a disability existed prior to service.  The determination must be based on clear and convincing medical evidence or clearly accepted medical principles.

Example: Pes Planus (flat feet) made worse by the rigors of military training.

A chronic disability that is related to some exposure during military service.

Example: Ischemic heart disease related to exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War.

A veteran has loss of use of one extremity or organ (i.e. kidney) due to service- connected disability and later develops loss of use of the other extremity organ.

Example: Service connected for right kidney failure, disability or disease of the left kidney will be service connected as long as not intentionally and willfully self-inflicted.

A disability or death that occurred while a veteran was undergoing VA health care.

Example:   Veterans suffers loss of use of his arm as a result of VA surgery where a nerve was accidently cut due to lack of skill.

Injury that occurred while pursuing a vocational training plan with the VA.

Can National Guard or Reserve Members Get Disability Benefits from the VA?

Disabilities or diseases that arise coincidental with active duty service are generally service connected as long as there is no clear and convincing evidence that it preexisted service or was due to the veteran’s own wilful misconduct.  The rules are quite different for National Guard and Reserve service.

A member of the National Guard or Reserves that suffered from a disability due to trauma while on active duty for training or inactive duty for training status will generally be eligible for service connection, as long as the disability was not due to the veteran’s own wilful misconduct.  Generally, you will qualify for disability not found due to wilful misconduct when the following happens while in active duty for training or inactive duty for training status:

  • An injury, disease or death occurs while traveling to and from duty
  • A traumatic event causes a chronic disability.
  • Suffered a cerebral vascular accident, cardiac arrest, or an acute myocardial infarction.

Diseases like diabetes, lupus, or hypertension that happens to develop or is diagnosed while in active duty for training status or inactive duty for training status are not generally subject to service connection based on that service.  Please note, that this does not limit service connection for a disease through another avenue of entitlement or as due to active duty service.

The law requires that veterans use the forms prescribed by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs when applying for compensation benefits.  To navigate to the VA website for a search engine to find a particular form not listed here, click here.

VA Form 21-526EZ – Initial Application for Compensation

VA Form 21-686(c) – Application to add Dependents

VA Form 21-8940 – Application for Individual Unemployability

VA Form 21-4142 – Authorization to release private medical records

VA Form 21-4192 – Request for Employer Information for claim for Individual Unemployability)

VA Form 21-0781 (PTSD Stressor Questionnaire)

VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim)

VA Form 21-534EZ (Application for Dependency Indemnity Compensation and Accrued Benefits.