Larry Dandridge

VA Disability Compensation Boot Camp


For those veterans who are unfamiliar with VA Disability Compensation, this article will give them the basic information they need to answer the following questions:

  1. What is disability compensation?
  2. What is military service-connection?
  3. How does the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) compute and assign a VA disability rating?
  4. Where can a veteran get help with understanding their VA benefits and how to file for those benefits?
  5. Where can I get more information on VA Disability Compensation?

What is disability compensation?

According to the VBA webpage titled VA Disability Compensation, (http://bit.ly/3xU1QJj) and VBA You Tube Video titled Compensation 101: What Is Disability Compensation? (https://bit.ly/3xYtwNe), VA disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to veterans who got sick or injured while serving in the military and to veterans whose service made an existing condition worse.

Veterans may qualify for VA disability benefits for physical conditions (like a chronic illness or injury) and mental health conditions (like PTSD) that developed before, during, or after service. A veteran must also have separated or been discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions to be eligible for disability compensation.

For a veteran to be eligible for Disability Compensation, the injury or disease must have been (1) sustained in the line of military duty or (2) a pre-existing injury or disease must have been aggravated by military duty.

Read more about the following related subjects at https://www.va.gov/disability/: Eligibility requirements, how to file a claim, how to file a claim online using VA Form 21-526EZ, what happens after you file a claim, compensation benefits for a surviving spouse/dependents, and how to track the status of a claim or appeal.

How to file for worsening conditions, how to request a decision review or manage a legacy appeal, add or remove a dependent, upload evidence to support your disability claim, and file additional forms for your disability claim.

Change your VA direct deposit information, share your medical records, download your VA benefit letters, and view your VA disability payments history.

What is military service-connection?

As stated in VA You Tube Video titled Compensation 101: What Is Service Connection? (https://bit.ly/3kwLGSW) and VA webpage titled Compensation, https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/index.asp, service-connection describes an injury or disease resulting in a disability linked to a veteran’s military service. The VA grants service-connected disability when evidence shows a link between a claimed medical condition and military service.

To make this determination, the VA reviews all evidence, to include military personnel and medical records, VA medical records, medical examinations and opinions, and records such as private medical records, lay witness statements, line-of-duty investigations, accident reports, serious incident reports, officer and enlisted efficiency reports, photographs, and other corroborating information.

VA uses chronicity and continuity principles to evaluate claims for Service-Connected Disability Compensation

Principles relating to VA service-connection are discussed in 38 Code of Federal regulations (CFR) 3.303. The VA uses two primary principles to evaluate evidence supporting a service-connected disability claim. The VA uses Chronicity to look for the combination of evidence to show the claimed condition has been medically diagnosed as chronic and not an isolated finding during military service. Examples of chronic diseases include Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.

If chronicity cannot be established then the VA uses evidence showing Continuity of a disability or symptoms to help establish whether or not an injury or illness is service-connected. For example, a veteran named Danny files a claim for service-connected disability for a left ankle he injured, when he slipped and fell off of the top of a wet helicopter roof.

Danny may be able to show the VA that he complained of the left ankle to his comrades after the injury and complained to his wife, civilian employer, and doctor of his ankle hurting for months after his military discharge. If Danny provides the VA with a current medical diagnosis from his civilian doctor of a left ankle injury and condition (along with any other evidence he has like Lay Witness Statements), he is almost certainly going to be able to prove continuity and military service-connection.

How does the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) compute and assign a VA disability rating?

According to the VA’s About Disability Ratings webpage (http://bit.ly/3N2Cnns), the VA assigns a disability rating based on the severity of the veteran’s service-connected condition. The VA uses the veteran’s disability rating to determine how much disability compensation the veteran will receive each month, as well as the veteran’s eligibility for other VA benefits.

If a veteran has multiple disability ratings, the VA uses them to calculate the veteran’s combined VA disability rating. Calculating a veteran’s combined disability rating involves more than adding up your individual ratings. That’s why the veteran’s combined rating may be different from the sum of his or her individual ratings.

The VA uses a concept called the “Whole Person Theory” to determine a veteran’s combined disability rating. This method ensures that a disability rating can never be greater than 100%, since a person cannot be greater than 100% able bodied. Veterans should watch the VBA You Tube Video titled Compensation 101: How Did I Get This Rating? at https://bit.ly/3m1YEbG.

Where can a veteran get help with understanding their VA benefits and how to file for those benefits?

Veterans can get help understanding their benefits and help with filing for those benefits from a VA-accredited representative (A VA-accredited Veterans Service Officer-VSO, a VA-accredited Attorney, or a VA-accredited Claims Agent). Veterans should read the information at the VA’s Get Help From An Accredited Representative webpage at http://bit.ly/3enmCdG.

Veterans can go to eBenefits (http://bit.ly/3eXpwpO) to find a local representative (a recognized VSO, attorney, or claims agent) by state/territory, zip code, or the organization’s name. Veterans can also access the VA Office of the VA Office of the General Counsel’s list at http://bit.ly/3QnCk5M to find VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited individuals.

Last but not least veterans can find a list of SC County Veterans Services Offices at http://bit.ly/3qbLVSL.

Where can I get more information on VA Disability Compensation?

Veterans can send a secure message to the VA through ASK VA at https://ask.va.gov. They can also call the VA benefits hotline at 800-827-100 or call MYVA411 main information line at 800-698-2411.

Learn more about Disability Compensation by reading the information in:

2021 Version of the Federal Benefits for Veterans Dependents and Survivors Guide, at http://bit.ly/3xUnOMe and https://bit.ly/3kyX5le,

VA Welcome Kit, Chapter 4, at https://www.va.gov/welcome-kit/,

Eligibility and filing claims at http://bit.ly/3wYGMRJ, http://bit.ly/3enmCdG, and https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/,

Forms needed at http://bit.ly/3RrzmPi, http://bit.ly/3XgpDxU,

Evidence needed at http://bit.ly/3CTtFV0, http://bit.ly/3Z7UGNg,

How to file, when to file and evidence needed at http://bit.ly/3w6YGAN, http://bit.ly/3m6K3M9,

How to get service, medical records at http://bit.ly/41ydmaU, http://bit.ly/3kCgBgH,

Disability effective date, compensation rate at http://bit.ly/3ZjtTxy, http://bit.ly/3ZnUuu0, http://bit.ly/3IEQ8He,

VA Disability Compensation Fact Sheet found at https://bit.ly/3Z62IX9 and much other information found at www.va.gov and https://scdva.sc.gov,

Past articles in The Island News on Veterans’ Benefits at www.yourislandnews.com.

Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing freelance writer with The Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 843-276-7164.

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