The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) pays disability benefits to veterans/service members who suffered an injury or illness because of their military service. These benefits are paid every month and the specific amount of compensation varies depending on the severity of a service member’s medical condition. A veteran files a disability claim with the VA in order to receive disability compensation benefits.
Note that the VA uses disability ratings to help determine the specific amount of compensation that a disabled veteran can receive. These ratings are in the form of percentages, ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent. Depending on a service member’s rating, he/she can receive a disability payment in the amount of $144.14/month (10 percent disabled) to $3,146.42/month (100 percent disabled).
Some common disabilities and medical conditions that earn VA compensation include:
- head, neck, and back injuries,
- heart disease,
- bone fractures,
- sleep disorder,
- anxiety and depression,
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
- Gulf War illness.
There are times when the VA denies a veteran’s initial disability claim. Common reasons for a claim denial include:
- the VA did not have proof of a service member’s injury,
- the VA determines that a vet does not suffer from a disability,
- a veteran’s injury was not connected to his/her military service, and
- the medical evidence supporting the claim shows only a minor injury that does not qualify for compensation.
If the VA denies a claim, the claimant can appeal that decision. The appeals process largely involves the claimant requesting a hearing with the Board of Veterans Appeals. The veteran can present evidence during this hearing showing why the VA should have approved his/her original claim.
A veterans disability lawyer can provide veterans with quality assistance in filing and managing an appeal. A skilled VA disability attorney can also help service members by:
- reviewing the medical evidence of their service-related injury,
- gathering additional medical records that relate to an injury,
- locating the correct VA office that will receive a claim, and
- filing a VA disability claim.
Our VA disability lawyers will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is a VA disability claim?
- 2. What are common disabilities that get approved for benefits?
- 3. How much is VA disability compensation?
- 4. What is 100 percent VA disability?
- 5. What are the stages of a disability claim?
- 6. What is the average wait time for veterans disability claims?
- 7. What if your VA disability claim is denied?
- 8. Should I get a VA attorney for help?
- 9. How much do VA disability lawyers charge?
- 10. How is a TSGLI claim related to a disability claim?
1. What is a VA disability claim?
An injured veteran or service member files a disability claim with the VA in order to receive disability benefits, or compensation for the injury.
VA disability benefits come in the form of a tax-free monthly payment. The payment is given to vets who have suffered an injury, or incurred a disease, while on active duty.
Eligibility for these benefits requires that:
- a claimant served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training,
- a claimant suffered from an injury, illness, or disease while on active duty or in the course of duty training,
- there is a service connection to the injury or illness (meaning that the injury or illness is service-related or service-connected), and
- there is medical evidence of the injury, illness, or disease.1
Disabled veterans who qualify for veterans disability benefits can file a claim by mail using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits form (VA Form 21-526EZ). Claimants can also submit a completed application by dropping it off at a VA regional office.2
In addition to an application, veterans will have to submit supporting documentation, which can include:
- VA medical records and hospital records that relate to the veteran’s claimed illness or injury, or that show a rated disability has gotten worse,
- private medical records and hospital reports that relate to a service member’s claimed illness or injury, or that show a disability has gotten worse, and/or
- supporting statements from family members, dependents, friends, or health care providers who can provide further information about a claimed injury.3
To find the nearest regional office, please call 800-827-1000. An accredited representative, like Veterans Service Officers (VSOs), can help you fill out your claim and answer questions about the claims process.
2. What are common disabilities that get approved for benefits?
Common VA approved physical disabilities include:
- back pain,
- head injuries, and
- joint disorders.
Common VA approved mental health disabilities include:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
- military sexual trauma (MST),
- sleep disorders, and
- panic disorder.
Common VA approved disability related diseases include:
- Agent Orange diseases,
- Gulf War illness
- Gulf War syndrome, and
- Rheumatoid Arthritis.
3. How much is VA disability compensation?
The specific amount of money that a disabled veteran will receive in terms of disability benefits will vary depending on how the VA rates his/her current disability or medical condition.
The VA assigns a service member with a disability rating that is based on the severity of his/her injury.
Disability compensation rates are in the form of percentages and range from 0 percent to 100 percent.
A VA disability rating of 0 percent means a veteran’s injuries are relatively mild and do not qualify for disability compensation. A rating of 100 percent means that a veteran’s medical conditions are so severe as to qualify for the maximum compensation allowed.
The following provides the 2021 VA disability benefit amounts for each rating level:
- 0 percent – $0.00/month
- 10 percent – $144.14/month
- 20 percent – $284.93/month
- 30 percent – $441.35/month
- 40 percent – $635.77/month
- 50 percent – $905.04/month
- 60 percent – $1,146.39/month
- 70 percent – $1,444.71/month
- 80 percent – $1,679.35/month
- 90 percent – $1,887.18/month, and
- 100 percent – $3,146.42/month.4
The VA largely uses the following to help determine a service member’s rating:
- the medical records the veteran submitted with his/her claim application,
- the results of the member’s VA claim exam.
As to the latter, note that the VA often requires a claimant to undergo an examination before the agency will pay disability compensation. The exam is sometimes referred to as a compensation and pension or C&P exam.
Sometimes a veteran will have multiple disability ratings. This occurs when the service member has multiple service-connected injuries.
In this event, the VA calculates the veterans combined disability rating and pays one benefit amount for all injuries. Veterans can use the VA combined disability rating calculator to learn of their benefit amount with multiple ratings.
4. What is 100 percent VA disability?
A 100 percent total disability rating means that a veteran suffered a service-connected injury so severe as to leave him/her completely limited in the ability to work.
A veteran can receive a 100 percent rating if he/she receives:
- a 100 percent rating for a single injury, or
- suffers from multiple injuries and has a combined rating of 100 percent.
Note that veterans can also receive a 100 percent rating if they are totally disabled based on individual unemployability (TDIU). Veterans receive TDIU compensation if they cannot find and maintain gainful employment because of a service-related injury.5
5. What are the stages of a disability claim?
There are essentially six stages in the life of a fully developed claim with the VA. These include:
- claim receipt – the VA has received a service member’s completed claim application and all supporting documentation,
- claim review – a representative from the VA reviews a claim to determine if the agency needs any further information/evidence,
- gathering additional evidence – if additional information is required (including a C&P exam), the VA requests it from the service member,
- evidence review – the VA representative reviews the entire claim file to determine the possibility of benefits,
- benefit determination – the VA makes a decision as to whether to provide a veteran with disability benefits, and if so, the amount of benefits based upon the member’s appropriate disability rating, and
- notification – the VA sends a letter to the veteran notifying him/her of its final benefit decision.
6. What is the average wait time for veterans’ disability claims?
For September 2021, the average number of days for the VA to complete a disability-related claim was 142.8 days.6
The following factors may have an impact on the amount of time it takes the VA to process a claim:
- the complexity of a veteran’s injury,
- whether the vet is filing an application for a single injury or multiple injuries,
- the amount of medical records submitted in support of a claim, and
- whether the VA requires additional evidence for an injury and the time it takes a service member to gather that evidence.
7. What if your VA disability claim is denied?
If the VA denies a veteran’s disability claim, the vet can appeal that decision. Claimants have up to one year to file an appeal from the date they received the VA’s denial letter.
The first step in the appeals process is for service members to submit a Written Notice of Disagreement with their VA regional office.
Members then request:
- a Decision Review Officer (DRO) from the regional office to review their claim files, and
- a hearing in front of the Board of Veterans Appeal (BVA).
During the BVA hearing, claimants can present evidence as to why the VA should have approved their initial claims. Upon completion of the hearing, the BVA mails its final decision to claimants informing them whether their claim has been approved or denied.
If the BVA denies an appeal, a claimant can appeal that decision by filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
If a service member has questions as to the appeal process, the VA’s website provides many answers to FAQs.
8. Should I get a VA attorney for help?
VA disability attorneys play an integral role when it comes to filing disability claims and service members receiving disability compensation.
A disability lawyer can help a veteran gather all the medical records that apply to his/her service-connected injury. The attorney can then review these records with the service member.
If necessary, attorneys can help vets file a claim for disability benefits. In doing so, veterans disability attorneys can help ensure that service members are supporting their claims with the appropriate medical evidence and other applicable documentation.
If the VA denies a vet’s initial claim, a disability lawyer can help appeal that decision. Towards this end, an attorney will:
- explain the appeals process,
- request a copy of the service member’s C-File (this is the member’s entire disability claim file),
- review the file with the veteran,
- gather additional evidence supporting claim approval,
- draft a legal brief that gets submitted to the BVA outlining why the vet’s claim should have been approved, and
- represent the veteran at the BVA hearing.
Note that only VA-accredited attorneys can assist veterans with VA disability claims.
A VA-accredited lawyer is an attorney recognized by VA as legally authorized and capable of assisting claimants in pursuit of benefits before the VA.
Most VA-accredited lawyers provide free case evaluations and free consultations. A free case review means that a veteran can learn of all his/her legal options before officially hiring an attorney.
9. How much does a VA disability lawyer charge?
Current law prevents an attorney from charging a vet for helping in filing an initial VA claim.
Lawyers are allowed to charge claimants a contingency fee of between 20 percent to 33.5 percent for handling an appeal. The applicable percent represents a percentage of the vet’s total disability benefits.
For example, if a vet is appealing a claim where the total benefits are $60,000, and a lawyer’s contingency fee is 20 percent, the applicable attorney’s fees are $12,000.
A service member only has to pay these fees if he/she wins on appeal and receives benefits. The fee is then usually paid out of the lump sum the member wins following the appeal.
10. How is a TSGLI claim related to a disability claim?
TSGLI (also known as Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection) is a type of insurance coverage that compensates military service members who suffer certain traumatic injuries while serving in the military.
Examples of losses/injuries that lead to TSGLI compensation include:
- loss of hearing or loss of speech,
- traumatic brain injury (TBI), and
- limb salvage.
While disability compensation is paid to an injured service member every month, a member that qualifies for TSGLI will receive a one-time lump sum payment. TSGLI payments can range from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the nature of the traumatic injury.
The coverage applies no matter if a service member was injured on-duty or off-duty.
Note that if a service member qualifies for disability benefits, and the benefits are for a traumatic injury, then the veteran may also qualify for TSGLI benefits. If so, then the service member will receive a one-time TSGLI payment and then monthly payments for the disability claim.
An experienced TSGLI claim attorney can assist you with bringing a claim for benefits.
For additional help…
We support all of the brave veterans across the U.S. If you have suffered a service-connected injury and are contemplating filing a VA disability claim, you should consult with a VA-accredited attorney for help. This holds true even if you have filed a claim and it was denied.
A skilled disability lawyer can help you gather the important evidence to support your claim, can assist in working your claim up, and will prove invaluable in appealing a claim denial.
- See VA website, “Eligibility for VA disability benefits.”
- See VA website, “How to file a VA disability claim.”
- See VA website, “Eligibility for VA disability benefits.”
- See VA website, “2021 Veterans disability compensation rates.”
- See VA website, “VA Individual Unemployability if you can’t work.”
- See VA website, “How to file a VA disability claim.”