If you’re a wounded Veteran, you’re going to need to understand how to apply for VA disability and learn about all the benefits you’re entitled to. The application process itself isn’t too burdensome, but it can be difficult to decipher what benefits you can get and how to make sure you’re able to access them.
To learn more about how to apply for VA disability and find some handy bits of information, we’ve put this VA disability overview together. You served our country well, so now it’s time for us to give a little bit back.
More information on Veterans’ benefits: LGBTQ+ Veteran Support Healthcare Services
What To Know Before Learning How To Apply for VA Disability
Before you jump the gun and learn all about how to apply for VA disability, you should determine your eligibility. There are several ways you can earn VA disability, which you should be familiar with before you go to fill out your VA disability claim form.
Eligibility & Covered Conditions
To be eligible for VA disability, both of the following must be true:
- You currently have an injury or illness, a.k.a. a condition, which affects your mind or body.
- You served as an active-duty military member, you were on active duty for training, or you were on inactive duty for training.
In addition to both of these requirements, at least one of the following must also be true:
- Your condition occurred during your service, and you can verifiably link the two.
- You had a pre-existing condition that was made worse as a result of your service.
- You developed a disability directly related to your service that did not appear until after your service had ended.
If your dependents have been adversely impacted as a result of your service, they may also be eligible for VA disability. Knowing how to apply for VA disability for dependents is a different process, however.
Conditions and disabilities that are usually covered include but are not limited to:
- Loss of limbs
- High blood pressure
- Peptic ulcers
- Stroke & post-stroke symptoms
- Chronic dysentery
- Any anxiety states (such as PTSD)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Complications related to asbestos exposure
- Complications related to Agent Orange exposure
- Complications related to mustard gas or lewisite exposure
- Complications related to contaminated drinking water (most often seen at Camp Lejeune)
- Complications related to specific environmental hazards
- Gulf War illnesses
- Your child’s birth defects that can be linked to your service
VA Disability Ratings & Child Support
Each of the above conditions, in addition to eligible conditions not listed above, will be assigned a disability rating based on the severity of the condition. These ratings will be done in percentages, so you might see terms floating around like 50% VA disability or 100% VA disability.
You will be assigned a different rating for each eligible condition you have, and these ratings will be combined into one by the VA to get your total disability rating. If you already know your separate disability ratings, you can input them here to see your combined rating.
With disability ratings come more complicated issues, however, such as getting 100% VA disability and child support at the same time. For each question you have, however, it’s best to visit the VA website or get in contact with a VA representative. If you search something like, “Getting 100% VA disability Reddit,” as many people do, you may find incorrect, anecdotal evidence that doesn’t correctly display the facts.
In this case, your child support is generally not dependent on your disability rating. However, your dependent could receive their own disability payments if your service has permanently and adversely impacted them, and you can receive extra payment for the number of dependents you have.
The second payment is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for your dependents (though this can also be applied to surviving spouses). If you need assistance with children under the age of 18, then you may qualify for the Transitional Benefit and DIC Apportionment Rate, which you can find more information on here.
DIC supplies you with payments similar to that of disability payments but based on the number of children you have who are under 18 years old and how long you have been receiving benefits.
Can You Get 100% VA Disability and Work?
Many Veterans don’t like the idea of sitting at home all day, even if they do have a 100% disability rating. “Can you work with 100% VA disability?” is one of the most common questions we see from Vets.
In most instances, Veterans can still work even with a 100% VA disability rating. However, if the 100% VA disability rating was categorized under “Total Disability/Individual Unemployability,” then the Veteran is not allowed to obtain “substantial gainful employment.”
As long as your rating is not listed as a total disability with unemployability, there are no restrictions on your being able to work a job other than your own abilities or limitations. If you are listed as totally disabled and unemployable, you can still go out and do non-gainful work, like volunteering for local charities.
VA Disability Compensation
Disability compensation is a tax-free, monthly payment for disabled Veterans with eligible conditions. In addition to monthly payments, you may also receive free healthcare and additional supplemental compensation based on your disability rating, which you will be informed of once your application for disability compensation is confirmed.
Other forms of VA disability compensation include Aid and Attendance, if you need assistance with daily activities due to your disability, and a Housebound Allowance, if your disability prevents you from being able to leave your home.
You can find the most current VA disability rates for ratings from 10% to 100% here. The more dependents you have, including parents, children, and spouses, the more money you will be eligible for.
How To Apply for VA Disability
When you get ready to apply for VA disability, keep in mind that filing a claim online through va.gov is the fastest way to get your claim processed. However, if you have questions regarding the process, you can always call a VA representative or visit your local VA office.
As of March 2022, the VA reports that it takes them an average of 155 days to make a final decision regarding an individual’s VA disability claim. Sadly, this means that knowing how to apply for VA disability is also a matter of learning to be incredibly patient with the bureaucratic process.
There are several different claim types:
- Original Claim
- Increased Claim
- New Claim
- Secondary Service-Connected Claim
- Special Claim
- Supplemental Claim
You can find information on each of these here, but if you’re looking for information on how to apply for VA disability for the very first time, all you’ll need is the “Original Claim.”
You can file an original claim up to 180 days before leaving the service, and there is no time limit for filing after you’re out of the service.
You’ll also need a few documents to support your claim, which you can find below. These will have to show proof of service and prove that you’ve sought treatment from a medical professional for the condition you’re filing a claim on.
- DD214 or any other documents of separation
- All service treatment records
- Medical evidence, such as X-rays, testing results, and doctor’s reports
Other than your separation records, these documents are easily obtained by a call to your doctor or a trip to their medical office. You may also provide supporting statements from friends, family members, or members of a religious group you’re associated with that state how your condition developed or has impacted your life.
Depending on the disability claim you’re filing for, you may also need additional evidence to substantiate your claim. All these documents, including all the specific VA disability forms, can be found here.
For example, if you’re claiming for PTSD, you will need to fill out either VA Form 21-0781 or VA Form 21-0781a, depending on if the PTSD was the result of assault or not. If you’re looking for compensation as a result of an unstable condition, you can find information on the temporary 100% VA disability form here.
Not including the time it takes for you to gather information, supporting statements, or fill out extra forms, the initial process of applying for standard VA disability should only take around 25 minutes. The disability compensation form is VA Form 21-526EZ.
If you get into the application and realize you need help, you can get in contact with your regional office for assistance by calling (800) 827-1000.
Now that you know how to apply for VA disability, you can begin the application process by filling out the form to file for VA disability here.
How To Apply for an Increase in VA Disability
If you’re already receiving VA disability compensation but feel as though your condition has worsened or you need more compensation, it’s time to learn how to apply for VA disability compensation increase.
To receive an increase in disability compensation, you’ll have to fill out the same form as you did for your initial claim, VA Form 21-526EZ. Before applying, you’ll need to make sure you have obtained legitimate documents from private healthcare providers or VA medical records that prove your condition or disability has gotten worse.
Otherwise, the process is exactly the same as learning how to apply for VA disability the first time!
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