Few occupations are more difficult, challenging, or inherently risky than military service. Active duty during wartime can be especially demanding, and could lead to long-term physical and psychological health challenges that affect a veteran for months and years after he or she retires.
Fortunately, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers compensation and benefits to those who have been thus affected. The bad news is that obtaining these benefits can be far easier said than done.
What Are VA Disability Benefits?
According to the VA, veterans may qualify for disability compensation if they have a current illness or injury – known as a condition – that affects the body or mind. However, there are some strict requirements and stipulations.
For starters, both of the following must be true: (a) You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training; and (b) You have a disability rating for your service-connected condition.
If you qualify under the preceding criteria, at least one of the following must be true. You (a) got sick or injured while serving in the military; (b) had an illness or injury before you joined the military, but it was worsened by military service; or (c) have a disability related to active-duty service that didn’t appear until after your term of service ended.
In addition to your meeting these standards, the VA must determine the degree of your visibility in order to identify the appropriate benefit. “The degree of disability rating is key, and it is complicated,” DisabledVets.com explains.
“The VA determines ratings for the severity of a veteran’s disability based on the evidence submitted as part of the veteran’s claim, or from evidence the VA obtains from treatment providers and/or military records.”
Disability ratings are defined in terms of percentages: from zero to 100 percent in increments of 10. You can have a disability rating of 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc.
When multiple disabling conditions are present, percentages can be combined, rounded up, rounded down, and adjusted. If this sounds complicated to you, that’s because it is – or it certainly can be, depending on your particular situation.
Tips for Filing a VA Disability Claim
As complicated as the process of filing for VA disability can be, you should never throw in the towel. The following suggestions may help to simplify the process and get your claim on the right track.
1. Gather as Much Evidence as Possible
Most veterans simply assume that they can file a claim for any health-related issue they suffer or possess. But as previously discussed in this article, a multitude of factors must be present in order for a successful claim to be made.
Instead of just assuming you have a case, focus on gathering as much evidence as possible. Not only do you need to prove that you clearly have the medical condition, but you also need to show a strong connection between it and your service activities.
Your opinion is one thing. Medical records and documentation constitute much stronger evidence.
2. Don’t Exaggerate or Distract
In an effort to increase their disability rating/claim, many veterans make the mistake of exaggerating their condition and adding additional factors and symptoms. Not only is this morally wrong to do, but it can actually complicate your situation and make it less likely you’ll qualify for anything. Stick to the facts and tell the truth.
3. Get the Right Medical Care
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring medical treatment. If you aren’t actively treating your condition(s), the VA will assume you must not be as sick or as ill as you say. Make sure you obtain adequate ongoing care and keep an organized medical record for evidence of your situation.
4. Follow All Deadlines
The VA maintains highly specific rules and deadlines for how the claims and appeals process works. If the deadlines aren’t met, you may not be able to follow through with a claim or appeal. Stay on top of the dates and don’t wait until the last minute to follow up.
Putting it All Together
Don’t let the complexities and challenges of VA disability benefits prevent you from pursuing a claim. With the right knowledge, experience, and professional help, you can obtain the financial assistance you need to continue living a comfortable and productive life.