Frequently Asked Questions
1. Question: What is disability compensation and who qualifies for it?
Answer: Veterans compensation is money provided to veterans based on an injury or illness that either occurred during or was made worse by service in the military. Pre-existing injuries or illnesses that were aggravated by military service are also covered. Although most service-connected disabilities show up during or soon after military service, some conditions may not have appeared at all or appeared but were not too “disabling” until many years after you got out of the service.
2. Question: How is the amount of disability compensation determined?
Answer: The amount of your disability compensation depends on the seriousness of your disability. When you apply for disability compensation, your medical records are reviewed and usually you have a VA medical examination. Your disability is rated and expressed as a percentage of impairment in your earning capacity. The monthly payment you receive is based on this percentage.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your disability is 30% or more. An allowance for clothing or transportation is available as well if certain requirements are met.
3. Question: What is the pension benefit and who qualifies?
Answer: The pension is based on financial need, which is determined based upon your current income, savings, and other assets as well as that of family members who reside with you. The amount of your pension will depend on your level of income and number of dependents. The benefit amounts are reduced if you currently have income including any Social Security benefits. The benefit may be higher if you reside in a nursing home, require someone’s regular assistance or are permanently homebound.
To qualify you must have served during a period of war time, as defined by VA, be totally disabled or be 65 years of age or older.
4. Question: Can my survivors receive benefits?
Answer: Yes, veteran’s benefits include Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Your surviving spouse, children under 18, and in some situations your parents may be eligible for compensation when your death results from a service-connected disability. The cause or contributory cause of death must be due to a condition related to your military service. In addition to a monthly compensation, the survivor may also be entitled to educational, health care and other VA benefits.
5. Question: If my application for benefits is denied, can I appeal?
Answer: Like other federal benefits programs, decisions of the Veterans Administration concerning benefit eligibility can be appealed. Your initial step is to file a “Notice of Disagreement” (NOD) with VA informing them, in writing, that you disagree with the decision and why. The NOD should be specific as to the date of the decision and the issues that are being contested. VA now has a form to be used as a NOD but it is not required and a written statement will suffice.
6. Question: Can a veteran receive both Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability without one offsetting the other?
Answer: The two disability benefit programs are completely separate. You can receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration AND receive disability benefits from the Veteran’s Administration, without an offset if you are receiving SSD (social security disability) benefits. However, there may be an offset if you receive SSI (supplemental security income) benefits.
7. Question: Are there any exclusions to income or deductions that may be made to reduce countable income?
Answer: Yes, there are exclusions. The following are examples of what may be excluded: Public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income is not considered income.
Many other specific sources of income are not considered income; however, all income should be reported. VA will exclude any income that the law allows.
A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by the claimant after VA receives the claimant’s pension claim may be deducted. (These are expenses you have paid for medical services or products for which you will not be reimbursed by Medicare or private medical insurance.)
Certain other expenses, such as a veteran’s education expenses, and in some cases, a portion of the educational expenses of a child over 18 are deductible.
8. Question: What are aid and attendance and housebound benefits?
Answer: Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a benefit paid in addition to monthly pension. This benefit may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for A&A when:
The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,
The veteran is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,
The veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,
The veteran is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
Housebound is paid in addition to monthly pension. Like A&A, Housebound benefits may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for Housebound benefits when:
The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises, OR,
The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.
A veteran cannot receive both Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.
9. Question: What happens when the Veteran dies and a claim is pending?
Answer: The claim dies with the Veteran but there are two means that an eligible dependent can use to obtain benefits owing the Veteran. A surviving dependent can file a claim for accrued benefits but it must be filed within one year of the death of the Veteran. This allows the dependent to receive the funds owed to the Veteran from the time his or her claim was filed until the date of the Veteran’s death. A claim must have been filed by the Veteran during his or her lifetime. The limitations with this approach are that the decision ultimately made by VA will be based upon the record that existed prior to the Veteran’s death, with few exceptions. New evidence cannot be submitted.
Alternatively, a surviving dependent can file a claim to be substituted for the Veteran. VA has a form to be used to request substitution. This must be filed within one year of the Veteran’s death and requires that the Veteran’s claim was denied by VA. Once substitution is granted, the dependent steps into the shoes of the Veteran and can continue to prosecute the appeal, to include submitting new evidence. If successful, the dependent will receive the money owed to the Veteran from the date of his or her claim to the date of death.
10. Question: How long will it take for my claim to be decided?
Answer: VA is experienced a tremendous backlog in the processing of claims. National attention has been focused on VA and a number of initiatives are being taken in an attempt to shorten the processing time of Veterans’ claims. This has led to two unfortunate results faster denials without having all of the evidence needed to decide the claim and even longer delays in handling claims that have been appealed as resources are shifted to initial claim processing.