Service Connected Disability
WHAT IS A SERVICE CONNECTED DISABILITY?
Disability Compensation is a monthly payment made to a veteran who has a disability for a disease or injury that was incurred or aggravated by service in the armed forces. Payments are based on the degree of disability. VA pays additional allowances for your dependents if your disabilities are evaluated as 30 percent or more disabling. A special monthly compensation rate may be authorized for veterans whose service connected disabilities are very severe and meet certain statutory requirements. Service connection for a disability may be granted based on the following conditions:
A presumption of service connection may also be granted for certain chronic and tropical diseases under certain circumstances, even if the conditions were not manifested or diagnosed during active service.
Service connection may also be established for a secondary disability or disease which is proximately the result of a service connected disease or injury.
A service connected disability may entitle you to additional benefits such as VA medical care, vocational rehabilitation, adaptive equipment/homes, etc.
Important Note: When a service connection for a disability or disease has been established and the condition worsens, a claim for an increase of the rating should be filed.
Total disability will be found to exist when there is an impairment of mind or body which is certain to continue throughout the life of the disabled veteran and renders it impossible for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation. A single or combined disability that is ratable at 100%.
Note: There are specific benefits that apply when a rating is classified as total and permanent.
Individual unemployability may be applied for when there is an exceptional disability factor that substantially interferes with the veterans ability to sustain gainful employment. A veteran must meet one of the following criteria:
1) have one service connected disability rated at 60% or more
2) have two or more service connected disabilities totaling 70% combined, with one that is rated at least 40%, and unable to follow gainful employment because of the service connected disability.
TEMPORARY 100% RATING FOR CONVALESCENCE
Hospitalization – A total 100% temporary disability rating will be assigned, without regard to the rating schedule, when a service connected disability has required hospitalization treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs, for a period in excess of 21 days.
Surgery – A total 100% temporary disability rating may be assigned when your service connected disability resulted in surgery, post hospital convalescence, immobilization with cast, or surgery of a major joint. When the requirements are met, the rating will be effective from the first day of hospitalization and will continue for a period of 1, 2, or 3 months. Extensions may be authorized under certain circumstances.
Special Monthly Compensation (SMC Awards):
Loss of Use:
A special monthly compensation is payable in addition to the basic rate of compensation for the anatomical loss OR loss of use of body members or function, due to a service connected disability. Examples include: hand, foot, eyes, paired organs or extremities, creative organs, buttocks, kidneys, loss of speech (aphonia), and deafness.
Housebound is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a claimant who is substantially confined to his or her home because of permanent disability. Additionally, if you are a Veteran, you may quality for the increased housebound amount if:
•You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, you are permanently and substantially confined to your immediate premises, OR,
•You have single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60-percent or more disabling.
You may not receive enhanced or special monthly pension without first establishing eligibility for VA pension. However, because enhanced pension is based upon a higher income limit, a claimant may be ineligible for basic pension due to excessive income but may be eligible for increased pension benefits. You may not receive pension at the A&A and Housebound rate at the same time.
Aid and Attendance:
Aid and attendance will be considered when the veteran is so nearly helpless that they are unable to care for themselves, such as dressing, undressing, keeping clean, feeding, attending to the wants of nature, frequent adjustments of special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances, or to protect them from the hazards and dangers incident to daily living. Conditions requiring this care must be service connected.
When a veteran is in need of a higher level of care (hospitalization, nursing home, or institutional care) because of his service connected disabilities, a higher level of monthly aid and attendance allowance may be granted.
There are a variety of requirements for these programs which must be met by the veteran or their surviving spouse.
1) Age - Veterans or their surviving spouses must be at least 65 or officially disabled if younger.
2) Period of Military Service - Veterans must be considered “wartime veterans” meaning they served at least 90 days and served at least 1 day during the wartime dates below, but not necessarily in combat.
World War II: Dec 7, 1941 – Dec 31, 1946
Korean War: Jun 27, 1950 - Jan 31, 1955
Vietnam War: Aug 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975 (or Feb 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in Vietnam)
Gulf War: Aug 2, 1990 - Undetermined
3) Discharge Status - Veterans cannot have been dishonorably discharged.
4) Disability Status - Veterans are eligible without a disability, but a higher benefit is available to those who are disabled.
Aid & Attendance Eligibility – the veteran must require help with the activities of daily living at home, in a nursing home, or assisted living. The need for that help does not have to be related to their military service.
Housebound Eligibility – the veteran needs to have the disability rating of 100% that prevents them from leaving their home. The disability does not have to be related to their military service.
Basic Pension / Improved Income Eligibility – no disability requirement.
5) Marriage Rules: a surviving spouse must have been living with the veteran at the time of their death and must be single at time of claim.
Financial Requirements (effective 12/1/18 - 11/30/19)
The VA has both income and asset limits for the Aid & Attendance, Housebound and the Basic Pensions.
A veteran’s and their spouse’s joint, countable income must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. For example, a married veteran in 2019 is eligible for $26,766 in pension; if their countable income is $10,000, then they are eligible to receive an additional $16,766 / year in pension.
However, because the VA allows applicants to deduct certain expenses and forms of income from their "countable income", the applicants' actual income can be considerably higher than their countable income.
Veterans should deduct all of their unreimbursed medical-related expenses for themselves and their spouses that are greater than 5% of the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). For example, for a married couple applying for Aid & Attendance, 5% of the MAPR is $1,338. Therefore, if a couple has an annual income of $30,000, and $25,000 in medical-related expenses, one would subtract $1,338 from $25,000, which means $23,662 of their medical expenses could be deducted from their income. Therefore, their countable income would be $6,338 vs. an actual income of $30,000.
Your combined net worth may not be more than $127,000, either.