The most common benefits veterans may be eligible for are VA non service-connected pension and service-connected disability compensation. The eligibility requirements for these benefits are outlined on this page. Due to the complicated and sometimes lengthy nature of the VA claims and appeal process, it is highly recommended that you seek advice from a VA accredited attorney or Veterans Service Officer in your county before applying for benefits.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
A veteran can apply for pension or compensation at any time during their lifetime. Neither of these benefits is automatically given to veterans — you must apply for them and be found eligible by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). If you are denied either of these benefits, you have one year to file an appeal in order to preserve your original effective date (the date you first applied for benefits).
Wartime veteran: you served during a wartime era as defined by Congress. You do not need to have served in combat to be a wartime veteran, but you must have served at least one day of active duty during a wartime era.
Disabled and unable to work due to conditions not related to your military service or over the age of 65 (in which case you do not have to prove disability).
Low income: this is an income-based benefit, so any income your household has will be subtracted from the pension rate. Visit this webpage to find the most up-to-date benefit amount per year.
You must have suffered an injury or traumatic event during service and/or have a diagnosis that started or was aggravated during the course of active duty, including active duty training.
You must currently have the diagnosis for which you are applying for compensation.
There must be a medical nexus (connection) between your service injury/disability and your current disability.
The VA rating schedule assigns different percentages according to the severity of your disabilities. Individual ratings are then combined to determine your overall disability rating and payment. Click HERE to learn more.
This is not an income-based benefit, so you can continue to work (unless you are granted 100% based on unemployability) and your income will not affect your disability payment.
You may receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and 100% VA service-connected benefits at the same time because neither of these benefits is income-based.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
File a VA Form 21P-527EZ, DD Form 214, which is completed by the military processor on your behalf, plus any necessary supporting documents to apply for the pension. Depending upon your financial situation, you may also need to submit a VA Form 21P-0969 with more detailed financial information. Each form includes instructions to let you know which supporting documents are required. You should also submit evidence of any dependents you want to add to your award (marriage certificate for spouse and birth certificates for biological, adopted, or stepchildren).
File a VA Form 21P-527EZ, DD Form 214 and any necessary supporting documents and forms to apply. You should also submit evidence of any dependents you want to add to your award (marriage certificate for spouse & birth certificates for biological, adopted, or stepchildren).
If you are granted a disability rating of 30% or more, you will receive a small additional amount of monthly compensation for your spouse and/or children.
The VA will send you to a compensation & pension (C&P) exam to determine if there is a medical nexus. If the C&P exam is negative, you may need to submit a private medical opinion (at your own expense) to the VA to win your claim.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?
Gather all helpful records to show your eligibility for pension or compensation and submit all documents at one time, if possible. If filing for a service connected disability, it is recommended to get a copy of your personnel file before filing so that you can point to the specific documentation included in it that shows it was a service-connected injury or aggravation. You can request your personnel file by any of the means outlined by the VA at https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/.
The VA will send you letters if it needs additional information during the claims or appeals process so be sure to keep your address updated and respond promptly to any letters. Remember that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is completely separate from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), so if you update your address with one, it will not automatically be updated with the other agency.