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  • Veterans Disability Claims

    VA Disability Claims articles designed to inform you about the VA process to file a claim for a service-connected disability.
    How to use the tables to find your monthly payment   Find your basic rate   Go to the compensation rates for your disability rating. On the Basic rates table, find the amount for your disability rating and dependent status. This is your monthly basic rate.   Example (Veteran with no children): If you're a Veteran with a 30% disability rating, and you have a dependent spouse (no dependent parents or children), your monthly basic rate would be $522.39 each month. Find your added amounts, if any apply   If your spouse receives Aid and Attendance benefits or you have more than one child, you may qualify for additional monthly payment amounts as listed in the Added amounts table.   Learn more about Aid and Attendance benefits   First, determine your basic rate.   Example (Veteran with children): If you’re a Veteran with a 70% disability rating, and you have a spouse, plus 3 dependent children under the age of 18, you would start with the basic rate of $1,754.95 (for a Veteran with a spouse and 1 child). Next, look at the Added amounts table. Find the amount for children under age 18 ($64.00).   Since your basic rate already provides payment for 1 child, you would add the rate of $64.00 for each additional child (so $64 x 2).      If your spouse receives Aid and Attendance, you would also add $119 (which is the added amount for a spouse receiving Aid and Attendance, for a Veteran with a 70% disability rating).   In our example of a Veteran with 70% disability rating, your total monthly payment amount would be:   $1,754.95 basic rate (1 spouse, 1 child) + $64 (second child under 18) +$64 (third child under 18) +$119 (spouse who receives Aid and Attendance) Total $2,001.95    Compensation rates for Veterans with a 10% to 20% disability rating
      Effective December 1, 2021   Note: If you have a 10% to 20% disability rating, you won’t receive a higher rate even if you have a dependent spouse, child, or parent. Disability rating Monthly payment (in U.S. $) 10% 152.64 20% 301.74           Basic rates for monthly payments Dependent status 30% disability rating (in U.S. $) 40% disability rating (in U.S. $) 50% disability rating (in U.S. $) 60% disability rating (in U.S. $) Veteran alone (no dependents) 467.39 673.28 958.44 1,214.03 With spouse (no parents or children) 522.39 747.28 1,050.44 1,325.03 With spouse and 1 parent (no children) 566.39 806.28 1,124.44 1,414.03 With spouse and 2 parents (no children) 610.39 865.28 1,198.44 1,503.03 With 1 parent (no spouse or children) 511.39 732.28 1,032.44 1,303.03 With 2 parents (no spouse or children) 555.39 791.28 1,106.44 1,392.03           Added amounts Dependent status 30% disability rating (in U.S. $) 40% disability rating (in U.S. $) 50% disability rating (in U.S. $) 60% disability rating (in U.S. $) Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance 51.00 68.00 86.00 102.00           Basic rates for monthly payments Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $) 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $) Veteran alone (no dependents) 1,529.95 1,778.43 1,998.52 3,332.06 With spouse (no parents or children) 1,659.95 1,926.43 2,165.52 3,517.84 With spouse and 1 parent (no children) 1,763.95 2,045.43 2,299.52 3,666.94 With spouse and 2 parents (no children) 1,867.95 2,164.43 2,433.52 3,816.04 With 1 parent (no spouse or children) 1,633.95 1,897.43 2,132.52 3,481.16 With 2 parents (no spouse or children) 1,737.95 2,016.43 2,266.52 3,630.26           Added amounts Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $) 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $) Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance 119.00 136.00 153.00 170.38           Basic rates for monthly payments Dependent status 30% disability rating (in U.S. $) 40% disability rating (in U.S. $) 50% disability rating (in U.S. $) 60% disability rating (in U.S. $) Veteran with 1 child only (no spouse or parents) 504.39 722.28 1020.44 1,288.03 With 1 child and spouse (no parents) 563.39 801.28 1,118.44 1,407.03 With 1 child, spouse, and 1 parent 607.39 860.28 1,192.44 1,496.03 With 1 child, spouse, and 2 parents 651.39 919.28 1,266.44 1,585.03 With 1 child and 1 parent (no spouse) 548.39 781.28 1,094.44 1,377.03 With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) 592.39 840.28 1,168.44 1,466.03           Added amounts Dependent status 30% disability rating (in U.S. $) 40% disability rating (in U.S. $) 50% disability rating (in U.S. $) 60% disability rating (in U.S. $) Each additional child under age 18 27.00 36.00 46.00 55.00 Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program 89.00 119.00 149.00 178.00 Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance 51.00 68.00 86.00 102.00           Basic rates for monthly payments Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $) 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $) Veteran with child only (no spouse or parents) 1,615.95 1,877.43 2,109.52 3,456.30 With 1 child and spouse (no parents) 1,754.95 2,035.43 2,287.52 3,653.89 With 1 child, spouse and 1 parent 1,858.95 2,154.43 2,421.52 3,802.99 With 1 child, spouse and 2 parents 1,962.95 2,273.43 2,555.52 3,952.09 With 1 child and 1 parent 1,719.95 1,996.43 2,243.52 3,605.40 With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) 1,823.95 2,115.43 2,377.52 3,754.50           Added amounts Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $) 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $) Each additional child under age 18 64.00 73.00 83.00 92.31 Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program 208.00 238.00 268.00 298.18 Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance 119.00 136.00 153.00 170.38 Note: VA is required by law to match the percentage of cost-of-living adjustments made to Social Security benefits.   Get the latest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) information on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website   Current Rates
    Select the compensation program below to view current rates. Historical rates are linked from the current rates page, as well. Veterans Compensation Benefits Current Rates Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)Current Rates Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Current Rates Parents DIC Current Rates Automobile Allowance, Clothing Allowance and Medal of Honor Rates Birth Defects (Spina Bifida, Children of Women Vietnam Veterans) Rates Past Rates
    Review Veterans disability compensation rates for past years.   2021 rates (effective 12/0 1/2020) 2020 rates (effective 12/0 1/2019) 2019 rates (effective 12/0 1/2018)   VA Historical Service Connected Compensation 1974  

    A Guideline for your VA compensation and pension exam.
    This is a good guideline for all VA Compensation and Pension Exams. However, the author only performed psychiatric compensation and pension exams. A little common sense and clarity will go a long way. Above all, be honest. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t know, say so. This is nearly a no-brainer but be honest. Don’t embellish your stories with fanciful tales. Just the facts, please. 
      Do not talk about alcohol or drug-related issues. You are not there to be assessed for those problems. You are there to be evaluated for your psychiatric (or physical) functioning as it is today and how it relates to your service history. If the examiner asks about alcohol or drugs, politely remind them that you are not there for those issues. It is for how impaired you are in your daily functioning. It’s best to avoid even talking about drugs or alcohol. If they are not part of the claim.   Got a VA horror story? I can tell you a worse one. Don’t waste your time with how badly you believe you’ve been mistreated. The examiner only has a short time to figure out how impaired you are, and they need the facts. They need concise sentences and not incoherent rambling rants that lead nowhere.   Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t know, say so. This is nearly a no-brainer but be honest. Don’t embellish your stories with fanciful tales.      The examiner only has a short time to figure out how impaired you are, and they need the facts. They need concise sentences and not incoherent rambling rants that lead nowhere.   Be able to document everything you tell the examiner.    If possible, have the following; Letters from people you served with Copies of incident reports Self-reported incidents include place, time, team members, etc. Letters to and from family members (Family member letters usually don’t add much weight to your case because families are there to support you, and examiners understand that.) Be Honest. You may run into an examiner who checks stories out.   

    If sleep is a problem, don’t sleep the night before. Go in on the ragged edge of tired out. But do your best not to be rude and insensitive. Payback in a VA Compensation and Pension exam is you lose. Not all examiners are that way, but I have met a few that should not have been examiners.   When responding to examiners, you need to pick the worst moment relating to that question. You need to be rated for the worst times you have had. I always chose an awful day and related all of my answers to that day. The day I could not sleep, was anxious and startled easily, was grouchy to my wife and friends, felt like my heart was coming out of my chest, and nothing went right for me.    That day should have been in the last 30-90 days. If it was a year ago, you might not need to be having this exam. The questions you are being asked are on a script in front of the examiner. After examiners do this for a while, they get a sense of what is in front of them.  Currently the Examiner will use a Disability Benefits Questionnaire. It is intended that the DBQs will be completed by the Veteran’s health care provider. You can read through the DBQs here.   [DBQs were developed as a specific means to collect the necessary medical information required in the processing of Veterans disability claims. DBQs provide Veterans with a way to submit medical evidence from their health care provider to support their claims for disability benefits. Veterans can have their health care providers fill out and submit to VA any of the DBQs listed below that are appropriate for their claimed conditions.]   It’s not too difficult to determine when someone is lying or is struggling with memory. The above does not mean that examiners cannot be scammed because they can be.   What to Expect during the Medical Examination You should expect the VA Compensation and Pension examiner performing your medical examination to evaluate the condition(s) listed on your claim for benefits.     You should expect the examiner performing your medical examination to evaluate the condition(s) listed on your claim for benefits. Depending on the number and type of disabilities claimed, the length of the VA Compensation and Pension Exams will vary. Psychiatric examination or for multiple disabilities requires more time to evaluate. If necessary, the examiner may ask more questions about your disability history, review pertinent medical records, or order additional testing or examinations.   I discovered veterans lying and dealt with them by reporting this to the proper authorities at the VA. It’s a Federal criminal act to lie to gain monetary compensation. And the odds are you will be prosecuted. It simply isn’t worth it.   Examiners are generally good people trying to do a tough job. Make it easy for them. I always advocated having the individual’s husband/wife in the room with me during the exam. As an examiner, I enjoyed having someone’s spouse with them. Husbands and wives can tell the truth much better than the veteran. Ask your wife how well you’ve done in the past ten days rather than basing it on your opinion. Quite a dramatic difference if you are truthful!     Remember to report how you REALLY are doing and not how you’d like to be doing. One of the questions I always had a hard time asking was, “How are you doing today?” Most veterans want to be doing MUCH better than they really are. It’s like we know we can be doing better and have done better, but our pride does not want to let anyone know how badly we are doing. Veterans would answer the above question: “Well, I’m doing pretty good.” Should I write, “The veteran reports that he is doing pretty good?” Not if you want your claim adjudicated fairly.   The best answer I ever got from a veteran was from a former Marine Vietnam Veteran who said,   Be on time or a little early Be polite. Yelling at the examiner for the injustices you perceive will do nothing but alienate them. Curse at your own risk. You can get your point across better with proper English.   This veteran just told me he couldn’t sleep due to anxiety, the heart of PTSD, and was depressed (remember grumpy?), another key facet of PTSD. He’s had problems with his work history if he can’t pay his bills. He wasn’t angry about what he said. He was so matter of fact it took me a bit to realize what he had said. He could have been talking about having a cup of coffee for all of the emotions he expressed.   These are things I can explore further with the veteran. I don’t have to hunt or pull teeth for information. This veteran controlled the exam because he knew clearly about his problems and what he wanted to say. I spent some extra time with him. He ended up 100% service-connected for PTSD. He had his ducks in a row, paperwork all present. He had done enough clinical work before the exam that he knew his problems and, more importantly, how to express them to another person.   Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) Cardiovascular 
    Artery and Vein Conditions Heart Conditions Hypertension Dental & Oral 
    Oral and Dental Dermatological 
    Scars Skin Diseases Endocrinological 
    Diabetes Mellitus Endocrine (Other than Thyroid, Parathyroid or Diabetes Mellitus) Thyroid and Parathyroid ENT 
    Ear (including Vestibular and Infectious) Loss of Sense of Smell and or Taste Sinusitis, Rhinitis and Other Conditions of the Nose, Throat, Larynx and Pharynx Gastrointestinal 
    Esophageal Disorders Gallbladder & Pancreas Hernias (Including Abdominal, Inguinal and Femoral Hernias) Intestinal (Infectious) Intestinal (other than surgical or infectious) Intestinal (surgical) Liver Conditions Peritoneal Adhesions Rectum & Anus Stomach and Duodenum Genitourinary 
    Kidney Conditions Male Reproductive Organ Conditions (Including Prostate Cancer) Urinary Tract Conditions Gynecological 
    Breast Gynecological Conditions Hematologic & Lymphatic 
    Hematologic and Lymphatic Conditions, Including Leukemia Infectious Diseases 
    HIV-Related Illnesses Infectious Diseases (other than HIV-related illness chronic fatigue syndrome and tuberculosis) Persian Gulf/Afghanistan Infectious Diseases Tuberculosis Musculoskeletal 
    Amputations Ankle Back (Thoracolumbar Spine) Bones and Other Skeletal Conditions Elbow & Forearm Foot Conditions Including Flatfoot (Pes Planus) Hand and Finger Hip and Thigh Knee and Lower Leg Muscle Injuries Neck (Cervical Spine) Osteomyelitis Shoulder and/or Arm Temporomandibular Disorders Wrist Neurological 
    ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) Central Nervous System and Neuromuscular Diseases Cranial Nerve Conditions Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Fibromyalgia Headaches (including Migraines) Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Narcolepsy Parkinson's Disease Peripheral Nerves Seizure Disorders (Epilepsy) Nutrition 
    Nutritional Deficiencies Ophthalmological 
    Eye Conditions Psychological 
    Eating Disorders Mental Disorders PTSD Review Respiratory 
    Respiratory Conditions (other than tuberculosis and sleep apnea) Sleep Apnea Rheumatological 
    Arthritis Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and other Autoimmune Diseases Aid and Attendance or Housebound
    VA Form 21-2680 Spina Bifida (natural child of a Veteran exposed to herbicides)
    Spina Bifida        

    Memorial day we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
    Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
    The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
    The first significant observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
    The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers, and singing hymns.
    The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.” Source: VA.gov
      To ensure the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.
    Local Observances Claim To Be First
    Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., on April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women also placed some of their flowers on those graves.
    Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South, where most of the war dead were buried. Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title also Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. 
    A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery says that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan.
    Official Birthplace Declared
    In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. A ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed, and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were informal, not community-wide or one-time events.
    By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.
    However, it was not until after World War I that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

    Some States Have Confederate Observances
    Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3, and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on January 19, and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.
    Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite reverent visitors and fond mourners to come and go. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
    The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those attending today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.
    Memorial Day Resources
    History of Memorial Day Memorial Day Order National Cemetery Administration National and State Veterans Cemeteries Arlington National Cemetery Displaying the Flag at Half-staff General Flag Display Guidelines Folding the Flag Poppy Flower Taps  
    Get it straight: The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

    You can file online. If you sign in to your VA account, they will pre-fill parts of the application based on your account information. That will save you some time. Advantages of filing online Save the application and come back later to finish. You have one year from the date you start or update your application to submit it. Provide evidence to support your claim. VA medical records and hospital records relate to your claimed condition or show your rated disability has gotten worse. Private medical records and hospital reports relate to your claimed condition or show your disability has gotten worse. If you, or your authorized representative, are requesting VA records pertaining to yourself (i.e., VA claims records, Military Medical Records, etc.), this is considered a Privacy Act request. Your request must contain a wet signature (Ink Pen) and your social security number. Submit your request to the VA Claims Intake Center at Department of Veterans AffairsP.O. Box 4444Janesville, WI 53547-4444Fax: 844-531-7818DID: 608-373-6690 To check the status of your request, don't hesitate to get in touch with the Centralized Support Division (CSD): Customer Service: 888-533-4558National Call Center: 800-827-1000Fax: 314-253-4193 If you seek other benefits records maintained by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to include Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, Insurance, Loan Guaranty, or Education Service, records regarding an ancestor who  Was a veteran, you must submit your request to the VBA Central Office. Supporting statements from family, friends, coworkers, clergy, or law enforcement personnel with knowledge about how and when your disability happened or how it got worse Information may be in your: Service Medical Records Hospital Records (Generally not included in Service Medical Records and may require FOIA directly to that hospital.) Performance Reports After Action Reports Journals Letters Home Conversations with buddies Incident Reports you were involved in or witnessed. A current physical or mental disability from a medical professional or layperson (someone who's not a trained professional), and An event, injury, or disease that happened during your active-duty service, and There is a link between your current disability and the event, injury, or disease during your service. Usually, we need medical records or medical opinions from health care providers to support this link. Under certain situations, we may conclude that there's a link between your military service and your disability, even if there's no evidence. This usually applies to: A chronic (long-lasting) illness that appears within one year after discharge, or An illness caused by contact with contaminants (toxic chemicals) or other hazardous materials, or An illness caused by your time spent as a POW. Documenting your claim, below is my system for going through service medical records. I make a copy of my service medical records on a different color paper, yellow or buff, something easy to read, but it will distinguish it from the original. After receiving my service medical record, the first thing I do is number each page. I then put my original away and worked off the copy. If you know the specific date, it will be easy to find. On the other hand, you don't remember specifically or had symptoms leading up to it. Finding the information may take some detective work, so Watson, the game is afoot. Let's say it's Irritable Bowel Syndrome (your diagnosis). I would start page by page from page 1. Suppose the first thing I run across an entry that supports my claim for IBS is on page 10. In that case, I number it #1, Bracket it in Red, and then on a separate piece of paper, I start to compile my medical evidence index. So I would write Page 10 #1 and a summary of the evidence, do this as you go through all your medical records. When you are finished, you will have an index and an easy way to find your evidence. Study your diagnosis symptoms and look them up. Check common medications for your IBS (your diagnosis) and look for the symptoms noted in your evidence that point to IBS (your diagnosis). If your doctor prescribes meds for IBS (your diagnosis) but doesn't call it that, make them a reference.  
    TIP: Also, you can have a rubber stamp made with your full name, social security number, and address use this stamp at the bottom or top of each page you submit to the Veterans Affairs. It will be easy to see which page goes to which claim if it gets lost.
    What's the Process
    Complete this disability compensation benefits form. After submitting the form, you'll get a confirmation message. You can print this for your records. VA review
    VA processes applications in the order they receive them. The amount of time it takes to process your claim depends on how many injuries or disabilities you claim and how long it takes VA to gather the evidence needed to decide your claim. Decision
    Once VA has processed your claim, you'll get a notice in the mail with their decision.  

    What Benefits do you get from a VA Disability Claim?   Additional benefits that you may be eligible for are based on a favorable decision for a VA benefit and/or based on special circumstances. The VA calls these derivatives.   Service-Connected Benefits   Non-Compensable 0 percent disability rating
      10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring No cost health care and prescription drugs for service-connected disabilities (if income limits are met) Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Compensable 0 percent disability rating* *Note: In some instances, there are individuals who have separate and more than two zero percent service-connected disabilities who are paid at the minimum 10 percent. (38 CFR 3.324)
      10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring No-cost healthcare and prescription drugs for service-connected disabilities (if income limits are met) Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Waiver of VA funding fee for VA home loan Burial and plot allowance Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Service-connected disability rating at 30 - 40%
      No cost health care and prescription medications for service-connected disabilities Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Waiver of VA funding fee for a home loan 10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Burial and plot allowance Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Service-connected disability rating at 30 - 40%
      No cost health care and prescription medications for service-connected disabilities Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Waiver of VA funding fee for a home loan   10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring Direct hire authority Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment   Additional compensation for eligible dependents (may include aid and attendance for eligible spouse) Burial and plot allowance Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Service-connected disability rating at 50%
      No cost health care and prescription medications Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Waiver of VA funding fee for a home loan 10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring Direct hire authority Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment   Additional compensation for eligible dependents (may include aid and attendance for eligible spouses) Concurrent receipt of military retired pay Burial and plot allowance Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Service-connected disability rating at 60 - 90%
      No cost health care and prescription medications Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Waiver of VA funding fee for a home loan 10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring Direct hire authority Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Additional compensation for eligible dependents (may include aid and attendance for eligible spouses) Concurrent receipt of military retired pay Individual Unemployability (must be unemployable due to service-connected disabilities) Dependents Educational Assistance (the unemployable condition must be considered permanent) Special restorative training CHAMPVA–Civilian Health and Medical Program (the unemployable condition must be considered permanent) Dental care (if rated unemployable) Burial and plot allowance Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      Service-connected disability rating at 100%
      No cost health care and prescription medications Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility No cost dental care Waiver of VA funding fee for a home loan 10 point Veteran preference in federal hiring Direct hire authority Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Additional compensation for eligible dependents (may include aid and attendance for eligible spouses) Concurrent receipt of military retired pay Dependents Education Assistance (must be considered permanent.) Special restorative training CHAMPVA–Civilian Health and Medical Program (must be considered permanent) Burial and plot allowance Uniformed Services ID card
      Service-connected disability rating at 100% with an additional separate 60 percent service-connected disability rating
      Statutory Housebound Commissary and Exchange Privileges Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.   Non-Service Connected Benefits   Non-Service Connected Pension
      10 point veteran preference in Federal hiring Health care enrollment (subject to income requirements) Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Burial and plot allowance
      Non Service Connected with Aid and Attendance or Housebound
      10 point veteran preference in Federal hiring Health care enrollment (subject to income requirements) Travel allowance for scheduled appointments for care at a VA medical facility or VA authorized health care facility Free hearing aids Free eyeglasses Burial and plot allowance Aid and attendance for spouse (if spouse meets criteria)   Circumstance Benefits   You are a Medal of Honor Recipient.
      Medal of Honor Pension Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      You are a Former Prisoner of War.
      No cost health care and prescription medications No cost dental care Use of commissaries, exchanges, and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) retail facilities, in-person and online.
      You have a service-connected disability with anatomical losses or impairment due solely to service-connected disabilities. *If you are a Veteran with service-connected disabilities rated at 50% or more, you may qualify for a Home Improvement Specially Adapted grant for a non-service-connected condition.
      Special Monthly Compensation Specially Adapted Housing/Special Home Adaptation Grant Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance Automotive Grant/Automobile Adaptive Equipment Home Improvement Specially Adapted grant*
      The wheelchair permanently damaged your outer clothing, the prosthetic or orthopedic device you use for your service-connected condition, or your outer clothing was permanently damaged by the medication you take for your service-connected skin condition.
      Clothing allowance
      You separated from military service with a total disability rating.
      Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance two year extension
      You are a beneficiary of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, or Veterans Group Life Insurance.
      Free Beneficiary Financial Counseling Free online will preparation
      You have a new service-connected disability.
      Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance
      You are recovering from surgery, or you have a joint immobilized by a cast without surgery for a service-connected disability.
      Temporary monetary compensation at the 100 percent rate
      You are hospitalized for more than 21 days for a service-connected disability.
      Temporary monetary compensation at the 100 percent rate
      You recently separated from military service with an unstable disability and are likely not self-sufficient.
      Temporary monetary compensation at the 100 percent rate
      You have an Individual Unemployability rating by VA.
      Dependents Educational Assistance (the unemployable condition must be considered permanent) Special Restorative Training CHAMPVA–Civilian Health and Medical Program (the unemployable condition must be considered permanent) Dental care (if rated unemployable)
      You have a new disability or an existing disability, which was aggravated during medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, or while participating in compensated work therapy.  
      Monthly monetary compensation for compensable disabilities VA Health Care
      You are a male or female Veteran who served in the Republic of South Vietnam or the Korean DMZ. You have a biological child with Spina Bifida.
      Monthly monetary compensation VA Health Care Vocational training for child
      You are a female Veteran who served in the Republic of South Vietnam. Your biological child has a covered congenital disability.
      Monthly monetary compensation VA Health Care Vocational training for child
      You are separated from military service within 180 days or separated from military service for less than one year.
      Educational and Career Counseling
      You have current eligibility for a VA education program.
      Educational and Career Counseling
      You are a spouse or dependent child of a Servicemember who dies in the line of duty.
      Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (subject to income limitations for dependent child) Dependents Educational Assistance Special Restorative Training Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (active duty death after September 10, 2001) Home Loan Guaranty benefit (surviving spouse only) CHAMPVA–Civilian Health and Medical Program
      You are the spouse or dependent child of a Veteran who died from a disability-related to military service.
      Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (subject to income limitations for dependent child) Dependents Educational Assistance Special restorative training Home Loan Guaranty benefit (surviving spouse only) CHAMPVA–Civilian Health and Medical Program
      You are the parent of a Servicemember who dies in the line of duty or a Veteran who died from a disability related to military service.
      Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (subject to income limitations)   External Link Disclaimer: This page contains links that will take you outside our website. We do not endorse and are not responsible for the content of the linked websites.   Source: VA.gov

    Homemaker and Home Health Aide Care
    What is Homemaker Home Health Aide Care?
    A Homemaker or Home Health Aide is a trained person who can come to a Veteran's home and help the Veteran take care of themselves and their daily activities. Homemakers and Home Health Aides are not nurses, but they are supervised by a registered nurse who will help assess the Veteran's daily living needs.
    This program is for Veterans who need personal care services and help with activities of daily living. This program is also for Veterans who are isolated, or their caregiver is experiencing burden.
    Homemaker and Home Health Aide services can be used in combination with other Home and Community Based Services. Services may vary by location.
    Homemaker Home Health Aides work for an organization that has a contract with VA. Homemaker or Home Health Aide services can be used as a part of an alternative to nursing home care, and to get Respite Care at home for Veterans and their family caregiver. The services of a Homemaker or Home Health Aide can help Veterans remain living in their own home and can serve Veterans of any age.
    Am I eligible for Homemaker Home Health Aide Care?
    All enrolled Veterans are eligible for Homemaker Home Health Aide Care IF they are eligible for community care and meet the clinical criteria for the service and it is available. Services may vary by location.
    A copay for Homemaker and Home Health Aide services may be charged based on your VA service-connected disability status.
    What services can I get?
    Services are based on your assessed needs. Talk with a VA social worker to find out what specific help you may be able to receive.
    For example, an aide may be able to come to your house several times a week or just once in a while.
    Examples of daily activities you may be able to receive help with include:
    Eating Getting dressed Personal grooming Bathing Using the bathroom Moving from one place to another Grocery Shopping You can continue to receive an aide's services for as long as you need extra help with your daily activities.
    How do I decide if a Homemaker and Home Health Aide is right for me?
    You can use a Veteran Decision Aid for Care at Home or in the Community to help you figure out what home care services or long term care services may best meet your needs now or in the future.
    There's also a Caregiver Self-Assessment. It can help your caregiver identify their own needs and decide how much support they can offer to you. Having this information from your caregiver, along with the involvement of your care team and social worker, will help you reach short-term and long-term care decisions.
    Ask your social worker for these resources or download copies from the Making Decisions page at www.va.gov/Geriatrics.
    If Homemaker or Home Health Aide services are right for you, your VA social worker can help you make arrangements for those.
    Source: VA.gov

    When a Veteran starts considering whether or not to file a Veterans Affairs Disability Claim, there are a lot of questions that he or she tends to ask. Over the last 10 years, the following are the 14 most common basic questions I am asked about when it comes to filing Veterans Affairs Disability Claims. [Reprinted here with permission from Veterans Law Blog]
    1. What benefits do you get from a VA Disability claim?
    There are several major categories of VA benefits you can get when you file a VA Disability claim. One category is what is called the “Non-Service Connected Pension” which is available to extremely low-income veterans with disabilities.  Another category is education benefits. A third category is burial benefits. A fourth category is health care benefits.  And the category that is the focus of this post – and the Veterans Law Blog – is disability compensation for diseases, conditions, and disabilities that had their origin in military service.
    (Note that you do not need to show that military service CAUSED the disability – Congress long ago recognized that Veterans should get benefits even if a disease or disability that wasn’t caused BY service has its origins IN service.
    When it comes to a VA Disability claim for service connected disabilities, the primary benefit is financial. Once you prove to the VA that your current medical condition, disease or disability is related to your military service, they will assign a percentage of disability to that condition – using a complicated table and formulas.   That percentage of disability translates to a monthly dollar amount.  10% equals one amount….20% another amount… and so on and so forth. You can take a look at the current Veterans Affairs Disability claim compensation amounts by clicking here (assuming the Department of Veterans’ Affairs hasn’t restructured their website, as they commonly do when it gets a little too easy to navigate). In addition to the basic rates of compensation mentioned above, you can get additional compensation for different scenarios that you raise in your VA Disability claim. Here are just a few: A Veteran who has certain percentage ratings for multiple disabilities can be eligible for additional Special Monthly Compensation.  This Special Monthly Compensation is also available to Veterans with certain disabilities that limit use of, or that resulted in the loss of, their extremities, their reproductive organs, organs of special sense (vision, etc). Veterans who are unable to work because of their service connected disabilities are entitled to a 100% total rating under a benefits program called Total Disability for Individual Unemployability, or TDIU. Veterans who need special aid and assistance with certain activities of daily living are entitled to an additional amount of compensation. And Veterans with a spouse or certain dependents are entitled to higher rates of compensation as well. There are certain vocational rehabilitation benefits available to Veterans with service-connected disabilities The total percent rating of your  service connected disabilities can play a role in the ease you get VA Healthcare or the Priority Group you are assigned to. There are grants available for special adaptations to housing or automobiles that can grow out of your service connected disabilities. Survivors of Veterans are entitled to non-service connected survivors’ pensions – also limited to the lowest income survivors. These survivors are typically spouse or children, but it some cases include parents, and adult children who were permanently incapable of support before they turned 18. 2. How do I file a VA Disability claim?
    It used to be that you could file a VA Disability claim for a service connected condition, disease or disability just by writing your claim on a piece of paper – a famous anecdote that floats around the Veterans’ community is the veteran who  wrote his claim on a square of toilet paper while in prison.
    This is no longer the case: filing a VA Disability claim has, like many other things in this world, become increasingly complicated.
    Generally, filing a VA Disability claim requires a series of actions:
    Step 1: Filing Phase – You can first file an informal claim for benefits using the required Veterans Affairs Form.  If you formalize your claimwithin one year of that informal claim, the Veterans Affairs treats your informal claim as a formal claim. (You can see where this is headed….the rules and steps get goofier and goofier as we go through the steps.  One of the things that the Veterans Law Blog works really hard to do is to show you a way to cut through all of this fog and file a VA disability claim that is more likely to get granted, award you the proper benefits, and do so in the shortest time possible.) Step 2: Development Phase – You can let the Veterans Affairs develop the evidence to support your claim – officially, they have a Duty to Assist the Veteran in this development of certain claims in limited situations. Or, you can be more proactive and develop your OWN claim, filing what is called a “Fully Developed Claim” for VA Benefits.  Theoretically, these claims are supposed to be decided more quickly, and for the most part, they are.  But by developing your own claim, and using the knowledge, information and tools I share on the Veterans Law Blog, you can set your claim up for more thorough decisions, more proper decisions, quicker decisions and….worst case scenario, if you have to appeal, a better chance at winning your claim on appeal. Step 3: The Decision Phase – In this phase, the Veterans Affairs will decide that there is possible merit to your Veterans Affairs Disability claim for service connection of one or more conditions. In most scenarios, they will send you to a C&P (Compensation & Pension) Examiner, who is, in theory, a medical doctor that will decide if your diagnosed condition is related to your military service and how bad your condition is, percentage-wise. The VA might, before or after that review, issue a denial or a grant of benefits that is supposed to address a few questions, what I call the ‘4 Pillars’ of a VA Claim: Pillar 1: Are you eligible to file a VA Disability claim for compensation benefits Pillar 2: is the medical condition – or conditions – in your VA Disability claim related to your military service? (This pillar is often called the “service connection” or “nexus” element of your VA Disability claim) Pillar 3: To what degree does your disability impair your ability to seek and hold work, or engage in average daily living activiites? I call this pillar the “Impairment Rating”. Pillar 4: What effective date are you entitled to (it is the effective date that governs how far back in the past your benefits will be retroactive).  Some Veterans call this “back-pay” or “past-due benefits”, and depending on how long you have been battling the VA, they can often go back decades.  A colleague of mine just won a case for a Veteran with service connection granted all the way back to the 1950s, for example. Step 4: The Administrative Appeal Phase. If you are not satisfied with the VA’s decision in step 3, you can appeal. The first step in the administrative appeal is optional: you can seek a review of your VA Disability Claim by  a DRO (Decision  Review Officer), or you can “perfect your appeal” by filing several forms in a particular sequence and on a specific timeline, and you can get a review by a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ) at the  BVA (Board of Veterans Appeals). You can have that review in an in-person hearing in DC, a video conference hearing from a VA facility near you, or just submit a “brief” with “exhibits” and have the VLJ review your claim “on the record” before it. The BVA Judge can do one or more of the following – reverse, remand, grant, or any combination of those 3. By far, a combination of the 3 is most common. After that, these are the different things the BVA VLJ can do, in order of most to least common: Remand the claim for development of more evidence; Deny https://www.veteranslawblog.org/favorable-lay-evidence/?ref=hadit.com your appeal (also known as affirming the VA denial of your VA Disability claim); Grant your appeal (also known as reversing the VA Denial of your VA Disability claim). Step 5: The Court Appeal Phase If you are not satisfied with your BVA Decision, so long as it is not a remand, you can appeal to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (aka, the “CAVC” or the “Veterans Court”).  That court only decides whether a BVA decision is proper under the law, or properly applied law to fact….it cannot make factual findings. On average, between 70-80% of BVA Decisions contain a reversible or remandable legal error, so if you have a BVA Decision, please talk to an attorney with experience at the Veterans Court to discuss appealing it. Veterans do not pay out-of-pocket for lawyers at the CAVC…if the Veteran wins at the CAVC, the VA has to pay the lawyer out of IT’S pocket and NOT out of the Veteran’s past-due benefits. The CAVC can do any of the following: affirm (uphold) a BVA Decision, reverse (reject) a BVA decision, vacate (erase) a BVA decision, and remand (send a decision back to the BVA for repair of legal errors.  It can also combine 2 or more of those types of relief, depending on the case. Step 6: Judicial Review phase If you are not satisfied with your CAVC Decision, you have a limited opportunity for judicial review at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (Fed Circuit) and then the  Supreme Court of the United States.  The Fed Circuit only has the ability to decide PURE questions of law…I’d be willing to bet that 80-90% of Fed Circuit decisions in Board cases are “Rule 36’s”….decisions without a written opinion, typically because the Court does not have jurisdiction over the appeal.
    Getting review at the Supreme Court is much harder, and appeals to both courts can be very expensive….filing fees alone at the Federal Circuit cost $500 and the cost of copying and filing the brief and the record of proceedings below costs between $2,000 and $5,000….so attorneys and Veterans tend to be more conservative about appeals to these courts.
    3. When do I file a VA Disability claim?
    Ideally, you want to file your VA disability claim within the first year after leaving service. (Learn about the one VA Program I like – the Benefits at Discharge Delivery, or BDD, Program)
    However, most conditions do not get diagnosed for years or decades after service.  In those cases, if you are filing an original VA Disability claim (i.e., for the first time) you should file at least the informal claim mentioned above as soon as you have a suspicion that that your condition is related to military service.
    This protects the earliest possible effective date for your VA Disability benefits.
    If you are filing a claim for increased compensation, then you want to file the claim for increased rating as soon as you believe your condition is getting worse.
    4. Where do I file a VA Disability claim?
    Technically, your VA Disability claim is filed with the VA Regional Office for your geographic area.
    However, you can file your VA Disability claim online through the eBenefits portal for Veterans, or, if you want to be sure that you create a paper trail for your claim to make sure it is not lost by the VA, you can file it by sending it to the Evidence Intake Center (also known as the VA’s EIC in Janesville, Wisconsin).
    5. Who can help me with a VA Disability claim?
    Anyone that you trust can help you with a VA Disability claim.
    However, nobody can charge you a fee for filing your VA Disability claim – attorneys and accredited agents are only allowed to charge a fee for filing or helping you in your VA Disability claim after the VA has denied the claim.
    So, while an illegal immigrant can hire an attorney to fight deportation whenever he or she can afford it, Veterans who served our country in uniform are not legally allowed to pay for an attorney or experienced professional accredited agent’s help until the VA denies them a benefit.
    While a criminal charged with a crime has a constitutional right to an attorney, a Veteran that fought and bled to preserve the Constitution are prohibited from exercising their right to hire and pay an attorney or experienced professional until the VA screws them over first.
    Some national organizations, like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion (Legion or AL) have what are called “Veteran’s service represetatives” or VSOs that volunteer to help with filing initial claims. The quality of work or help you get varies widely, and I’ve seen both extremes: I’ve seen VSOs that do amazing work for free, and I’ve seen VSOs that pull the rug out from under their “client” or “member.
    Organizations like the Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA) and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) get consistently high marks for the work they do for their members.
    6. How long does a VA Disability Claim take?
    The amount of time that it takes for the VA to decide a VA Disability claim can very greatly, and depends on a lot of variables: how difficult your claim is, how many conditions you include in the VA Disability claim, how well your claim is prepared, whether your claim is a Fully Developed Claim or not, how big your VA Regional Office is, etc.
    Here are some general rules:
    If you click here, the VA says that time is 114 days (ish) for a Fully Developed Claim, and 121 days (ish) for a non FDC claim.  In 10 years of representing hundreds of Veterans, and talking with tens of thousands more, I’ve never met a Veteran that got a decision in 125 or fewer days.  I’ve met a couple that had a decision within 3-6 months. Most Veterans should plan on the process taking about 12-18 months, from file to decision.  And that’s not counting the appeals. If you are really bored, or like looking at really small numbers on mind-numbingly complicated spreadsheets, click here to see how long claims are currently taking in your geographic region.  Pour a scotch or glass of wine…these spreadsheets are consistent with everything the VA does….hard to understand, loaded with jargon, and obvious number juggling to hide problems in the system. Claims for VA disability benefits that are filed with smaller urban and rural VA Regional Offices are faster than VA Disability claims filed with larger metropolitan VA Regional Offices. Once you file an appeal, it can take 3-10 years to get a decision, again, depending on variables that are too numerous to list here Veterans can speed up the timeframe by filing well-developed and well-documented Fully Developed Claims, like we teach here on the Veterans Law Blog. 7. How do I check the status of a VA Disability claim?
    That, right there, is the million dollar question.
    The VA will tell you to call their VA toll-free number 1-800-827-1000 to get the status. Veterans that use this approach find that they are able to enjoy their favorite hobby while waiting to talk to someone at the VA: some Veterans relax and enjoy 2-3 hours of hold “muzack”, others read the week’s newspapers or a few magazines, and others have actually written a book while waiting on hold.  If you are among the patient and lucky few that get through to a human being on the 1-800 line, here are some tips and pointers how to get more value and information out of the call.
    The VA also suggests that you check your status on eBenefits.  Be forewarned, though – eBenefits is a glitchy and inaccurate tool.  For example, if you log into my eBenefits account, it shows that the VA held a hearing on my VA Disability Claim 2 years before I filed it.  That’s a true story, folks.  Now that is efficiency – maybe the VA will start a new pilot program: the pre-claim denial process.
    Be careful what you see on eBenefits..it’s not always your claim status, and its not always accurate, and its rarely up to date.
    8. How are benefits in a VA Disability claim calculated?
    I wish that I could tell you that the VA simply added up your disability ratings from individual conditions to reach your total disability rating, and paid you according to that rating.
    But the VA doesn’t do it that way. They use a unique system called “VA Math” to “combine” your individual disability ratings into a total, and then they award a monthly amount of compensation that corresponds to the resulting total impairment rating.
    You can read more about impairment ratings here – Veterans have a lot more control over these ratings than they have been led to believe, however.  I teach Veterans how to improve or maximize their ratings for a TON of conditions – knee/arthritis, sleep apnea, PTSD, Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, Gulf War, Migraines, Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease and many more!
    In my 5+ hour video training course, “How to Prove the 4 Pillars of a VA Claim“, I teach Veterans how to prove the 4 Pillars of a VA Claim, including a lot of specific ways to prove the degree of disability you experience and get the highest rating possible.
    9. Are VA Disability benefits retroactive?
    Yes, they are. The question is “how far do they go back”?
    There is a whole set of rules that helps the VA decide how far back in time to go to pay retroactive benefits. These rules are called the effective date rules, and there are hundreds of them.
    There are a few general guidelines….it’s not all the rules for every effective date for every type of VA Disability Claim, but it should give you an idea how much you have NOT been told about VA disability benefits over the years.
    In most VA disability claims, the effective date will be the LATER of the date you filed your claim and the date the entitlement arose. Click here to learn more about what that means. If you file your VA disability claim within 1 year of leaving service, your effective date will typically be your date of separation from military service. Claims for Increased compensation rates follow the general effective date rule, except that if you can show that the worsening of your condition started to occur BEFORE you filed your claim, you can get up to 1 year earlier. In some cases, if the law changes while you are trying to prove a claim, or after you’ve been denied a claim, and your claim is granted pursuant to that change in law that made it easier for you to win (in other words, the change in law is a “claim liberalizing rule”) you may be able to get up to 1 year prior to the date of your claim as your effective date If you reopen a previously denied claim by submitting New and Material Evidence, and you  win the reopened VA Disability claim based on military records, military service records, or military medical records that were previously unavailable to the VA or that the VA neglected to get in the prior claim, you can use the effective date rule in 38 CFR 3.156(c) to get an effective date of your original VA Disability claim date. If you submit New and Material evidence within 1 year of the date your ratings decision denied your VA Disability claim, your claim is “open and pending” until the VA issues a new ratings decision, and if your benefits are granted based on that new and material evidence, your effective date could be the original date of your claim. This is a dangerous path to take, though, because if the VA denies your claim because the evidence wasn’t New and Material, then you may have lost your original effective date if you did not file an appeal within that same year after the VA Ratings Decision. If you are a “Nehmer Class Member”, meaning a veteran exposed to dioxin (aka, Agent Orange in Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, or other places), a whole set of effective date rules apply due to the VA’s settlement of a class action lawsuit in the 1980s. These are called the “Nehmer Rules”, and they can get pretty complicated pretty quick. A survivor who files a claim for survivor benefits (DIC, service connection of the cause of death and substitution, for example) will get survivor benefits retroactive to the date of the Veteran’s death if they filed their VA Form 21-534 within one (1) year of the Veteran’s death. If they file the claim for accrued benefits within that year, they may be able to get retroactive benefits paid to the date of any VA Disability claim or appeal pending on the date of the veteran’s death. 10. Are VA Disability benefits for life?
    I’ll answer this question along with #11.
    11. Are VA Disability benefits permanent?
    Generally speaking, they can be.
    If a medical condition substantially improves, the VA can propose to reduce your disability compensation benefits to different levels.  The rules that they have to follow to do this can differ depending on certain factors, but here are a few considerations…you can click here to learn more about how the VA tries to pick Veterans’ pockets by reducing benefits, and get an idea how to stop it.
    The VA can only reduce “continuous ratings” (those that have been in effect for 20 years or more) after showing that they were awarded based on actual fraud by the veteran. There are 3 types of ratings in VA Disability claims that are considered “protected” ratings, which the VA cannot reduce without showing first a “substantial improvement” in your medical condition. If a VA Disability rating is considered “unprotected”, the VA can reduce it, but they have to send you notice of their intent to respond, give you an opportunity to respond and submit evidence and if you request it, provide a hearing.  The timelines on this type of reduction are pretty friendly to the VA, and pretty hard for the person filing the VA Disability claim to understand, no less follow, so be ready to move quick and do plenty of legwork to understand what is happening and how to stop it. If you are incarcerated for more than 60 days, on the 61st day, the VA can reduce your VA Disability compensation to no less than 10%, and must reinstate it after your release from jail. Click here to learn more about each time of rating and how long they stay in effect. 12. Are VA Disability benefits subject to child support?
    In every state that I am aware of, VA Disability benefits are considered income for the purposes of calculating child support.
    Child support laws differ in each state, so there may be nuances from state to state how much is subject to child support, particularly when a portion of your VA Disability benefits is offset by military retirement payments.  The best thing to do is get out ahead of this situation by talking to a local family law attorney and making sure you do right by your kids, state  law, and federal law.
    If you need a referral to a family law attorney in Texas or Arkansas, fill out a support ticket.  I know a lot of family law attorneys in both states and may be able to give you a couple referrals.
    13. Are benefits from my VA disability claim taxable?
    At least not under Federal law.  Amounts paid to Veterans or their families for education, training, subsistence allowances, clothing allowances, disability compensation and/or pension payments are not taxable by the Feds.
    As to whether these benefits are taxable at the State level, consult your state’s income tax agency, as the answer will vary state-by-state.
    14. What conditions are most common in a VA Disability claim?
    The VA actually publishes a report of the conditions it service connects, the average ratings for each, and more. Click here to check out the report.
    If you don’t have the stomach to read MORE VA propaganda – and honestly, who can blame you – here are the Top 10 conditions that the VA reports as being part of most original VA Disability Claims ((click on the links to see information published on the Veterans Law Blog about these conditions common to VA Disability claims)
    Tinnitus Hearing loss Lumbosacral or cervical strain Limitation of flexion, knee Scars, general Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Limitation of motion of the ankle Migraine Impairment of the knee, general Bursitis Here are some other conditions that I see very frequently in many a VA Disability Claim (click on the links to see information published on the Veterans Law Blog about these conditions common to VA Disability claims)
    Sleep Apnea Fibromyalgia Peripheral Neuropathy Diabetes Parkinson’s Disease Particulate Matter in the lungs Gulf War Illness (aka, Chronic Multi Symptom Illnesses) Traumatic Brain Injury

    Chris Attig talks to you about a question that a lot of Veterans ask him: 
    "If I get a 100% rating, should I continue fighting the VA for benefits?"
    Let’s jump right into the answer. Many Veterans perceive the 100% rating as the end of the line. The sign of victory over the Hamster Wheel. But….….is it REALLY over when you get to 100%?  Well, the hard part sure is over…but I think that there  are several reasons to keep on fighting – even after you reach the 100%. Let me tell you about 6 of those reasons…[Reprinted here with permission from Veterans Law Blog ]
    Scenario #1:  100% TDIU May Not be Permanent
    There are several paths to a 100% rating in VA Compensation – one of the most common is the TDIU 100%.
    TDIU – also known as “Total Disability Individual Unemployability” – is a 100% rating awarded when a Veteran’s service connected disability (or a combination of disabilities) renders that Veteran unable to procure substantially gainful activity.
    You can read more about TDIU on the Veterans Law Blog, or download the Veterans Law Blog’s TDIU Field Manual eBook.
    When a Veteran is awarded TDIU, there is no guarantee that TDIU 100% will last forever. 
    In fact, if the Veteran does not submit the annual income statements, or if the VA gets evidence that the Veteran is engaged in substantially gainful employment, the VA could reduce the Veteran’s rating to the combined rating in place prior to the TDIU grant.
    It is almost always preferable to have a schedular 100% – meaning that your 100% rating is based on the schedule of impairment ratings for disabilities, and not on the circumstances of your employment.
    So, even if you get approved for 100% based on TDIU, you might want to give serious consideration to pursuing a schedular 100% rating.
    Schedular ratings become “protected” at certain points – again, too much detail for this post – but there are times when the VA can no longer reduce a 100% rating.
    Scenario #2:  A 100% rating doesn’t get you the right Effective Dates
    When I teach Veterans how to pursue an appeal for a denied claim, here’s the “order of battle” I teach:
    Get your medical conditions service connected. Make sure the VA assigns the correct Impairment Rating. Fight for  the earliest effective date possible. Those last 2 often go hand in hand. But, many times, the VA will grant you a 100% rating – TDIU or schedular – and not give you the earliest effective date possible. At 100%, past due benefits can really start to add up. 
    Using the 2014 disability rate tables, a single Veteran loses out on $2,906.83 for each month. If the Veteran misses your correct effective date by 1 year, this means they are shorting a single Veteran $34,881.96.  Double that for 2 years.
    My point is this – just because the VA got your rating to 100% doesn’t mean that they gave you the right effective date. If you give up the fight early, you might be leaving a lot of benefits on the table.
    Scenario #3: Special Monthly Compensation
    Not many Veterans have ever heard of Special Monthly Compensation.  And so many Veterans don’t pursue it when they get their 100% rating.
    To be quite honest, far too many VA Raters haven’t heard of (or don’t correctly compute) Special Monthly Compensation.
    Special Monthly Compensation is complicated – but generally, it works like this.
    When a Veteran receives a 100% rating, the VA is supposed to consider whether they might be eligible for additional payments known as Special Monthly Compensation.
    There are many different kinds of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), but here are a few:
    Statutory SMC – also known as SMC(s) is one of the more common types of SMC.  It is commonly known as “Statutory/Housebound” SMC, because there are 2 ways to get it.
    First, when a single Veteran with no kids  has one 100% rating, and at least a 60% rating for a wholly separate condition/disability, that Veteran is entitled to an additional $347 a month in VA disability (using the rating tables effective 12/1/2014).  This is the “Statutory” method of getting SMC(s).
    Second, if a Veteran is housebound because of a service connected disability, that Veteran may be entitled to SMC(s) on a “housebound” basis.  The VA’s definition of housebound is rather precise, and is discussed elsewhere on the Veterans Law Blog.
    Loss – or loss of use – of extremities, sensory organs, and/or reproductive organs, might entitle one to Special Monthly Compensation as well.  As could the need for Aid & Attendance.
    The highest levels of Special Month Compensation can take a 100% Veteran as high as $8,859.84 a month – these Veterans are usually in pretty bad shape.
    Even still, I’ve seen the VA “stiff” Veterans that are housebound, bed-bound, and quadriplegic out of Special Monthly Compensation.
    This happens, most often, when a Veteran stopped fighting for their benefits after reaching 100%…..far too many Veterans think that is the highest level of compensation available.
    Scenario #4: Protection against Future Reductions
    We all know that the VA loves to reduce benefits – often for no reason at all.
    There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t talk to at least one Veteran who was rated 100% – schedular – and then the VA comes out of nowhere and reduces them to 0%.
    Often, when I dig into the C-File for these Veterans, I find other conditions that were improperly rated in the past, or that the Veteran gave up on when they received their 100% rating.
    rly rated, the Veteran might not have seen any reduction in disability compensation  when the VA reduced the rating on another condition.
    Here’s an example I saw a couple years back.
    A Veteran – presumed exposed to Agent Orange – had both Ischemic Heart Disease and Prostate Cancer.  Both conditions were severe enough that the Veteran should have been rated at 100% for EACH condition.
    However, following a VSOs advice, the Veteran gave up his claims and appeals for the Heart and Prostate conditions after the VA awarded TDIU for the Veteran’s back condition. 
    A couple years later, the Veteran reported income to the IRS from a side project he was working on.  It wasn’t a lot of income, but it was enough to show that the Veteran was able to participate in Substantially Gainful Activity,  even with his 60% disabling back condition. 
    The VA cut his 100% rating down to 60%. 
    Scenario #5:  Secondary Service Connection
    It is the rare Veteran that is pursuing service-connection for just one condition.
    But when a Veteran gets to 100% on just condition, many VSOs, some attorneys, and other Veterans often say the Veteran should give up their other claims or appeals so they “don’t rock the boat”. 
    Be happy with what you got, they’ll often tell you.
    Here’s the story of a Veteran that wishes he hadn’t listed to that advice.
    The Veteran had a renal (kidney) condition that resulted from his exposure to certain chemicals in the military.  He also had a claim in for Hepatitis C that, at the time, would not have given him much more of an impairment rating.
    So when he got the 100% rating for the renal condition, he withdrew the Hep C claim on the advice of his VSO.  This is not at all an uncommon scenario (perhaps you have been the victim of this common VSO tactic).
    When the Veteran was diagnosed, years later, with liver cancer, he though it might be related to his Hepatitis C.   And his doctors agreed with him: Liver Cancer is a common consequence of chronic Hepatitis C.
    The Veteran in the story above spent the last 6 months of his life trying to get the Hepatitis C Service Connected so that he could show that the liver cancer was secondary to that Hepatitis C. 
    During a time in his life when the Veteran could have used the extra Special Monthly Compensation that he should have received for two 100% disabling conditions (renal condition and liver cancer secondary to Hep-C) to make his final days more comfortable for himself and his family, he was battling a VA Bureaucracy that could not – or would not – move quickly enough.
    Here’s the take-away point: if you believe a condition is service connected, continue to pursue that service connection even if it is only going to give you a 10%  (or a 0%) rating today.
    Tomorrow, it may be the key to showing that another condition – one that is much more serious – is service connected.
    Scenario 6: Continue Battling the VA to Make things Easier  For Your Survivors
    My law firm represents a LOT of Surviving Spouses of deceased Veterans.  
    They are my favorite types of cases.
    That’s because I have an axe to grind with the VA – when my grandfather died from an injury he sustained at the Battle of the Bulge, the VA and several VSOs told my grandmother that there was nothing they could do to help her or her 5 children. 
    They were wrong – the VA and those big national VSOs could have helped and changed the course of my grandmother’s life instead of lying to her.
    In the course of representing a lot of surviving spouses, I see the same scenario play out time and time again. Here’s that scenario:
    A Veteran dies from a medical condition.  The medical condition that contributed to his death was related to the Veteran’s service in the military.
    The Veteran gave up his claim for service connection of that condition because he reached 100% on another condition. 
    The Surviving Spouse – to get DIC benefits – almost always has to start from scratch to prove the condition that killed the Veteran was service connected.
    If a Veteran dies from a service connected condition, the surviving spouse is entitled to a benefit called “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation”.
    It’s a monthly benefit that is often misleadingly called “Service Connection of the Cause of Death”. 
    Now, if the Veteran did not prove that the condition was service connected during his or her lifetime, the spouse gets a chance to prove that it should have been service connected.
    So a Veteran’s failure to pursue service connection for the condition that ultimately killed him does not prevent the survivor from recovering survivor benefits
    HOWEVER…. it does make the claim or appeal REALLY hard for the surviving spouse.
    Many times, the Veteran is the primary “bread-winner” in his or her family – when the Veteran dies, the spouse and children are left to fend for themselves. 
    Most of them do find a way to eek out a living after their husband or wife dies – whether by the grace of God, the support of family or friends.
    But if the Veteran had kept up the fight with the VA while they were living, it wouldn’t have had to be so hard on the family they left behind.  The Veteran’s spouse might have had the ability to grieve the loss of their beloved, without having to find replacement income to stay alive and in their home. 
    The spouse might have had the ability to spend more time honoring the Veteran’s service, more time grieving, more time healing….but instead they spend years fighting the VA to win a benefit that they could have had if the Veteran had continued to pursue the claim while living.
    So, if you get to 100%, please consider making sure that any medical condition that could likely contribute to your death is service-connected before you stop battling the VA (or, make sure that there is at least a pending claim or appeal at the time you pass).

    What is that Perspective?   Honestly, it comes down to recognizing that the purpose of the C&P Exam is NOT to convince the Doctor that your injury is service-connected but to let them conduct their Exam and draw their conclusion.  In the end, your current disability either is or is not related to military service. Regardless of what the Doctor says, what the VA Rater says, the limitations or symptoms either are or are not related to your time in service. Author Chris Attig VeteransLawBlog.org   A doctor's opinion can't change what is or is not. It's just another piece in the puzzle of proof. And the C&P Exam is just another piece of that puzzle. It is not the only piece – but if we view it as such, we often make our claims harder than they have to be. And we certainly make them more stressful. Reprinted here with permission from Veterans Law Blog #1 Every C&P Exam has 2 Goals.

    The first goal is to have the doctor confirm that your injury, disability, or limitations are related to your military service – to prove the Nexus Pillar – and/or to establish the degree you are disabled – the Impairment Pillar.  The second goal is to draw out the  “evidentiary gap” in your claim through a C&P exam. The evidentiary gap is the difference between what is IN the record, and how the VA SEES what is in the record.   If you are denied service connection, it is almost always because of an evidentiary gap – and rather than throwing a haystack at the RO and then yelling at the VA for not finding the needle – let the Examiner tell you what is missing by reading his/her opinion.
    They tell you what is missing by what they focus hardest on. The key is NOT to provide excessive amounts of information in your C&P exam – keep your answers short, and “make” the doctor get into your file to review the evidence. It is THEIR report which shows the evidentiary gap – not your statements in the C&P.  Which brings us to the next tip….
    #2: Answer only the questions the doctor asks.
     Listen, I’m really good at doing this work, and while there are some real shit-bird doctors out there, there are some really good ones.  They know how to call out the information they need, to get the facts to understand the situation. So just answer the question you are asked – not the question that you want to answer.  But when you do answer the question, follow Tip #3
    #3: Keep it Simple and Basic.
    Limit what you say to symptoms and limitations or nexus to brief statement.  If you can’t answer the question “Why is your injury related to military service” in under 20 seconds, you are talking too much.   Here’s a great example of how you might respond to a VA C&P Examiner’s question about nexus: “You should defer to my Claims File as that has my complete position on why my injury is related to my service….but, very generally…..  Because of the in service injury to my right knee, I began to overcompensate and now my left knee needs replacement.” or “I was raped in basic training, and during the rape, my attacker broke my jaw. I now cannot eat or swallow properly.” or “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer while in service.” The more you talk, the more ways an examiner has to deny your claim without ever looking at the file.  The less you talk – the more direct and to the point you are – the more they have to read the file. 
    #4: Be Polite and Courteous – and Know What the Examiner has to Deal With.
    I’ve said it before – there are some real shit-bird docs in the VA system.  Even if you are a VA C&P Examiner reading this, I think you would agree with me that you can think of a colleagues that is not doing what he or she is required to do. There’s the examiner that comes into the room – grumbly and angry – and tells you that you have five minutes to tell your story. There’s the examiner that will hear something different than what you said – and twist your words to fit his/her medical theory. And there are the examiners that just plain don’t get it – they may not have the medical training needed to draw the conclusion that they are being asked to draw.
    All of these examiners have something in common – they are working in an overburdened system that overloads them with information and gives them a minute amount of time to sort through that information. Your C&P Examiner has a short time to talk to you. He or she will have 15-20 (or more) exams to do in a day.  Each of those exams will be for a Veteran with at least 750+ pages of records to comb through.  Sometimes they will have to draw conclusions about complex conditions that they are not trained to handle. And a good bit of the time, they will make mistakes. They will get it wrong.
    It’s not the end of the world if they do.  But what is important – in the grand scheme of fixing this system – is that we treat every C&P Examiner with a modicum of courtesy and respect. Say hello. Smile. Be pleasant and courteous.  Know that even if this doctor concludes that there is no nexus between your military service and your condition, it will not be the end of the world.  There are ways to “correct” a bad C&P Exam. And there are other types of opinions that you can use – like the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ).
    Get their name, and talk to them about their background – and after the exam, write  down thorough notes about what happened – good and bad – in the exam.  What did they test? What did they measure? What body parts did the doctor look at – and not look at.
    If you are going to legally attack a bad C&P Exam, you will need this information to challenge the methodology, measurements, and conclusions.
    And you won’t be able to do this if you start the exam on a bad note.
    So – above all – be courteous, civil and concise.
    #5:  Don’t Act Like a “Professional Claimant”. 
    C&P Examiners do exams – dozens a day – every day. For weeks on end.   When you are exposed to this many Veterans, you start seeing patterns.   Especially if you are a doctor trained to identify and analyze patterns of symptoms and limitations in a medical condition.
    Listen – C&P Examiners  can spot the Professional Claimant a mile away. And if they see you as a Professional Claimant, it will taint the exam and the outcome of the exam.
    So resist using legalistic phrases, theories, concepts.
    Talk like a human being – not a lawyer or a VSO.
    Tell the doctor about your symptoms.  Your limitations.
    Have a concise statement as to why you think your disability and your service are related.  (Take a look at the first post in this series to get an example of how to put together such a concise statement).
    And whatever you do, don’t go off on rants about the VA Process, or complex legal theories, or past errors.
    The system is screwed up – we all get that.  But one VA C&P Examiner isn’t going to fix the whole system or remedy every past error in your case.
    So keep it simple and basic: talk only about  the symptoms and limitations of your disability, and have a  one-sentence statement about nexus to tell the doctor when you are asked.
    #6: Do NOT Advocate to – or Debate With – the C&P Examiner.
    C&P Examiners are doctors – not lawyers and not judges.  
    Though their opinion will carry some sway – a lot of sway – with the Rater in your claim, in the end it is just an opinion. 
    Let them draw their opinion.   If it is negative, or doesn’t fit the facts, there are other doctors with other opinions that the Rater or BVA can balance and weigh to find the truth.
    Do NOT try to prove your claim to the examiner.  Most Vets that do try to prove their claim end up overwhelming the C&P Examiner with facts that he or she may or may not be able to process in the moment.  They will overload them with case law and legal language – much of which is irrelevant to the Doctor.
    And remember – there is a mortal battle between doctors and lawyers. Since the first lawyer sued the first doctor, they have always had a very cat-and-dog relationship (I say this somewhat “tongue in cheek”).  If you start talking like a lawyer, you are going to shut that doctor off to understanding your medical condition, and I can guarantee that your exam will end with a negative opinion.
    Think about it in the context of your most recent job or profession – if someone walked in and started barking all this legalese while telling you how to do your job, what would your reaction be?
    You’d feel bullied or attacked. You’d feel insulted and marginalized.  You might zone out on the person talking, and miss what they are really trying to say.  Or you might do whatever you had to do to get that person out of your office, or cubicle, or maintenance bay.
    Nobody likes being bullied.  So don’t advocate your claim to the C&P Examiner – it’s not the time and place to advocate for your claim.
    It is the time to talk about symptoms and limitations – and to DRIVE the examiner back into your C-File and medical records to study the claim.
    Rather than launch into the medical and legal theory of your claim, and spend 15 minutes forcing the C&P Examiner to “zone out”, why not push them to look at the records.
    Consider this exchange:
    Doctor:  Tell me about your sleep apnea symptoms since you left the military.
    Veteran:  My medical records and claims file detail all of the symptoms – the many apneas throughout the night, my need for a CPAP, the daytime sleepiness problems from getting a good nights sleep – but the bottom line is that since service, I wake up several times each night gasping for air, and the only relief I get is when I wear this CPAP machine.
    You got your point across – succinctly.  You pushed the Examiner to look at the facts (and if she doesn’t, that will be obvious in her decision).  And you did it in a concise and courteous way.
    Bottom line – the C&P Exam is not the time to be an advocate or a lawyer.
    Keep your discussion limited to  symptoms and limitations only, and your one-liner about why you think it is service-connected.
    #7: Know What is “At Issue” in the C&P Exam.
    In earlier tips, I told you to talk only about symptoms and limitations, or if you had to, have a brief statement (20 seconds and 1 sentence) that explains why you think your condition is service connected. But this begs the question – how do you know what is going to be discussed in your C&P Exam? This comes back to knowing the 4 Pillars of a VA claim.  Your C&P exam will invariably involve issues in only 2 of those pillars: diagnosis, nexus (Pillar 2), or impairment rating (Pillar 3). You can read about all 4 Pillars by clicking here. If your exam is for a condition that has not been service connected,  there is a good chance that it is either a “nexus” exam or a “diagnostic exam”.
    Let’s talk about the diagnostic exam. Remember that the VA has a Duty to Assist?
    While I tell Veterans all the time not to confuse the “Duty to Assist” with “Actual Assistance”, there is one scenario where I think the VA does a good job of assisting Veterans in their claims.
    That scenario arises if you have not yet had your medical condition diagnosed – in certain situations, the VA is required to send you for a Diagnostic Exam to diagnose your medical condition before a decision can be made about service-connection or impairment rating.   If, however, there is no reasonable possibility that the condition could be service-connected even if diagnosed, the VA does NOT have to send you for a Diagnostic Exam.
    If your exam is not a diagnostic exam, then you can be sure that the doctor will want to talk to you about “nexus” and the “impairment rating” criteria.
    So here’s what you should do – first, prepare your brief statement as to why you think your condition is related to military service – keep it short and sweet (see Post #1 for a great example) and remember that the goal is to force the Examiner into the C-File to study your medical and military service records.
    Next, look up the rating criteria in 38 CFR Table 4 to determine what factors the doctor will want to know when deciding on your rating percentage.
    Click here to learn how to find out what your Impairment Rating criteria are.  Focus on these symptoms and limitations in your discussion.
    Lastly, if you have enough time before your exam, prepare a summary of your medical records for the doctor to review – even if he or she already has the C-File in front of them.
    I explain exactly how to do this in my Training package – How to File a VA Claim.
    In that video, I will teach you how to assemble and organize the medical evidence that proves your claim for service connection by using my unique “VA Claim Map“.
    It’s not hard to do, and it will help you keep your claim organized.  Many doctors have really appreciated the summary of the claim that we sometimes send with our clients to C&P Exams.
    #8: If you talk about your condition, paint a picture.

    When I tell my clients this tip, I tell them to think “Toilet Bowls”.
    I had a client that was going in for a C&P Exam to re-evaluate the impairment rating on his knee condition. The prior VA Examiners had never considered the “instability” in his knee joint when low-balling his rating in the past.  So we knew this exam would focus on the instability of the Veteran’s knee.
    In our prep for the C&P Exam, I asked my client to describe his knee instability.  Here’s the story he told me.
    That story is particularly effective in describing problems with  knee stability.  Why? Because the Veteran painted a picture that used a toilet bowl – and nobody can forget those visual images.
    Now, I’m not saying to describe all your symptoms using a “Toilet Bowl” example – what I am saying is that you should paint a picture for the examiner of how the symptoms affect your daily life and work activities.
    In a claim for aid & attendance, don’t say: “I need help getting dressed”.  Instead say: “My 16 year old daughter has to help me zip my pants every morning because my Parkinson’s prevents my fingers from being able to work my own zipper.”
    In a claim for PTSD rating, don’t say: “I have trouble getting along with co-workers”.  That’s not a picture – it’s just a statement that every other Veteran is probably telling the same examiner.  Paint the picture, and say: “I spend 2 hours a day hiding in the bathroom at work on the floor of the handicapped stall because  I’m so scared of being around other people with my PTSD.”
    See what I’m saying?
    Don’t state symptoms.  Paint a picture.
    But be careful – don’t embellish…everyone can spot someone engaging in self-serving hyperbole or exaggeration (you know the type – in the military we called them “Bulls**t Artists”).
    Just describe the problems your symptoms are giving you in your daily living and working activities by painting a picture of when and how often they surface.
    #9:  Get the Doctor’s name and a Copy of your C&P Exam
    I’ve shared this tip before – when the exam is done, ask the Doctor for his/her business card – or just their name if you can.  Be friendly about it – not confrontational.
    Why do you want to do this? Because the Veterans Court has said that unless you challenge a doctor’s credentials, you are allowing the VA to presume that they doctor was competent and the exam was adequate.  So, get the doc’s name.  Then read up on how to challenge the doctor’s credentials in a Notice of Disagreement if your C&P Exam comes back adverse or negative.
     Take good notes at your C an P exam or regular VA appointment.
    And then – I cannot stress this enough – get a copy of the C&P Exam.  Before the Ratings Decision comes out, if you can.  Here’s how to go about getting a copy of the C&P Exam using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
    #10:  After the Exam – Write Down your Notes.
    A growing issue in the arena of Veterans Benefits is the adequacy of the exams that VA C&P Examiners provide.
    You may not have a lawyer now, but if you do someday, it will be incredibly helpful to your attorney to know the step-by-step process of what happened in your C&P Exam.
    What tests did the Doctor perform?
    What questions did he ask?
    Did she use any tools or instruments to take any measurements?
    After you leave your exam, take 20 minutes, sit down, and write – to the best of your recollection – a step by step of what happened in the exam.
    Doesn’t need to be perfect.
    Doesn’t need to have every word. Just enough for someone to look at later and assess whether the tests that the Doctor did – if they did any at all – were adequate to achieve the purposes of the exam.    Just write the key facts of what happened, what was measured, and what tests were performed.
    If you are feeling particularly lawyerly, type your notes into a Sworn Declaration like this one, and sign and date it the day of the exam.  Tuck it away in your records and then, if your attorney or representative needs it later, you have a document contemporaneous to the exam that discusses what happened and didn’t happen.  This will make your statements about the inadequacy of the exam years down the road far more credible – because they weren’t blurred by time or memory bias.

    Some Veterans like to work just for the sake of having something to do.
    Other Veterans like to work for non-profits or other organizations that provide  a public service …. after all, Veterans as a community are more heavily oriented to public service than many other groups of people.
    Yet other Veterans still like to keep doing the job that they did, as they find that the income from even a 100% VA disability rating is not enough to cover all their expense.
    Whether  the family’s bills, funding college educations for kids and grand-kids, medical bills for spouses and children, or paying off the mountains of debt that have likely built up in the 5-10 years you have probably been waiting for the Veterans Affairs to get off it’s arse and make the right decision….100% disability rating is barely enough money to live off.
    So, here’s the answer…and it’s a lawyers FAVORITE answer….It Depends. Whether a 100 percent Disabled Veteran can work turns on the answer to this question: Are you getting a 100% schedular rating, or 100% unemployability (aka, TDIU or IU)?
    Veterans that Receive 100% Schedular Ratings have NO Limitations on Their Ability to Work.
    Veterans are rated for their Veterans Affairs Disability based on a set of tables known as the VA Impairment Rating Tables. These are also known as the “Schedule of Ratings”. So, if your 100% VA Disability Rating comes because you qualify for the 100% rating specified for a single (or combination of multiple) service-connected conditions using the Schedule of Ratings, then you have NO limitations on your ability to work.
    Some Veterans think that this doesn’t make sense: after all, if you are 100% disabled, that means you can’t do anything, right? This is one of the problems with the VA Disability Compensation system – for years, we have been led to believe that the percentage of rating equates to a percentage of how much our body is disabled.
    In reality, the percentage of your disability rating means that you have had that percentage of interference with your ability to earn an income.
    So a Veteran whose service connected condition equates to a 100% disability rating is not – in the eyes of the law – 100% disabled. Instead, in the eyes of the law, the Veteran’s ability to earn an income has been 100% interfered with.
    Bottom line, if you are rated 100% using the Schedule of Ratings, or the Impairment Ratings Table – whether it is for one condition or multiple conditions – than you can work as much or as little as you want.
    In theory, you could make $1,000,000 a minute and still collect a 100% Veterans Affairs Disability Schedular Rating. Of course, to make that kind of money, you’d probably have to become a Congressional representative, and put your hand into the pocket of some pretty unseemly political and lobbying organizations. But the point is the same: Veterans that Receive 100% Schedular Ratings have NO Limitations on Their Ability to Work or earn an  income.
    Can a Veteran Earn an Income while Receiving VA TDIU Benefits?
    To answer this question, we need only look to the law.
    For those of you that don’t know what TDIU is, I encourage you to read this post to get a basic understanding of the 2 types of TDIU Benefits. To those of you trying to win your VA TDIU Claim, I encourage you to consider whether a copy of the VA TDIU Field Manual, or the VA TDIU eBook Package – will help you understand and improve your VA TDIU Claims. 38 C.F.R. §4.16(a) – the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that states the requirements for eligibility for TDIU Benefits, states the following:
    Total disability ratings for compensation may be assigned, where the schedular rating is less than total, when the disabled person is, in the judgment of the rating agency, unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities.
    Now, as I’ve discussed before on the Veterans Law Blog, the law does not clearly define what substantially gainful occupation is. But the law DOES define what Substantially Gainful employment IS NOT.
    Read the rest of 38 C.F.R. §4.16(a):
    38 C.F.R. §4.16(a) – Marginal employment shall NOT be considered substantially gainful employment. For purposes of this section, marginal employment generally shall be deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, as the poverty threshold for one person. Marginal employment may also be held to exist, on a facts found basis (includes but is not limited to employment in a protected environment such as a family business or sheltered workshop), when earned annual income exceeds the poverty threshold. (emphasis is mine).
    So there you have it – the 2 ways that Veteran can earn an income while receiving VA TDIU benefits: when the employment is “marginal” and when the employment is “sheltered”.
    We’ll look at them in more detail, below.
    You might ask “Why” a Veteran is allowed to earn an income in these 2 scenarios while receiving TDIU Benefits.
    Truth be told, I have no clue why Congress wrote the laws this way when they wrote them – someday I’ll dig into the legislative history to understand it.
    But since Congress allowed it, there is NOTHING wrong with Veterans getting Marginal or Sheltered Employment income while receiving TDIU Benefits.
    #1:  Marginal Employment & TDIU Benefits.
    This is the type of income that many Veterans are aware that they can receive even after being granted TDIU Benefits.
    Simply go to the US Bureau of Census website, and look up the “poverty threshold for one person”.  (Click here to see the historical poverty ratings tables from 1959 – 2015).
    You will see that, for 2014, the poverty threshold for one person is  $12,316 per year (if you are under 65), or $11,354 (if you are over 65).  
    Each year, the VA will ask you to verify your employment (or lack thereof) to determine whether you are eligible to continue to receive TDIU Benefits. They typically require that you use VA Form 21-4140 or 21-4140-1 to do this report.
    The VA does cross check 2 databases that I know of:  Social Security databases that record your work/income history, and IRS databases that record your family income on your annual tax returns.  Word to the wise: if you are telling different income stories to different federal agencies, you are playing with fire, and may even be committing fraud.
    If you indicate in this form that your income is higher than the poverty threshold, a proposal to reduce your TDIU benefits will be forthcoming.
    It’s one of the few times that the VA acts with a sense of purpose – when they want to STOP paying you.
    #2: Sheltered Employment & TDIU Benefits
    Another way that Veterans can earn an income while receiving TDIU Benefits is by participating in what is called “sheltered employment”.
    There are many ways that your income can be considered “sheltered”, but 2 that are clearly identified in the regulation itself:
    Family business Sheltered Workshop (these are supervised workplaces for adults with a physical and/or mental handicap) Now, just because you are working for a family business doesn’t mean your job is considered “sheltered employment”.  It has to be what the regulation refers to as a “protected environment”.
    A protected environment occurs when the employer makes special accommodations to employ and provide an income for a family member or a disabled worker. This happens quite a lot  – a family business, to reduce its tax burden or simply to help another family member, pays a disabled Veteran family member an income that they would not otherwise be able to receive.
    How can you tell if there is a protected work environment?
    What kind of questions would you ask, and what kind of evidence would you need?
    If you can get answers to these kinds of questions – typically in an affidavit by the business owner or the executive in charge of hiring/staffing – you will have a much stronger proof of entitlement to TDIU benefits even while earning an income well above the poverty threshold in a sheltered employment situation.
    1) Did they employer provide any special accommodations (especially if they are not required to by the Americans With Disabilities Act) to accommodate the employee with disabilities?  These accommodations are most commonly adjustments to the work schedule, the work environment, or the work duties.
    I have not handled a case yet where a major employer, covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, provides an accommodation to a 100% disabled Veteran as required by law to do. This is an interesting question as to whether or not the employment could be considered sheltered when the company has a legal obligation to enact accommodations.  I am not aware of any VA precedent on this topic – if you do know of a precedential case on this topic, don’t hesitate to let me know!
    2) If the employee leaves the company, will the business hire a “similarly situated” person to fill the position (i.e, another worker with a disability)?
    There are 3 scenarios here:
    Scenario #1:  If the business plans to modify the Veteran’s position after he or she leaves so that there are no longer accommodations to the work duties, environment or schedule, then you can make a pretty good argument that the employment is sheltered.  Why? Because it appears that the position may have been created or modified just for the disabled Veteran. Scenario #2: If the business plans on continuing the accommodation, then its a pretty good argument that the position itself – and anyone that holds it – is sheltered employment.  (Many employers do this for the tax advantages available to certain types of “sheltered workshops”). Scenario #3: If the business plans to eliminate the position after the disabled Veteran leaves the job, then it is most likely “sheltered employment”. None of the above scenarios are absolute: the more evidence you can show that an employer created a job for a 100% disabled Veteran – whether for “feel-good” reasons, tax incentives, or any other reason other than common business reasons, the stronger your case of showing that your position is “sheltered employment”.
    3) Is there evidence that another business in the same industry would NOT hire a similarly situated employee, and pay them a similar income, for the same type of work?
    What do I mean here?
    If your family business pays you $50,000 a year, while allowing you to come in to the job  “only on the days you feel up to it”, look to other businesses in the same  industry to see if they would pay that same salary to an employee that comes and goes at will.
    Where do you get evidence of this sort of thing?
    Honestly, you would hire an economist to prepare an expert report on the nature of the employment and whether or not it is sheltered, based on a survey of the particular industry.
    This type of expert report can get really expensive, so I would not typically do this unless it was really questionable whether the employment was sheltered or not, and there was a lot riding on the outcome.
    Frankly, providing evidence that answers Question #3 is probably a bit “over the top” in most Sheltered Employment claims.
    Legal Advice in Sheltered Employment situations.
    Be VERY careful with the Sheltered Employment rules.
    They are not frequently applied, many in the VA do NOT know about them (or don’t understand them when they do know about them), and the Sheltered Employment Rules can lead to serious consequences if applied incorrectly.
    I’m not telling any details here, but I know of a couple Veterans who have been charged with criminal fraud for collecting TDIU benefits while getting an income and doing nominal work for a family member’s business.
    These charges usually will not stick – as the US Attorneys that prosecute these crimes have far less understanding of VA regulations than even most VA raters or Board Hearing Officials.
    But you’re going to have to pay a criminal defense attorney to make it go away, and the VA ain’t repaying your attorneys fees.
    That said, it is ALWAYS BEST  to get legal advice – call a VA Accredited attorney and ask for a consultation –  if you are considering earning income above the poverty threshold and want to know if it is or is not considered “sheltered employment”.

  • Posts

    • Would I find my mental health evaluation in my records? Thanks

    • Here is an updated opinion from CCK, pay close attention to the examples. Having a TDIU rating based solely on a PTSD disability could meet the requirement for the 100% part of the SMC-S criteria.


      Today’s Special Monthly Compensation series will focus on SMC(s). The amount of compensation for a single veteran without dependents at the SMC(s) level is $3,521.85 per month as of December 2020. This compensation can be provided in addition to SMC(k) as long as the service-connected disabilities are not the same in both claims.


      There are two different paths that can make a veteran eligible to receive SMC(s) benefits:

      1. You are entitled to receive SMC(s) if you have at least two service-connected disabilities with the first rated totally disabling (100%) and the second rated at least 60%. If you are receiving TDIU for one disability, this may meet the criteria of having one service-connected disability rated totally disabling. The important thing to keep in mind here is that the disability for which you are receiving TDIU must be entirely separate from the second service-connected disability (or disabilities) rated at 60% or more. In other words, you must have at least two completely separate, yet both very severe, disabilities in order to be eligible for this benefit.
      2. The second qualifying factor for SMC(s) is if the veteran is rendered housebound due to a service-connected disability. If a veteran is unable to leave his or her house, hospital ward, care facility, etc. and the medical condition is not expected to improve, the veteran may qualify for SMC(s).
      3. Examples

      Since qualification for the second (2) type of SMC(s) is fairly clear regarding being housebound, we will provide some examples of the first (1) qualifier:

      • If the veteran receives 100% for Ischemic heart disease and 60% for intervertebral disc syndrome (back condition), he/she would be eligible for SMC(s)
      • If a veteran has a 70% schedular rating for PTSD, and is receiving TDIU based solely on the PTSD, and also has a 60% rating for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), he/she will qualify to receive SMC(s).

      Special Monthly Compensation: SMC(s) | CCK Law (cck-law.com)


    • I was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer in December and I have several surgeries! My question is can I file VA disability! My military records indicate I went to sick call many times during the ten years I served and they would always tell me it was IBS. Can I file a claim?

    • Effective dates are rather complex.  Yes, you are correct that your effective date can be the date of discharge, if you applied within a year of discharge.  

      But, the effective date is always the later of the facts found or date of claim.  

      As an example, if you applied the day after discharge, but no doctor diagnosed you with the illness until sometime later, the facts found could be that you did not get the illness until later, and you only get paid for the illness that is documented.  In other words, "when your symptoms began".  

      If you have a recent decision and you think it has the wrong effective date, you can consult with a veterans attorney and see if he thinks you should get an earlier effective date, "to include", as you mentioned, benefits backdated to the day of discharge.  

      Did you apply for VA benefits within a year of discharge?  No, applying for education benefits does not count.  You would have had to applied for a disability of ______ condition, not eduction benefits.  

    • In order to get (service connection for parkinson's), you would need a doctors opinion that his parkinsons was at least as likely as not caused by medications prescribed for sc PTSD (or other sc conditions).  

      Perhaps more importantly, to increase his compensation "above" TDIU (100percent), you will need an additional 60 combined  percent seperate and distinct . (SMC S..statuatory).  If you review his records, and a doctor has rendered such an opinion then go for it.)

      Another way, however, if this applies is to seek aid and attendance, especially if you dont feel comfortable leaving him at home alone.  

      Aid and attendance can be performed by a relative, and the Veteran still receive compensation for it.  As an example, if hubby could not be left alone due to panic attacks, or that he was unable to cook for himself or deal with other every day activities of life, he can probably get a and a.  

      My advice is to focus on how to increase the compensation, and to focus on things that would likely result in an increase, such as SMC S (housebound) or SMC L (aid and attendance, that is, if those apply to you.  

      There is something called an 1151 claim, but that involves negligence of his treatment.  

      On the other hand, if you the meds he is taking have been known to contribute to Parkinson, its possible you have a complaint with the drug maker.  VA does not guarantee that "med x" has no adverse symptoms.   But, if you discover that "med x" did not list Parkinson as a possible symptom, and, indeed it caused your hubbys parkinson, then the medication company may be at fault.  

      For most drugs, your doctor weighs a balance between "possible benefits" and possible side effects.  Your doctor then makes a judgement call if the benefits outweigh the risks.  The problem occurs when the pharmaceutical company fails to disclose all the risks.  

      Of course, I have not read your file, have no idea what symptoms he has, and dont know if a doctor failed to do what is required or not.  

      I would simply suggest you review the file, probably with an experienced pro, such as an attorney familiar with Veterans benefits, and decide what/if to do in your case.  

      Many attorneys will review the file, if he has had one or more denials, to see if there is potential, at no cost to you.  Then you can decide whether or not to hire the attorney, go through a VSO, or represent yourself in the matter.  

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