PART ONE: Back to Basics – What is service-connected disability compensation?
The road to VA compensation benefits can be long and confusing to say the least. With the VA implementing new rules and regulations as it grows from infancy to adolescence, changes are sometimes happening too fast to keep up pace. This post and my subsequent posts are intended to help veterans understand the claims process in simple terms to facilitate the journey.
Most recently, during a NOVA (National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates) conference held in April 2013, Thomas J. Murphy, Director of the Compensation and Pension Service for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), informed attendees that VBMS – Veterans Benefit Management System – would be up and operating in most regional offices by the end of 2013, and that 30 regional offices were already operating under this new system. This new electronic system is hoped to reduce overall processing time for VA claims. However, based on data from the Center for Investigative Reporting, the current (as of 5/28/13) average that a veteran waits in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the government to respond to his or her claim is 334 days. This report notes an increase in wait time by 64% in the prior 3.9 years. One can only hope that this system improves with the implementation of the VBMS. But in the meantime, you have to navigate the VA system with such accuracy as to not expose yourself to further delay.
Let’s start from the beginning. Compensation is a monthly payment made to a veteran because of a service-connected disability rated at 10% or more disabling or having combined zero percent ratings which may be paid at the 10% rate. Yes, the VA may approve a claim for compensation based on one or more of the qualified impairments, but they can rate it at 0% and thus be non-compensable, and even some disabilities rated at 10% can be considered non-compensable.
Service-connected disability compensation refers to those disabilities that VA has determined to be related to military service. Veterans can also receive compensation for disabilities that existed prior to enlistment that are aggravated, or made worse, as a result of military service. The compensable disability list of disorders is long and ranges from the musculoskeletal system, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, to neurological and mental disorders. Depending on the disability involved, the VA will assign a rating from zero percent to as much as 100 percent.
Disability compensation is one of the many benefits that veterans may be entitled to receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Disability compensation is considered a “key” to other VA benefits. That is, the veteran must be receiving or entitled to receive disability compensation in order to be eligible for other benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation.
Monthly disability compensation payments are how the government makes restitution to veterans who are disabled because of their military service.
If you feel you have a current disability or impairment that may be related to service, contact our office and we will be happy to discuss the issues with you.
In my next post, I will discuss what documentation is needed to start a claim for compensation.