While our firm does not handle military or VA pension claims, we are often asked about these benefits. As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power.” It is my hope this post will help to arm you with the information necessary to not only figure out if you qualify for CRSC but set you on the right path to get the benefits owed to you.
What Is CRSC?
Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) is a program that was created for disability and non-disability military retires with combat-related disabilities. It is a tax free entitlement that is paid each month along with any retirement pay you already receive.
In the past, veterans were not allowed to receive both fully military retirement benefits and VA disability compensation. The CRSC program (10 U.S.C. § 1414) allows veterans to receive both under certain qualifying situations.
What are the Qualifications?
Entitlement for CRSC can be broken down into three distinct categories: 1) eligible veteran, 2) eligible condition or injuries, and 3) conditions or injuries are combat related.
The rules for CRSC provide for four different situations in which a veteran is considered to be eligible to receive CRSC. A veteran must receive military retirement pay for one of the following reasons:
- Served on Active Duty, the Reserves, or National Guard with 20 years of creditable service;
- Served on Active Duty, the Reserves, or National Guard and is also a permanent medical retiree (Chapter 61) regardless of years served;
- Served on Active Duty, the or National Guard and is classified as a Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) retiree regardless of years served; or
- Served on Active Duty, the Reserves, or National Guard and is classified as a Temporary Early Retirement Act retiree with 15-19 years served.
Once a veteran has shown that he qualifies for CRSC due to his retirement status, he must then show that he has a disability rating of 10% or higher with the VA for an injury considered to be combat related, and that his military retirement pay is reduced by his acceptance of those VA benefits (VA Waiver).
As stated above, once a veteran has shown that he is eligible for receipt of CRSC, he must then show that he has a qualifying condition/injury. For a condition to be considered for CRSC, it must be “combat-related.” Combat-related means that the injury must have been incurred in one of the following ways:
- Direct result of armed conflict,
- Instrumentality of war;
- Performance of duty under conditions simulating war; or
- Engagement in hazardous service
The above, begs the question, how does one show that their injury or condition is “combat-related?” Proof can be offered in a number of ways. One of the most direct ways to show combat relation is the receipt of a Purple Heart for the injury.
Other than receipt of Purple Heart, there are other ways to show an injury is combat-related. A veteran whose injury or condition is caused by Agent Orange would also be considered to be “combat-related” as an “instrumentality of war.” Furthermore exposure to radiation, mustard gas, and Gulf War disease would qualify for CRSC. Secondary conditions to a combat-related condition will also qualify for a veteran’s CRSC award. For more information about secondary service connection, please see here.
Applying for CRSC
CRSC is not a VA benefit, and therefore a veteran does not apply for CRSC through the VA. Instead, eligibility for CRSC is made by the veteran’s respective military service branch. Each branch has the authority to determine a veteran’s eligibility. In applying for CRSC, a veteran is required to fill out an application (DD form 2860) and submit it. Along with the application, it is helpful to submit documentation that shows eligibility based on the factors above. Such documentation may include:
- Retirement orders
- 20-year letter or statement of service
- Relevant pages from VA or service medical records
- Purple Heart Citations; and
Once a decision is made, a veteran will be notified of the decision in writing. If CRSC is approved, the service branch will also forward the decision to Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) who will then perform an audit of the veteran’s payments and check if the veteran is eligible for a retroactive award of CRSC.
If DFAS finds that there should be a retroactive award, the veteran can expect to receive a retro payment to the date of eligibility in the award letter. Retroactive awards can go back as far as June 1, 2003, but will be limited to a veteran’s retirement date or the date of the qualifying VA award. The later date will be the one used to determine the retroactive payment. If a veteran has less than 20 years of service, his retroactive date will be limited to January 1, 2008, his VA disability date, or his retirement date (whichever is later).
Thank you for reading, and thank you for your service.