Veterans receive benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration of the VA. Acquiring benefits, however, is not always easy as the VA can be very selective in determining who qualifies for these benefits. Although there are several types of benefits (compensation, pension, and vocational benefits, to name a few) we are going to look at the requirements for compensation benefits, a monthly payment to a veteran with a physical or mental disability that began during or was aggravated by service.
In order to be eligible for compensation benefits, you have to meet three general requirements:
- Be a veteran
- Have a disability
- Establish service connection
There are two elements to qualify as a veteran. The first is active military service. This means you served full-time in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. The second element is that you were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, which would mean an honorable or general discharge. A good way to show that you meet these requirements is to submit to the VA a copy of your discharge document.
The second essential step is that you have to have a disability, some sort of a disabling condition or disease, at the time you file your claim to receive benefits. This can be proved by a recent diagnosis from a doctor of the disability or disease.
In order to get compensation benefits for your disability, you need to connect your disability to something that happened during your time in service. This is known as establishing service connection. You establish this connection by showing 1) an incident during service, and 2) a link between that incident and your disability.
First, the incident should be something like a disease, injury, or event that took place during service. The incident does not have to be related to military duties, as long as it occurred during your time in service. You are going to have to show proof that the incident happened during service, and one way to do that is through your service medical records (perhaps showing a diagnosis of a disease or injury).
Second, you need to link this in-service incident to your current disability. The link that the VA is looking for is that the incident (whether disease, injury, or event) caused the current disability. In order to show this link, you will need a statement by a medical professional concluding that it is at least 50% likely that your current disability is related to the service incident. This is known as direct service connection.
If you are not able to get this medical statement linking your in-service incident to your disability, there are other ways to establish service connection. There is service connection through aggravation, presumptive service connection, secondary service connection, and service connection based on VA medical care.
If the VA finds that you are a veteran that has a disability that is service connected then you may qualify for compensation benefits. Once you are able to overcome the difficult step of establishing service connection, you are on your way to receiving compensation benefits.