Combat-Related Special Compensation
In the previous post on Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC), we discussed the first part of qualifying for CRSC: the criteria for Military Retirement. In this post, we will talk about the second part: what qualifies as “combat-related”.
Dual Criteria for Eligibility for CRSC
In order to qualify for CRSC, the veteran has to prove that his/her case satisfies two requirements:
- The veteran has to meet the Military Retirement criteria
- The veteran’s disability has to be both VA service-connected and considered to be “Combat-Related”
It is important to stress that CRSC Board (which is responsible for determining and awarding CRSC) will only consider disabilities that have already been service-connected by the VA at a 10% minimum rating. This means that if a veteran has been awarded service-connected for a disability, but at 0% (which does happen), the veteran would not be eligible for CRSC until the VA awards a higher rating for that disability.
For the purposes of CRSC, the Department of Defense (DOD) has determined that combat-related disabilities may have occurred in the following instances:
- Direct result of armed conflict
- Instrumentality of war
- Performance of duty under conditions simulating war
- Engaged in hazardous service
- Purple Heart disability
In addition to the five categories above, the DOD has identified two other instances where disabilities could be considered for CRSC purposes:
- Presumptive conditions
- Secondary conditions
While the DOD gives multiple instances in which disabilities can qualify as combat-related, it is important to note the CRSC Board only needs to conclude that the disability falls within one of the categories of combat-related disabilities. Proving that a disability satisfies more than one category has no impact on the CRSC Board.
Disabilities Incurred as Direct Result of Armed Conflict
According to the DOD, “armed conflict” includes any action in which service members are engaged with hostile forces. “Armed conflict” may also include any period of time during which a service member:
- Was a prisoner of war
- Detained against their will in the custody of a hostile or belligerent force
- Escaping, or attempting to escape from such confinement.
Disabilities Incurred Through an Instrumentality of War
An instrumentality of war is a vehicle, weapon or device designed primarily for military service and intended for use in such service at the time of the occurrence or injury. Such disabilities could include wounds, injuries or illnesses caused by:
- Military weapons
- Combat vehicles
- Fumes & gases
- Explosions of military ordnance, vehicles, or material
An instrumentality of war can also be an object, device, vehicle, etc. that is not specifically designed for military purposes, but that is situationally being used to simulate war activities. An example of this would using a broomstick instead of a pugil stick for hand-to-hand combat training.
Disabilities Incurred in the Performance of Duty under Conditions Simulating War
This combat-related category includes disabilities that result from military combat training. Examples of this include:
- War games
- Practice alerts
- Tactical Exercises
- Airborne operations
- Leadership reaction courses
- Grenade and live fire weapons practice
- Bayonet training
- Hand-to-hand combat training
- Negotiation of combat confidence and obstacle courses
Note: For the purposes of CRSC, military training does not include physical training activities such as calisthenics, jogging, formation running, or supervised sport activities.
Disabilities Incurred While Engaged in Hazardous Service
According to the DOD CRSC Guidance Program, hazardous service includes, but is not limited to:
- Aerial flight
- Parachute duty
- Demolition duty
- Experimental stress duty
- Diving duty
Purple Heart Disabilities
In order to obtain CRSC for Purple Heart disabilities, two things are required:
- The disability must be service-connected by the VA
- The disability must the result of an injury for which the veteran was awarded the Purple Heart
Verification that the Purple Heart was awarded can be found in various military documents, including:
- DD 214
- Purple Heart Certificate
- Military orders for the award of a Purple Heart
Note: The award of a Purple Heart does not by itself prove that a particular VA service-connected disability qualifies as “combat-related”. The veteran still needs to provide proof that the disability for which he/she is seeking CRSC was the result of the injury for which the veteran was awarded the Purple Heart. Such proof might include service medical records describing the incident, or the Purple Heart certificate itself if it describes the incident with sufficient clarity.
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