VA disability ratings can be a complicated topic for Veterans, particularly those that are unfamiliar with the VA system. Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding VA claims and benefits, which can lead to disabled Veterans missing out on important benefits because they don’t have the right facts and information.
In this blog post, we look at the top 10 disability myths for Veterans and set the record straight on VA benefits.
Myth 1: VA benefits are only available to those who served in combat.
Disability benefits are available to eligible Veterans who served on active duty, regardless of whether they served in combat or not.
To be eligible for disability compensation, a Veteran must have served on active duty, been honorably discharged, and have a disability rating from the VA that is service-connected. A service-connected disability is an injury or illness directly caused by military service, sustained while in the military (both on-duty or off-duty), made worse by military service, or caused by conditions that are themselves service-connected. Thorough documentation must be provided that accurately reflects the Veteran’s medical condition(s), how it impacts their daily living, and how it is connected to their time in the service.
Some benefits, such as education and home loan benefits, are available to all eligible Veterans regardless of their disability rating. While others, such as compensation and medical benefits, are only available to Veterans with a service-connected disability rating.
In general, VA benefits are designed to provide support to Veterans who have served their country and to help them transition to civilian life.
Myth 2: VA disability claims are only granted for injuries or illnesses that occurred on active duty
Veterans can receive VA disability ratings for any medical condition that has a lasting effect on their life, regardless of whether it occurred while on active duty.
Beyond medical issues that arose while on active duty, a Veteran may be eligible for a VA disability rating for any injury or illness that was made worse during their military service or for any condition that was caused by their military service.
The key point here is it must be “service-connected.” The VA considers many factors when determining eligibility for a VA disability rating, including medical evidence and the Veteran’s service history. When thorough medical evidence is presented that clearly links a Veteran’s disability or ailment to some circumstance or event from their time on active duty, the VA will rule if the evidence upholds the claim that the condition is “service connected” or not and the degree to which it impedes their ability to function.
This can include “presumptive conditions” that affect health later in life but have been connected to in-service conditions such as hazard exposure (e.g., Agent Orange, Gulf War illnesses, and radiation) or time as a POW.
Additionally, in some circumstances, Veterans may be eligible for a VA disability rating for conditions that are not related to their military service, called “non-service-connected,” but have resulted in a permanent and total disability.
Myth 3: VA benefits are only for Veterans with severe disabilities.
This myth is also false. VA benefits are available to eligible Veterans who have a service-connected disability, and who file a claim, regardless of the severity of the disability.
The VA assigns a disability rating to each Veteran based on the extent to which their disability affects their ability to work and perform daily activities. A disability rating of 0% means that the VA has approved a disabled Veteran’s claim that their injury or illness is connected to their military service, but it does not impede their ability to work or perform their daily activities. While on the other end of the spectrum, a disability rating of 100% means that a Veteran has a severe disability that prevents them from working and performing daily activities.
VA benefits, such as compensation and medical benefits, are available to Veterans with a disability rating of 0% or higher. In general, the higher the disability rating, the greater the level of benefits a Veteran will receive. However, even Veterans with a low disability rating may still be eligible for certain benefits.
Myth 4: A Veteran’s disability rating determines the amount of VA benefits they will receive
A Veteran’s disability rating is only one component that determines the amount of VA benefits they will receive. A combination of factors, such as the type and severity of the disability, the Veteran’s income and financial situation, and their family status, can all impact the amount of benefits received from the government.
For instance, if a Veteran has a spouse, child, or dependent parent or if a Veteran’s spouse has a serious disability, additional compensation is available.
The VA evaluates each claim on a case-by-case basis and determines benefits based on the specific circumstances of the Veteran.
Myth 5: VA disability ratings are based on a Veteran’s level of pain or discomfort
No, this is a myth, as VA disability ratings are not solely based on a Veteran’s level of pain or discomfort. The VA also considers the extent and impact of their medical condition, their ability to work and perform daily activities, and any medical evidence that supports their health claims.
Pain and discomfort can certainly be a symptom of a condition and are taken into consideration, but the VA’s goal is to determine the overall effect that a Veteran’s condition has on their life and their ability to function and to assign a disability rating that reflects that impact.
Myth 6: Veterans benefits only cover medical expenses
VA benefits cover a wide range of services and expenses beyond just medical expenses. This can include financial assistance, education and training programs, home loans, life insurance, and more.
The VA website lists all the health care services available to disabled Veterans, including traditional hospital-based services such as surgery, critical care, mental health, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology, and physical therapy as well as specialty services like vision care and plastic surgery. The Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) can get Veterans to and from their appointments.
The extent of benefits available to a Veteran can depend on factors such as their service history, disability rating, and financial situation. Even those without a service-connected disability can qualify for some VA benefits.
Myth 7: Getting disability compensation will prevent a Veteran from getting a job
No, getting VA benefits should not prevent a disabled Veteran from getting a job. VA benefits are meant to provide financial support, health care and assistance to eligible Veterans and do not impact career opportunities which are protected by law. Veterans may still work and earn income while receiving VA benefits.
There are several federal laws that provide important protections for Veterans with disabilities who are looking for jobs or are already in the workplace. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect Veterans from employment discrimination.
Myth 8: VA ratings are always permanent.
This is definitely not true. The VA reviews each Veteran’s VA disability rating regularly to ensure that it is still accurate and up-to-date. If a Veteran’s health improves or worsens, their VA disability rating may be adjusted accordingly.
For instance, a Veteran can request a government review of their disability rating if they believe it is incorrect or if their condition has worsened. A disability benefit questionnaire (DBQ) can be utilized by a physician when conducting a Veteran’s medical exam to ensure the VA is provided with all the information needed for a substantiated claim.
On the other side, a Veteran may be service connected for a medical condition that will likely improve with time and treatment. The VA will want to re-evaluate a Veteran at regular intervals to see if any adjustments need to be made.
Sometimes called the “55-year rule,” those that are over the age of 55 are no longer required to attend re-evaluation exams to prove that the condition has not improved.
The VA periodically also updates its policies and laws, which can impact a Veteran’s rating. In this case, if a new policy is introduced that provides more favorable treatment for a condition, a rating may change.
Myth 9: VA disability ratings are based on what the VA wants to give.
VA disability ratings are determined using a standardized set of criteria, and the VA does not have discretion in assigning VA disability ratings. The disability rating is based on the severity of a Veteran’s service-connected condition and this rating determines how much disability compensation a Veteran will receive each month, as well as eligibility for other VA benefits.
Veterans can appeal VA disability rating decisions if they feel that their VA benefits are inadequate. In this case, a Nexus letter is a key piece of documentation that is needed for an appeal.
Myth 10: Veterans must wait a long time to receive their disability benefits.
The waiting time for Veterans benefits can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the claim, the amount of evidence required to support the claim, and the workload of the VA regional office processing the claim.
On average, the wait time for a decision on a VA disability rating after you file a claim is about 3-4 months, but it can take longer in some cases. It is important for Veterans to be patient and provide the VA with substantial evidence to support their claims, as this can help speed up the process. Disability benefit questionnaires (DBQs), templated medical record documents created by the VA, are available for certain conditions in order to guide physicians’ medical exams and documentation to reflect the information the VA needs to make an accurate decision.
Those looking for support in obtaining the accurate and detailed documentation needed for a disability rating review can contact REE Medical’s benefit consultant team to learn more.