Injuries among active-duty veterans are common, even among those who are never deployed outside of the United States. While being in combat may lead to a substantial number of physical injuries among active-duty veterans, the reality is that these injuries can occur during any time while in service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a program that pays benefits to veterans who suffer from a disability that stems from their active duty service. These benefits cover any injuries, whether they occurred in combat, during training, or in accidents while on base. Despite this coverage, the VA routinely denies viable claims from injured veterans. Fortunately, an attorney could help a veteran file a physical condition claim and work through any obstacles that might arise during the process.
The VA offers monetary compensation in the form of tax-free monthly direct payments to injured veterans. These injuries must result from their time on active duty. Unlike a civil lawsuit, there is no time limit on when a veteran can apply for these claims.
Not every veteran will be entitled to disability benefits following an injury. There are important eligibility requirements that a veteran must meet to obtain the compensation they are seeking. There are two basic requirements every applicant filing a veteran physical condition claim must meet. First, they must have served on active duty, inactive duty training, or active duty for training. Second, the applicant must have a disability rating resulting from a condition that resulted from their service.
There are multiple physical conditions that could lead to VA disability benefits. The most common are injuries or illnesses that occur while serving on active duty. Known as in-service disability claims, these physical conditions can include anything from a wound in combat to an illness due to toxic exposure while serving on active duty. To successfully recover benefits on these claims, a veteran must link their condition to their active service. This is often straightforward, at least for injuries, as the military has records of any emergency medical care that a veteran receives.
The second type of condition that might be covered by VA benefits could occur prior to military service. While some pre-existing conditions might not qualify, others can. The determining factor is whether or not the applicant’s military service made the condition worsen. An example could include a pre-existing back injury that results in severe disability after a training accident makes the back injury worse.
Finally, post-service claims stem from a disability that may appear after a veteran’s service is complete. The VA presumes that certain disabilities were caused by military service. If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a certain group due to exposure, they can be awarded disability compensation. There are many different groups that the VA has presumed to be awarded disability compensation, such as the following:
However, if a symptom or condition was caused during active service but only became apparent later, it could result in a successful VA claim for physical condition benefits due to the result of exposure while on active duty.
To determine what benefits are available to a disabled veteran, the VA will conduct an evaluation of their condition and assign a percentage rating indicating the vet’s level of impairment. The higher the percentage, the more severe the disability is.
A zero percent is the lowest rating for a disability, and there are no benefits available for disabilities rated at zero percent. Essentially, these are conditions that can be linked to an in-service incident but which are not severe enough to warrant monetary benefits.
Many conditions are serious enough that they carry a minimum rating of 10 percent. For example, service-connected knee and ankle injuries automatically receive a rating of at least 10 percent. The rating of a veteran’s physical condition is important to his or her chances of securing benefits. Veterans who want to maximize the benefits available to them should work with a local lawyer to adequately prove the extent of their disability in an effective physical condition claim.
This rating will not only determine the amount of benefits available, but also whether a former servicemember’s dependents will also be entitled to compensation. Specifically, while a veteran with a condition rated at either 10 or 20 percent is limited to the monthly payments outlined in the VA’s tables, there could be expanded benefits available for veterans with dependents when the rating is 30 percent or higher.
These dependents could include parents, spouses, or children. These benefits come in the form of monthly, tax-free payments made directly to the veteran, and the amount he or she may receive increases with his or her disability rating as well as his or her number of dependents.
Proving the existence of a service-connected disability and receiving an accurate rating requires a veteran to provide an array of information, including medical records and additional observations made by VA doctors. During the process, a former servicemember must cooperate with the VA, otherwise a failure to provide necessary documentation or submit to evaluation by a VA doctor could put a veteran’s physical condition claim at risk.
Fortunately, one of our attorneys can advise disabled vets on what records to gather in order to bolster their physical condition claims for VA benefits. This can include lay statements from a veteran’s loved ones about how his or her condition started or worsened as a result of active-duty military service.
While it is possible to appeal a denied claim, the best option for most veterans is to make the strongest case possible upfront. An experienced attorney could evaluate a veteran’s physical condition claim and advise them during the filing process. You could be entitled to compensation for your disability resulting from your active duty service. To learn more, call for a confidential consultation today.