Sometimes I write really complex, detailed analyses about topics.
This is not one of those posts.
Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve come across a few conversations about veterans disability compensation. This is not a topic I’ve given much thought to in my career, since (luckily) I don’t have any conditions that would cause me to draw disability (yet). But as I get older, and my friends get older, I’m finding the topic comes up more and more.
I’ve also had a couple people reach out to me about the topic. And I’ve seen it come up a few times in the military money forums I’m a member of. Just recently it came up again in one of those forums, and a lot (a lot!) of the answers people were providing to the original poster were wrong.
It’s not really their fault. They were answering exactly the way I understood disability compensation until fairly recently. It turns out, the way people talk about it is, simply put, wrong much of the time.
I decided to write this beginner’s guide to disability compensation to help with the easy questions. Maybe (hopefully) we can do a much more in-depth review of the topic later, but for now I just want to get the basic information out there.
New to the military? Think this will never apply to you? You should still read it. You never know when it will apply for you or a friend. Plus you don’t want to inadvertently spread bad information, do you?
Veteran’s Disability Benefits
Disability Compensation is the main topic of today’s post, but I want to very quickly tell you about some of the other benefits available to you or your survivors.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: this is a tax-free monetary benefit generally payable to a surviving spouse, child, or parent of servicemembers who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training or survivors of veterans who died from their service-connected disabilities.
Special Monthly Compensation: this is an additional tax-free benefit that is a higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances such as the need of aid and attendance by another person or a specific disability, such as loss of use of one hand or leg.
VA Housing and Insurance benefits for veterans with disabilities:
- Adapted Housing grants
- Service-Disable Veterans’ Insurance
- Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance
First, the thing that prompted this post – disability compensation rates are not calculated as a percentage of your base pay earned while serving or your retirement pension (which is itself based on base pay).
Once more: if you qualify for disability compensation, the amount you receive will not be based on how much you earned while serving.
Instead, disability compensation is a flat rate paid to veterans of all ranks and years of service. There are variances based on how high your disability rating is and your dependent situation, but not your pay grade.
This is what I was referring to when I said people get this wrong a lot. I also used to think that you were paid a portion of your base pay for disability compensation – the portion being equal to your disability rating. Nope! Not true!
How Disability Compensation Works
Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to veterans with disabilities that are the result of a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. It may be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service.
The benefit amount is graduated based on the amount of disability on a scale from 10% to 100% (in increments of 10%). Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Generally, the degrees of disability specified are also designed to compensate for considerable loss of working time from exacerbation or illnesses.
Disability Compensation Rates
Here is where you can find the 2018 disability compensation rates. Note the different tables! Make sure you are looking at the table that applies to your particular situation.
This page explains how to read the disability compensation tables.
I won’t list the amounts here because I don’t want you to have old info if those pages get updated. But here are some examples. Keep in mind these are the 2018 rates – they will adjust “periodically.”
- A veteran with 10% disability would receive $136.24 per month
- A veteran with 30% disability rating and a spouse would receive $466.15 per month
- And a veteran with 80% disability, a spouse, and children would receive $1816.25 per month for one qualified child and $65 more for each additional qualifying child under the age of 18.
There are all sorts of additional rules, so just check out the charts to see what fits your situation.
Disability Compensation Eligibility
Your disability must be the result of an injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated while on active duty or active duty for training; or from injury, heart attack, or stroke that occurred during inactive duty training.
What Kind of Conditions Qualify For Disability Compensation?
This is an incomplete list, but here are some major ones:
- Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
- Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
- Severe hearing loss
- Scar tissue
- Loss of range of motion (problems moving your body)
- Cancers caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other dangers
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
You can find a more complete list on the VA website here.
That’s it for today! It’s a simple, but misunderstood, topic. Hopefully this cleared up misunderstandings for some of you!