If you believe the internet, or what the guy sitting across from you at your appointment at the VAMC said—which is what he heard from some guy who was sitting next to him at his last appointment—then the answer to the questions Who is eligible for VA compensation? and How do you get it? is No one, and You don’t.
I read comments like these every week on the VBA Facebook page. There are two thoughts I take away from these sentiments: some people commenting on Facebook would rather be cynics than attempt to help others; and some people are really, honestly hurting and need help with their VA compensation claims.
This blog is addressed to those who need help, don’t understand, or who’re trying to help others.
First, though, let’s bust those myths.
VA is still compiling FY16 data, but in FY15, VA paid more money to compensate more Veterans—with more claimed medical conditions rated at higher average percentages—than ever before. As you can see, someone’s getting paid, and that someone is (as of FY15) 4.56 million someones—and those someones are Veterans who took home $66.38 billion dollars in FY15 for their service-connected disabilities.
So, who are these people getting approved, and how do they do it?
If you read my last blog, you’ll remember that, since VA disability compensation is taxpayer money, there’s a legal process to claim that money. This means that VA disability compensation is guarded by the laws that your elected lawmakers wrote.
The laws explain who is eligible: those who have separated from active military service with any discharge except dishonorable, as well as those still serving in the Reserves/National Guard. That’s the first part. The second part is that, if you want to claim an injury or medical condition, it must have happened to you during the time you were active (including Reserves/Guard activated, Reserves/Guard drill and/or annual training). (An addition to the second part allows one to claim active military service aggravated a pre-service injury or medical condition). The third part is that, if you claim an injury or medical condition that occurred/happened to you during active service, then you need to give VA evidence of the injury or medical condition that occurred/happened during the time you were in active service.
Note: this does not mean that it had to happen while deployed, and it doesn’t mean it had to happen in uniform or during the duty day. Yes, you can file a claim if you served active duty during peacetime, or got injured in a pick-up basketball game off post after the duty day, and if the injuries you sustained affect you today, then it’s something you could claim.
Yeah, I know—I wasn’t a Sick Call Ranger, either. So, what do you do if you don’t have much in your records? My co-worker, Mark, wrote an excellent blog discussing what you can use for evidence. But I’d like to add even more detail to that list: pictures (you, your wound, your clothing and gear, your vehicle, your AAR, etc.), receipts, unit citations, award letters, prescriptions, news clippings, base hospital records, in-take and discharge logs; post-service private doctor records; and statements from your spouse, your commander, your platoon sergeant, your roommate, any witness who was there or knew you or was affected by your injury/medical conditions (“Yeah, after X happened, I remember Mikey didn’t go on patrol for a week, and I had to cover down.”).
The last thing you need is actually two things: a current medical diagnosis from a medical professional (VA or civilian), and for that doctor to give the professional opinion that after reviewing your military medical records your current diagnosis—the injury or condition you suffer from right now—is because of what happened to you in active service. Yes! Have the doc review your records.
Recap: active service period, not dishonorable; evidence that something happened to you on active service; current medical diagnosis; and medical professional agreeing the medical condition was caused by the thing that happened to you on active service.
So that explains Who is eligible for VA disability compensation and What you need to give VA to prove it. The last big remaining question is How? and I’ll cover that next time.
Disclaimer reminder: the internet, this blog and social media are not the places to share sensitive information, and I’m unable to answer complex or overly personal questions relating to your pending claim or your appeal of a completed claim. As always, IRIS is the best place (not the general VA call center) to ask these questions