If you served in the military, your country owes you a huge debt. After all the sacrifices you’ve made, you and your family deserve care and support, especially if you suffer from chronic injuries or mental health problems as a result of your military service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) aims to provide all of this much-needed care and support, but the complex overwhelming bureaucracy can make it challenging and time-consuming to get your compensation, or to even understand how to get through the process in the first place. Here are some common questions veterans may have about the support available through the VA system.
How Are My Benefits Determined?
When you apply for disability benefits, you’ll gather all the evidence and records you can about your disability and turn it into the VA. After they approve your claim, the VA will decide precisely how much monthly compensation you need based on your degree of disability. They’ll evaluate each condition and injury you have based on how severe and impactful it is on your body and life. Then you’ll be assigned a final percentage that assesses how disabled you are. If you are 100 percent disabled, you will receive the maximum possible benefits.
What Support Is There for Mental Illness?
Post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses can be just as limiting and debilitating to your life as physical injuries, if not more so. Mental health conditions that limit your ability to work or complete everyday tasks qualify you for disability benefits equally as much as physical injuries. Evidence you need include records and statements from medical professionals you see, as well as reports from yourself and from other family members who are familiar with your condition.
What Happens If My Claim Is Denied?
If the VA denies your claim, all is not lost. Veteran’s law allows you to appeal at multiple levels to get Veterans Affairs to reexamine your claim, and reconsider their decision. If they don’t change their mind after an appeal, they will issue an explanation telling you why they denied your request. You’ll be able to continue to appeal or potentially apply again in the future if your condition worsens or you gather more evidence of your disability. A veteran’s lawyer will be able to help you make your way through the appeals process and get your claim recognized.
Can I Work While Getting Benefits?
Your disability rating through the VA doesn’t measure your ability to work, but the degree to which your disability interferes with your work. That means that you can continue to work – in whatever type of work you can find – even with a 100% disability rating. Some veterans with a lesser disability, however, can earn more benefits because of their unemployment. Veterans with this status are limited in how much they can earn from working. They also must be able to show that they need significant accommodations in their work environments.
Are My Benefits Taxable?
Military retirement pay is subject to taxes, and counts as part of your pension. Benefits you receive because of a disability do not count as part of your income. You may also be eligible to apply for a tax refund if your disability rating is retroactively changed.
There are many services and opportunities out there to serve and protect veterans, and you should take advantage of them. Don’t minimize the suffering you’ve experienced because of your service. Stand and ask for the benefits you deserve. You’ve earned this, and shouldn’t let anyone tell you differently.