Unfortunately many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (referred to as VA). This is a general overview of eligibility for disability benefits with the VA. Note that complex eligibility issues can arise very quickly when dealing with the VA so it is best to seek experienced advice via an attorney or representative accredited by the VA.
VA Benefits for Disabled Veterans
The VA has two basic programs through which a veteran can be awarded benefits when he/she is suffering from a disability or chronic condition. These programs are known as Pension (or non-service connected benefits) and Compensation (or service connected benefits).
Pension is a needs-based program where eligibility is dependent on war-time service, total disability, and limited financial resources. To be eligible the veteran's service must not be dishonorable, must have served the full term of service or at least 24 consecutive months and he/she must have served during a war period (service in a combat zone is not required).
Compensation is awarded to veterans who have a chronic condition now, which was either caused by, arose during, or aggravated by their time in service. As with Pension benefits, a veteran's service must not have been dishonorable and service connected benefits will not be awarded where the chronic condition was due to the veteran's own misconduct. The veteran also must prove what is known as the "nexus" requirement. The nexus is the link between the current chronic condition and the in service disease or event/injury.
Service connected benefits can be awarded for conditions directly related the veteran's service such as diabetes or a heart condition that is a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Service connected benefits can also be awarded for conditions that arise during the veteran's service such as hypertension which was not present prior to entering the service but begins during the veteran's active service. Lastly, benefits can be awarded for conditions that are aggravated by the veteran's service such as an individual who suffers with depression prior to the service, but that depression worsens as a result of his/her service.
McElreath and Stevens, LLC. is a law firm with offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Cartersville, Georgia that represents veterans throughout the state, Southeast and the nation. We are attorneys accredited with the VA to handle disability benefits claims (both service and non-service connected). We urge you to seek adivce from an experienced and accredited advocate for veterans.