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Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected. The service of the veteran must have been terminated through separation or discharge under conditions that were other than dishonorable.

Disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of dependents, and is paid monthly. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation. The benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

The payment of military retirement pay, disability severance pay, and separation incentive payments known as SSB and VSI (Special Separation Benefits and Voluntary Separation Incentives) also affects the amount of VA compensation paid. See the topic "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Disability Compensation Amount" for a table of rates payable. Benefits other than Disability Compensation are discussed in the "Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits - Other Disability Benefit" topic.

Receiving Benefit Payments

VA offers three methods for receiving benefit payments. Most veterans and beneficiaries receive their payments by direct deposit through an electronic fund transfer to their bank, savings and loan or credit union accounts. In some areas, benefit recipients who do not have an account at a financial institution may open a federally insured Electronic Transfer Account, which costs about $3 a month, provides a monthly statement and allows cash withdrawals. Recipients may also choose to receive benefits by check. To choose a payment method, veterans and beneficiaries should call VA's toll-free helpline at 1-877-838-2778, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Central Standard Time.

Prisoners of War

For former prisoners of war (POW) who were imprisoned for any length of time, the following disabilities are presumed to be service-connected if they are rated at least 10 percent disabling anytime after military service: psychosis, any of the anxiety states, dysthymic disorder, organic residuals of frostbite, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease and their complications, stroke and residuals of stroke.

For former POWs who were imprisoned for at least 30 days, the following conditions are also presumed to be service-connected: avitaminosis, beriberi, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis, malnutrition (including optic atrophy), pellagra and/or other nutritional deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral neuropathy and cirrhosis of the liver.

Agent Orange and Other Herbicides

A veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in support of military operations.

Eleven diseases are presumed by VA to be service-connected for such veterans: chloracne or other acneform disease similar to chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma or mesothelioma), Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus (Type 2) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Veterans Exposed to Radiation

Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation while on active duty may be eligible for disability compensation if they have disabilities related to that exposure.

Conditions presumed to be service-connected for veterans who participated in "radiation-risk activities" as defined by VA regulations are: all forms of leukemia (except for chronic lymphocytic leukemia); cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract (renal, pelvis, ureter, urinary bladder and urethra), brain, bone, lung, colon, and ovary, bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma, multiple myeloma, lymphomas (other than Hodgkin's disease), and primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated).

To determine service-connection for other conditions or exposures not eligible for presumptive compensation, factors considered include amount of radiation exposure, duration of exposure, elapsed time between exposure and onset of the disease, gender and family history, age at time of exposure, the extent to which a nonservice-related exposure could contribute to disease, and the relative sensitivity of exposed tissue.

Gulf War Veterans

Gulf War veterans may receive disability compensation for chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses, medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome and any diagnosed illness that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs determines warrants a presumption of service-connection.

A disability is considered chronic if it has existed for at least six months. The undiagnosed illnesses must have appeared either during active service in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations during the Gulf War or to a degree of at least 10 percent at any time since then through Dec. 31, 2011.

The following are examples of symptoms of an undiagnosed illness: fatigue, skin disorders, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological symptoms, neuropsychological symptoms, symptoms involving the respiratory system, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms, abnormal weight loss and menstrual disorders. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) may also be service-connected if the veteran served in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations anytime during the period of Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991.

The Southwest Asia Theater of Operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.

Further information from VA about environmental exposures of Gulf War veterans may be found on the internet at http://www.va.gov/gulfwar/.

National Guardsmen

Members of the National Guard activated for federal service during a period of war or domestic emergency may be eligible for certain Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, such as VA health care or compensation for injuries or conditions connected to that service. Activation for other than federal service does not qualify guardsmen for all Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Claims for Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits based on federal service filed by guardsmen should include a copy of the military orders, presidential proclamation or executive order that clearly demonstrates the federal nature of the service.

Allowances for Dependents

Veterans whose service-connected disabilities are rated at 30 percent or more are entitled to additional allowances for dependents. The additional amount is determined according to the number of dependents and the degree of disability.

Aid and Attendance or Housebound

A veteran who is determined by VA to be in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person, or a veteran who is permanently housebound, may be entitled to additional disability compensation or pension benefits. A disabled veteran evaluated 30 percent or more also is entitled to receive a special allowance for a spouse who is in need of the aid and attendance of another person.

Incarcerated Veterans

Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits are affected if a beneficiary is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days.

Disability or Death Pension paid to an incarcerated beneficiary must be discontinued. Disability compensation paid to an incarcerated veteran rated 20-percent or more disabled is limited to the 10 percent rate. For a surviving spouse, child or dependent parent receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or a veteran whose disability rating is 10 percent, the payment is reduced to half of the rate payable to a veteran evaluated as 10 percent disabled.

Any amounts not paid may be apportioned to eligible dependents. Payments are not reduced for participants in work-release programs, residing in halfway houses or under community control.

Failure to notify VA of a veteranís incarceration can result in overpayment of benefits and the subsequent loss of all VA financial benefits until the overpayment is recovered.

Persons convicted of a federal or state capital crime are barred from receiving VA burial benefits.

Fugitive Felons

VA disability compensation and pension benefits may not be paid to any veteran named on an outstanding felony warrant, or their dependents, until the veteran has surrendered to authorities or the warrant is cleared.


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