Veterans Disability Compensation
Benefit Fact Sheet
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays monthly Veterans Disability Compensation to Veterans who have a service-connected disability. The Veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, and the disability must not have resulted from the Veteran's willful misconduct. Compensation may be paid for disability as the result of any disease or injury incurred or aggravated by federal active service or any period of active duty for training. Compensation may also be paid for a disability incurred by injury or covered disease - cerebrovascular accident (stroke), myocardial infarction, or cardiac arrest - incurred during inactive duty for training (drilling).
On April 25, 2022, VA announced that nine rare respiratory cancers are now presumed service-connected disabilities due to military environmental exposures to fine particulate matter. These cancers include:
Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
Large cell carcinoma of the lung
Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung
VA will process disability compensation claims for these conditions for Veterans who served any amount of time in the Southwest Asia theater of operations beginning Aug. 2, 1990, to the present, or Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti beginning Sept. 19, 2001, to the present.
For more information, please visit: https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/
Retired Soldiers may be eligible for Veterans Disability Compensation under the below circumstances:
Both of these must be true. You:
Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, and
Have a disability rating for your service-connected condition
And at least one of these must be true. You:
Got sick or injured while serving in the military—and can link this condition to your illness or injury (called an in-service disability claim), or
Had an illness or injury before you joined the military—and serving made it worse (called a preservice disability claim), or
Have a disability related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended your service (called a post-service disability claim)
If you have a disability that has been diagnosed by a doctor and that we consider to be related to your military service because of a specific aspect of that service, you may be able to get disability benefits based on this presumed disability. This usually applies to:
There is no time limit to apply for compensation benefits.
Note: Medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability and evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event during military service must be established. Medical records or opinions are required to establish this relationship.
Disability compensation amounts are graduated according to the degree of the Veteran's 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 exacerbations or illnesses. These benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.
If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability is rated 30% or greater. Your compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments.
Former prisoners of war
Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specific period of time after discharge from service
Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service
Veterans who were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam
Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War
Disabled Veterans may also be entitled to:
VA grants for home adaptations necessary to accommodate daily living requirements
Automobile vehicle payments to assist with adaptations required to insure safe motor vehicle operation or use
Annual clothing allowances for Veterans who use prosthetic or orthopedic appliances, or use medication prescribed by a physician for a service-connected skin condition that causes permanent stains or otherwise damages outer garments.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching, for certain disabled Veterans.
Disabled Veterans may be paid additional amounts, in certain instances, if:
The Service member has very severe disabilities or loss of limb(s)
The Service member has a Spouse, Child(ren), or dependent Parent(s)
The Service member requires home health, assisted living, or nursing home care
The Service member has a severely disabled Spouse
Types of Disability Compensation Claims:
Pre-Discharge Claim: Service members are able to submit disability compensation claims to VA between 90-180 days before their separation date. Processing times tend to be much shorter for claims submitted pre-discharge than post-discharge. Typically, Service members submitting this type of claim include this activity during Transition Assistance counseling.
Post-Discharge Claim: Claims for post-service disabilities would include claims for disabilities that are a result of service-related events, injuries, etc. considered to be service-related, even though the disability arose after service. Also, there are various classifications of presumptive disabilities which can be based on location or circumstances of service or just by military service itself.
Claims Based on Special Circumstances: Claims regarding compensation are not always based on an in-service event. After a disability has been determined to be service-connected, there may be other types of claims a Veteran or surviving Spouse may wish to file. This might include a claim for a temporary 100% rating due to surgery for a service-connected disability, or additional compensation based on being in need of regular aid and attendance.
Applying for Disability Compensation:
Gathering documentation: To apply for Veterans Disability Compensation benefits, the following paperwork must be submitted at a minimum:
VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (for all other claims), AND
Discharge or separation papers (i.e., DD214), AND
All supporting medical records or documentation indicating diagnosis or treatment of injury or disease, AND
Other evidence (i.e., line-of-duty investigations, witness statements, or any other documentation indicating an injury or situation occurred which would create or aggravate a disability)
*NOTE: Veterans submitting claims for Disability Compensation may be requested to submit additional documentation or undergo medical evaluation by the VA during investigation of the claim. It is important to stay in communication with VA to ensure all requests are met in a timely manner.
The following methods may be used to submit a claim:
Before Leaving Military Service: If you are a member of the Armed Forces serving on either active duty or full-time National Guard duty, VA encourages you to apply through its pre-discharge program before leaving service.
Applying with an Accredited Representative: VA encourages individuals who are applying for disability compensation to work with an accredited representative or agent to assist them in completing a Fully Developed Claim for submission. Being accredited means organizations and individuals must have VA permission to represent Veterans before the Department in their claims for VA benefits. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that Veterans have qualified and competent representation. These individuals receive specialized training in VA benefits law and procedure. Applicants may search for an accredited representative here: https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp
Visit a VA Regional Office: Veterans may also apply by visiting a VA Regional Office where trained staff is available for assistance. Veterans can find regional offices on the Facility Locator page. Veterans should bring all supporting documentation available with them. VA will help obtain records by requesting them from the person, company, or agency that has them, but having them in advance significantly reduces processing time.
How to file a VA disability claim: You can file a disability claim here: https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/ . You can also upload all supporting evidence you may have and make your claim a Fully Developed Claim.
If you need time to obtain supporting evidence, you can begin the application process, obtain your evidence and then complete your application and VA will recognize the date you started the application as your date of claim as long as you complete it within one year. By submitting all of your supporting evidence with your claim, you save processing time and obtain a quicker decision.
Submitting Claim by Mail: File your claim by mail using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ). Print the form, fill it out, and send it to this address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Veterans may also mail-in claim paperwork to their nearest VA Regional Office. Mailing addresses can be found on the Facility Locator page. If the Veteran needs VA to request records, then the name, address, company, or agency possessing those records along with the approximate time frame covered by them must be sent to VA. If the Veteran received treatment from a non-VA healthcare provider, VA Form 21-4142, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must accompany the claim. VA will then use this form to request records.
For more information, please visit the official VA website:
Current Veteran disability compensation rates are provided on the following VA website page:
Online Resource for Americans with Disabilities:
Disability Compensation Fact Sheet: