Disability Compensation from the VA

Making Sure You Get What You Deserve

VA disability services
Getty Images/ John Moore

As unpleasant as it is to think about, there's a chance that you'll become ill or get injured while serving in the military. Injuries and illnesses can happen on the battlefield, at your job, or even at home. To receive compensation you must be eligible for benefits and have the proper evidence from an approved medical provider. You'll also you’ll need to have served on active duty (including for training) a certain minimum number of days, and receive a discharge other than dishonorable.


Still Serving

If you’re currently serving in the military, you’ll want to visit the doctor any time you are having medical issues. You’ll need to prove that you have ongoing, chronic pain or illness. And except in very rare circumstances, you won’t be able to receive compensation unless you can document your injury or illness. Disability claims can be submitted up to six months before separation or retirement. Claims are actually processed faster if you file them before discharge.


Medical Records

After separating from the military, you’ll receive one copy of your medical records. If you’re are filing for compensation with the VA, you’ll need to make an additional copy for them. if you’re separating after four or six years of service, your records will usually fit into a small folder. However, if you’ve been in for 20, you may have to rent a truck.



There are certain circumstances when servicemembers are still eligible to receive compensation for something that occurred during your service but that yuo didn't document at the time.

For example, some illnesses present themselves months or years after service. The most common examples of these are arthritis, ulcers, and exposure to radiation or asbestos.


Claims Process

To receive compensation for a medical issue is an eight-step process that runs from your initial claim to the final decision.

Since each case is different, it’s impossible to give you an exact (or even a ballpark) timeline. Some claims are very clear while others require more evidence and research. For your best chance at a fast and favorable decision, make sure that your medical provider has documented every visit and procedure.


Compensation Rates

Your compensation rate is determined by your degree of disability. The VA takes into account the effect the disability will have on your daily life. Some don’t affect daily living at all, while others make getting out of bed impossible. Ratings are assigned in increments of 10%, from 0% to 100%. A 0% rating means that you wouldn’t receive monthly compensation, however you’d still be able to receive free medical care for that specific issue at any VA medical center.


Benefits of Compensation

There are several benefits to receiving a disability rating from the VA. Depending on the rating, you might receive a monthly payment for the rest of your life. Another benefit is that you’ll receive medical care for your specific medical issue. For example, if you leave the service with a 30% disability rating for knee pain, you can visit any VA hospital and receive care for your knee, free of charge.

Veterans with a 30% or higher disability rating also have advantages when applying for federal jobs. The government hiring operates on a point system. Simply being a veteran of any war or campaign entitles you to a five-point preference. If you have any type of disability from service related issues, you receive a ten-point preference.


Filing a Claim

If you're considering filing a claim, the VA recommends applying online through an eBenefits account. That will allow you to view the status of your claim at any time. One warning: It’s against the law to file false claims with the VA. The system is meant for veterans who suffered a legitimate injury or illness while serving.


Updated by Armin Brott, March 2016