Disabled Veterans FAQ
Below is a common list of questions American veterans ask when they apply or appeal for VA disability benefits. Select a question below to find the answer.
Q: What are VA disability benefits?
Q: What are VA disability benefits?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awards disability benefits or “compensation” to veterans who have served in the U.S. military and were injured either mentally or physically during service. These benefits are also known as VA disability benefits. The VA also manages another disability benefit program and gives benefits (pensions) for non-service connected disabilities. Generally most disability benefits given out by the VA are for compensation and service-related disabilities.
Q: How do I apply for VA disability benefits?
If you are a veteran who developed a disability due to your service in the U.S. Military, you may qualify for VA disability benefits. Veterans can apply for veterans disability benefits by filling out an online application on the VA’s website. Assistance in the application process may be found through the help of a State Veterans Officer (VSO). VSOs help veterans and their families file for VA disability benefits. Call the VA at their toll-free number for inquires: 1-800-827-1000
Q:If the VA denies my case, can I appeal the decision?
If a veteran’s initial claim is denied, they may appeal the decision by filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the VA within one year after receiving the denial letter. To file a NOD, a veteran must file VA form 21-0958. For more information on VA appeals, check out our VA Appeals page.
Q: What are typical reasons for a denial?
A veteran will not be awarded disability benefits if:
- The veteran received an other-than-honorable discharge.
- The disability was incurred outside of service and failed to meet the service-connection requirement.
- The disability resulted from misconduct of the veteran during service.
If any veteran feels the VA’s decision for denial is unjust, they then may appeal by filing a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). To help prevent an initial denial in the first place, double-check your application to ensure it is filled out accurately with all necessary military and medical paperwork that prove your condition is disabling and service-related.
Q: How does the VA determine your monthly benefit payments?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) gives out veteran disability benefits in monthly payments that correlate with your degree of disability. The BVA or Board of Veterans Appeals assigns the degree of disability (also known as a disability rating) to you when you are approved for VA benefits initially. They will rate your disability in 10% intervals between 10% and 100% while each percentage corresponds with a VA pre-determined monthly payment. The benefits may increase depending or not if the veteran has any dependents or children under their care. For example, a veteran without dependents who is given a disability rating of 50% will receive $836.13 per month while a veteran without dependents who is assigned a disability rating of 100% will receive $2,906.83 per month.
Q: What is the difference between VA disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) both have their own separate disability programs. However, each program evaluates and processes disability claims rather differently. The VA system only evaluates veterans with service-connected disabilities and allows for partial disability benefits based on percentages called disability ratings. The SSA evaluates Americans who have a disabling condition that is expected to last a minimum of one year or result in death. To completely understand the difference between these organizations and their programs, view our VA Disability Benefits page and our Social Security Disability Benefits page.
Q: Can I work and still receive VA disability benefits at the same time?
It is possible to work while receiving VA disability benefits. This can come at a risk though. If the VA determined your disability rating as 100% and/or listed you as unemployable due to your condition and then you attempt to go to work, the VA will consider reducing your benefits. If you are unsure if going back to work will cause the VA to reduce your benefits, contact you local VA regional office to talk with a State Veterans Officer (VSO) about your situation.
Q: Can I work and receive Social Security Disability Benefits at the same time?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards benefits based on an American’s inability to work due to a disabling condition. The disability benefits are given to compensate for the lack of work. An applicant of SSDI can work no more than 20 hours a week and will still receive disability benefits while an applicant of SSI may work under subsidized employment as little as 10-12 hours a week (this is rare). If you go to work while receiving benefits from either program, the SSA look over your case and may reduce your benefits.
Q: Can I receive both VA disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits at the same time?
Most veterans don’t realize that it is possible to receive both VA disability benefits and Social Security Disability benefits simultaneous. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has it’s own application process for disability benefits and there are two disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is for disabled individuals who are no longer able to work but, have earned enough work credits in the last 10 years by paying employment taxes. Since the individual has paid into the program through taxes, the SSA does no take unearned income into consideration. This means a veteran can be receiving VA benefits and still qualify to receive the max SSDI amount (currently $2,663).
SSI is a income-based disability program for individuals who have not earned enough work credits in the last 10 years and can't work due to their disabling condition. Since the program is income-based, all unearned income such as VA benefits, pensions, and inheritances will be counted. The max amount a recipient of SSI can receive is currently $733 per month and all other unearned income (as well as earned) will reduce the amount. Unearned income directly reduces the amount. For example, a veteran receiving $407.75 per month for a 30% VA disability rating could receive a max of $325.25 per month in SSI benefits. Although if a veteran is receiving more than $733 per month in unearned income from VA benefits, he or she will not qualify for SSI benefits.
If you are a veteran that is already receiving VA disability benefits, the disability rating you were given can support your claim to the SSA. If you would like to know more, check out our Social Security Disability for Veterans page.
Q: What is a “service-connected” disability?
The VA gives out disability benefits to veterans who have become disabled because of their service in one of the branches of the United States military. A veteran needs to be able to prove that the original cause of the condition happened during service or that their previous disability (before joining the military) worsened because of service; this is called a service-connected disability. To learn more about service-connected disabilities, read our Service-connection page.
Q: What is a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)?
When a veteran needs to appeal a denial, they need to file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) with the Department of Veteran Affairs. To file a Notice of Disagreement, one must use the VA form 21-0958. Once the VA sends you your letter of denial, you have exactly one year to file your NOD with the VA. If you would like to read more about the Notice of Disagreement and the Veterans Appeal Process, check out our VA Appeals page.
Q: What is a Decision Review Officer (DRO)?
If you have been denied and filed a Notice of Disagreement, the VA will ask you if you would prefer a traditional appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) or “de novo” appeal with a Decision Review Officer (DRO). A DRO is an experienced senior VA claims examiner who has the authorization to reverse or modify the VA’s decisions. We recommend that a veteran should seek a DRO review before requesting an appeal with the BVA because the DRO process is generally faster and has a higher success rate. If a veteran is denied in a DRO review, they can then request for an appeal in front of the BVA.
Q: Where can I find my VA local regional office (RO)?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has at least one regional office in every state. Some larger states such as California and Texas have a couple regional offices. To view a list of all the regional offices in every state, see our VA Offices page.
Q: What is a Statement of the Case (SOC)?
The “Statement of the Case” (SOC) is a statement the VA sends you after you file a request for a Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA) appeal. This document conveys the VA’s reasoning as to why you were denied disability benefits when you initially applied. Once you receive the Statement of the Case (SOC), you have 60 days to file an actual appeal with the BVA. If you wish to learn more about the SOC, view our VA Appeals page.