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America’s brave men and women who served, and often fought, in the military face a number of challenges when returning to civilian life. The obstacles they face can be many, the least of which may be relationship strains and professional setbacks stemming from extended periods away from home.

These issues alone would be tough for most people to overcome. One of the biggest challenges to getting back in the flow of everyday life, however, is when a veteran sustains a “service-connected disability,” or a disability stemming from military service.

For these scenarios, the VA offers disability compensation in the form of a monthly tax-free benefit. Qualifying veterans must be at least 10 percent disabled due to injuries or diseases that were either incurred in or aggravated during either active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.  Bear in mind, this is not just limited to physical disabilities. According to the VA, a service-connected disability can apply to physical conditions, such as lower back injuries, as well as a mental health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

The first thing to understand is that just because a veteran suffers from a disability caused during active military service, does not mean he or she will automatically receive these compensation benefits.  The veteran will need to apply for them. Further, the benefit received may not be rated high enough to pay the veteran the compensation that he or she needs.

It is critically important to apply as soon as possible because a service-connected disability status impacts how much a veteran will pay for VA health care services. Further, in addition to health care, it can determine which programs he or she will qualify for and his or her priority status in receiving these health services.

There are several ways to apply:

  • Complete a form called the VA Form 21-526, and mail it to a Veterans Benefits Administration regional office.
  • Complete the same application online using an eBenefits account.
  • Work with an accredited representative or agent, such as a Veterans Service Officer.

Once submitted, a disability application will be reviewed by Veterans Benefits Administration staff and a rating will be assigned before payments can be received. Each documented disability is assigned a rating of 0-100 percent based on how severely the disability impacts the daily life of the veteran. The greater the disability, the higher the rating.

If you are a veteran, or know someone who is a veteran, and you are struggling to cope with a lasting service-connected injury, it is important not to assume that VA disability benefits are out of reach.

Do you have questions? Do not wait to contact an accredited VA attorney like Anthony Bradley for information about your rights and opportunities for support.