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Veterans disability benefits

How to Qualify for VA Disability Benefits

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published June 28, 2024
2 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard-trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience and has helped over 50,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If you’ve served in the military and have a disability connected to your service, you are likely eligible to receive disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA pays monthly benefits to qualified veterans with service-connected disabilities. 

Read on to learn how to determine your eligibility and make sure you meet the qualifications laid out by the VA.

Am I eligible for veterans’ disability benefits?

To be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits, you’ll need to meet a few specific criteria. First, you must:

  • Have a current physical or mental condition

  • Have served active duty, or active or inactive duty for training

Secondly, at least one of the following must be true:

  • Your illness or injury began while serving in the military, and your condition is service-connected (see below for an explanation of what this means).

  • You had an illness or injury before you entered the military that was worsened by your time in the service.

  • Your disability is related to the service, but your symptoms appeared after your service ended.

What qualifies as a service-connected disability?

A service-connected disability is any injury or illness that has a direct link to a veteran’s time in the service.

Military records documenting an event or injury can help prove your disability began while you were in the service. Many veterans use a medical opinion called a Nexus letter to make this connection. This is a document written by a healthcare provider that explains your condition and clearly shows how it connects to your time in the service. 

What conditions automatically qualify for veterans’ disability?

Certain conditions, known as “presumptive” conditions, qualify automatically for veterans’ disability benefits. If you have one of these conditions, you don’t have to go through the process of “proving” your disability. Instead, the VA assumes your disability is service-connected and automatically grants you disability if you meet the service requirements. 

Presumptive conditions

Presumptive conditions are conditions that the VA presumes were caused by military service. Veterans have higher rates of these certain illnesses because of the details of their service, like Agent Orange exposure for Vietnam vets commonly causing prostate cancer.

If you fall into any of these categories, you might qualify for presumptive disability benefits, meaning you don’t have to prove your service caused your condition:

  • Former prisoner of war with a condition that is at least 10% disabling

  • Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange or served in a specified location

  • Atomic veteran exposed to ionizing radiation

  • Gulf War and post 9/11 veterans who served in specific locations and have specific conditions 

How much is disability compensation?

To determine how much money you’ll receive, the VA assigns you a “disability rating,” which is a percentage based on how many conditions you have, how severe they are, and how much they affect your ability to function.

This rating, along with your number of dependents, determines the amount of your monthly benefit. To find this rating, the VA uses:

  • The medical evidence you provide

  • The results of your VA claim exam (if you need one)

  • Any other information the VA has about your case

You might be eligible to get a higher monthly payment if you have:

  • A very severe disability or loss of limb

  • A spouse, child, or dependent parent, and your combined disability rating is 30% or greater

  • You have a spouse with a serious disability

On the other hand, your monthly compensation might go down if you’re also receiving military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation pay or if you’re incarcerated for more than 60 days for a felony conviction. 

You can find more information about 2024 veterans’ disability compensation rates on the VA’s website. 

Get help with your disability claim

If you're a veteran with a disability, take our short quiz to see if you qualify for disability compensation through the VA. If you'd like, Atticus can connect you with an attorney who can help you file a disability claim.

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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