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Veterans disability benefits

VA Disability Benefits: What You Need to Know

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published June 28, 2024
1 min read
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See if you qualify

If you are a veteran living with a disability, you might qualify for monthly payments and a range of support services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Learn about the VA’s two disability benefits programs, eligibility requirements, and criteria to determine payment amounts.

VA disability benefits

The VA has a range of disability benefits programs to support veterans with disabilities due to their time in the service, but the eligibility requirements and payment amounts differ:

  • Disability compensation: Disability compensation offers monthly tax-free payments to veterans with injuries or illnesses caused or worsened by their time in the service. According to the latest data, 366,973 veterans receive disability compensation.

  • Disability pension: Disability pension provides monthly benefits to low-income veterans who are totally or permanently disabled, or over the age of 65. According to the VA, 153,568 veterans receive disability pension. 

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: DIC is a tax-free benefit for surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who die in service or as a result of a service-connected injury or illness.

  • Special Monthly Compensation: SMC is an additional benefit for veterans who have severe conditions, are housebound, or need aid and attendance from others. Veterans, spouses, surviving spouses, and parents can receive these benefits.

How to qualify for VA disability benefits

To qualify for monthly disability compensation, you must have served active duty, or active or inactive duty for training. You must also have a current physical or mental condition that began, was worsened, or is related to your time in the service. 

Disability pension is a needs-based program, meaning your income and assets must meet specific requirements. For 2024, the asset limit—which includes cash, checkings, savings, and investments—is $155,356. Your condition must be “total and permanent,” or you must be over 65 years old. 

What is total and permanent disability?

The VA considers a veteran to be "totally and permanently" disabled if they are receiving Social Security disability benefits, are a patient in a long-term care facility, or are deemed to be unemployable. 

Can veterans receive both disability compensation and disability pension?

No, veterans can only receive VA disability compensation benefits or disability pension benefits. If you meet the eligibility requirements for both VA disability programs, you will receive benefits from the program with the higher monthly payment amount.

How much are veterans’ disability benefits?

Your monthly payment amount for disability compensation depends on your disability rating, which is a graded percentage from 0% to 100%, and your number of dependents. 

The maximum amount a veteran with a disability rating of 100% can receive in disability compensation is $4,280.77. According to the VA, the average annual payment for individual veterans is $19,729. 

Your income, net worth, and dependent status determine your monthly disability pension payment. The average annual pension payment for individual veterans is $14,211. 

Get help with your VA disability claim

If you’re considering applying for VA disability benefits, take our short quiz to see if you qualify. Atticus can introduce you to an experienced VA disability lawyer who can help build your case if you’d like. A veterans attorney can help increase your disability rating and maximize your potential benefits.

Veterans' Disability Benefits

How do I apply for veterans’ disability compensation?

To apply for veteran’s disability compensation, you must complete the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ). You can submit the form online, apply in person at a VA regional office, or mail your application to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

How much will I receive in disability compensation?

Your disability compensation amount depends on your disability rating and number of dependents. You may qualify for Special Monthly Compensation if you have a severe condition or multiple service-connected disabilities.

Can I work and still receive veterans' disability benefits?

Yes, you can work while receiving veteran’s disability benefits, even if the Veterans Benefits Administration has recognized you as being totally and permanently disabled. VA disability compensation differs from other disability programs in that veterans are not required to show how their disability impacts their ability to work.

Do all veterans get VA health care?

No, not all veterans automatically qualify for health care through Veterans Affairs. To be eligible, you must have an other than dishonorable discharge and meet minimum active-duty service requirements. The VA will also consider your income.

What should I do if I received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge?

To be eligible for benefits and services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, your character of discharge or service must be other than dishonorable. You can apply for a discharge upgrade. A veterans’ lawyer can help you win an appeal of a Bad Discharge Review with the Board of Correction for Military Records.

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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