Brill & Wagoner, P.C. is honored to represent veterans in all levels of veterans claims.
VETERAN COMPENSATION BENEFITS, GENERALLY
After the Civil War, Congress granted pensions to Union veterans, and established homes for disabled soldiers. World War I veterans marched on the nation’s capital in protest over lack of benefits, and became known as the Bonus Army. With the end of World War II came the GI Bill of Rights.
Compensation to veterans continues today. Members of the Armed Forces who suffer lasting impairment from injury or illness during service are eligible for compensation. The impairment need not result from combat, but only be “service-connected.”
“Service-connected” means an impairment which arises from military service. If the injury or illness occurs during the time from induction to discharge from the military, it is service-connected.
Some examples will illustrate the point. A soldier who contracts malaria from jungle warfare can receive compensation for any permanent impairment that results. So can a soldier at a desk job who suffers a ruptured appendix. Since the appendix ailment occurred during military service, it is covered. An airman who fractures his knee while parachuting behind enemy lines suffers a service-connected impairment, but so does a sailor on leave who suffers the same type fracture while skiing. Both are entitled to compensation.
There are two main exceptions to eligibility for compensation. Injuries or illnesses resulting from willful misconduct, such as alcohol or drug abuse, are not covered, and veterans who receive a dishonorable discharge are not eligible.
Impairments are rated from 10% to 100%. Those less than 10% are not compensated. A 10% impairment results in a monthly payment to a single veteran with no dependents of $123.00. A 100% impairment to a veteran with a spouse is compensated at $2,823.00 per month. These payments are free of taxation, may not be levied upon by creditors, and are in addition to any Social Security disability insurance benefits the veteran may receive.
To receive compensation, a veteran must first apply for benefits. The Veterans Administration does not review the service records of veterans and award benefits without an Application for Compensation being filed. The Application form is available online at www.va.gov. Once the veteran files the application, the Veterans Administration gathers any relevant medical records, sometimes schedules a new medical examination, and issues a decision.
Many veterans are not awarded compensation in the initial decision. Others are awarded service-connected compensation, but at a very low rate. Sometimes these unfavorable rulings are the result of the Veterans Administration not having before it all of the relevant evidence necessary to reach a more favorable decision. For these veterans, an appeal may be the only way for them to come forward with additional evidence and obtain a more favorable compensation award.
The appeal procedures are complex. The Veterans Administration’s system of review, reopening, appeal and remand is complicated. It is so complicated, in fact, that most veterans need assistance from someone with expertise in VA law and procedure to assist them with their appeal.
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