Finding Your Way Through the VA Benefits Process

eBenefits.VA.Gov – There are lots of US veterans that have no idea on how they can get veterans benefits. Many veterans think that they don’t have any reason on receiving benefits & others on being discharged prefer to put that life behind.

Plus, the laborious, seemingly endless application process can seem too daunting even to give it a try. But injured or disabled veterans have a right to benefits, and so should look into the process for obtaining them.

Q: How do you know if you could be receiving benefits? Who is qualified to receive benefits?

A: Three main components make up a veteran’s possible eligibility for service connected disability benefits. First, you had to have served in the Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. Second, you must have a current disability, either caused by your time in the service or a disability that you had going into the service and it was aggravated or made worse by your time in the service. There is a wide range of these sorts of disabilities, to some types of cancer, to breathing problems, to other disabilities that originated from or were affected by your service. Third, you have to be able to connect your current disability to your time in the service. eBenefits.VA.Gov

An example is, if you were on leave from active duty and vacationing with your family and while skiing you fell and broke your leg or injured your knee. Today, even though many years have passed, the problem caused by that old injury is only getting worse, and you will soon need surgery to have the knee replaced. Though it may not seem like it, this injury itself is service connected, as you were on active duty when the accident or illness occurred, even though you were on leave. And in addition to the surgery, the incident has caused other problems that you need taken care of.

Q: But how will receiving benefits from Veteran Affairs really help me?

A: Like this: if you do obtain benefits, you can receive monthly monetary benefits, as well as eligibility to use the VA hospital and medical facilities. The amount of your monthly benefit will depend on your percentage of service connection granted.

Q: If I am currently service connected and I have hearing loss at 10% and PTSD at 30% why am I only considered 30% service connected?

A: Veteran Affairs uses a rating schedule that uses the severity of your disability to tell them what percentage service connected disability to award you. Rather than using math to determine these percentages, they use a rating chart to give you a total final percentage, or rating. These service connection percentages can be tricky to understand and if you feel that you should be receiving more benefits or a higher percentage then you should look into your disability and the severity or contact a professional that could assist you.

Q: Why does my neighbor receive 70% for the same disability that I have?

A: This happens because Veteran Affairs determines all service connection percentages individually, based on the severity of a veteran’s disability. Again, there is a rating schedule that determines the amount of benefit and the percentage of service connection that each person receives.

Q: If I work at Veteran Affairs, can I still receive disability benefits for my time in service?

A: Yes. Unlike with Social Security Disability, the disability benefits you obtain from Veteran Affairs are not affected by working. If you obtain benefits for a service connected disability, but are still able to work, then you are entitled to keep working and receiving benefits. Your disability benefits are not reduced or annulled if you are earning an income.

Q: Can I obtain benefits from both Social Security Disability and the Dept. of Veteran Affairs? A: Yes. While Social Security Disability does gauge your earned income when determining your SSD benefits, your VA benefits are not considered earned income, and so will not get in the way of your SSD benefits.

Q: My spouse, who was in the service and getting benefits from the VA for a service connected disability, has passed away. Can I receive their benefits? eBenefits.VA.Gov

A: There are benefits for surviving spouses and dependent children. However, every case is different, and you need to be sure to speak to a professional before moving forward.

Q: How do I apply for benefits?

A: Veteran Affairs has laws to follow called “Veteran Friendly Laws.” The VA has the duty to help you file a claim and walk you through the process of obtaining benefits. There are Regional Offices in every state and there are organizations set up to assist the veterans at no cost to you. To locate your local Veteran Affairs Regional Office and any local Veteran Service Organizations, visit the Veteran Affairs website at http://www.va.gov.

Q: Can I hire an attorney?

A: The VA does have laws that tell attorneys when they can represent a client for a fee and when they can not. You can find some lawyers who will represent you for free, or Pro Bono, and others who will require you to sign a contract promising payment for their services. You should contact a local attorney’s office for more information and specifics regarding your claim.

Q: I already get benefits for a service connected ability. Is there any other benefit I can receive?

A: This depends on your situation. If, for instance, your service connected disability has grown in severity since you began receiving benefits, you can apply for an increase in your percentage or rating, which will also increase the amount of your monthly benefits. Veteran Affairs also provides expanded benefits to those veterans who cannot work due to their service connected disability. To apply for these benefits there is a separate form that needs to be filled out and filed with the VA. If you feel you are unemployable and should be receiving higher benefits you should contact a VSO or an Attorney to answer your questions and possibly assist you in obtaining these benefits. The VA also has benefits for those individuals that are unable to care for themselves on a regular basis or those that are unable to leave their home most of the time. These benefits are a homebound compensation. This is an option to consider if you feel you need assistance to care for yourself.

Because each claim is different, getting the benefits that you are entitled to can be a complex and confusing process. The VA’s website has a lot of information on what kind of benefits there are beyond disability benefits and what you can do to receive these benefits. If you are a veteran and you were injured in any way or your disabilities that you had before going into the service were aggravated in any way please look into your options. You served for our country and you may be entitled to veterans benefits.

For more on social security benefits, see http://www.hillandponton.com

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