VA Disability for Toxic Exposure

During their time in service, veterans can encounter toxic exposure to substances and environmental hazards that result in illnesses. VA disability benefits are available to veterans who meet specific requirements for toxic exposure illnesses. There are a few different sources of toxic exposure that are common to veterans.

VA Disability Benefits for Illnesses Caused by Toxic Exposure

  • Radiation
  • Asbestos
  • Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
  • Agent Orange
  • Burn Pit Exposure

For many veterans, exposure to toxic contaminants occurs at least once during their time on active duty. The level and duration of exposure may vary. Over the years, medical professionals have learned more about the harmful effects of exposure to these substances. As a result, the VA has updated disability compensation eligibility criteria to meet the growing needs of toxic exposure among veterans.

While each exposure illness has its unique set of criteria, eligibility is dependent upon a discharge that is not dishonorable and proof that the service member served at a location or in a position that exposed them to the toxic substance.

How Does Chemical and Toxic Exposure Occur?

Throughout their military career, service members may be exposed to toxic chemicals or other environmental hazards. Specific job duties can be at higher risk for being exposed to harmful substances. Working with X-rays or radioactive material can put someone at risk for radiation exposure. Construction materials such as flooring, roofing, or insulation can expose handlers to asbestos. Even everyday cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals that may lead to illnesses in the future.

Symptoms may not appear for many years after exposure and sometimes long after military service has ended. For veterans, it is vital to keep records associated with duty assignment locations, duty position assignment, and all medical records related to military service. These documents will help to determine service connection if any illness develops from military toxic exposure.

Some common toxic exposure illnesses include many types of cancers, respiratory conditions, Parkinson’s disease, and fertility problems. Veterans should apply for disability compensation and health care benefits provided by the Veterans Administration along with keeping informed about current information related to possible toxic exposure during their time in the military.

VA Disability Benefits for Illness Caused by Toxic Exposure

Veterans may be entitled to disability compensation and VA health benefits for illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances while on active duty. Common diseases caused by military toxic exposure are detailed below.


Service members who engaged in radiation-risk activities while on active duty may be eligible for VA benefits related to illnesses that resulted from service. Some of these radiation-risk activities included working as an X-ray tech, nuclear medicine, or radiography. Troops assigned to post-war Hiroshima or Nagasaki or served as a POW in Japan are also eligible. Any type of atomic testing activity also appears on the VA’s list of radiation-risk activities.

The VA recognizes that certain illnesses result from radiation exposure. These conditions are called presumptive conditions. If a veteran has a disease on the presumptive condition list and conducted a radiation-risk activity, they need not prove service connection on their disability claims.

Presumptive conditions include the following:

  • Cancers of the bone, bile duct, digestive system, urinary tract, and lungs
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphomas
  • Multiple myeloma 

Veterans who believe their illness is a result of radiation exposure should file a claim for disability compensation and apply for VA health care.


Asbestos is a toxic substance found in older construction materials. If you worked at construction sites, shipyards, demolition sites, mines, or mills, you may have encountered asbestos. In addition, Afghanistan veterans and Southwest Asia veterans who were commonly exposed to the demolition of older buildings could also be at an increased risk.

Asbestos can cause respiratory illnesses such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Symptoms start with shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain and can take anywhere from 20-50 years to develop.

Disability compensation and VA health care may be awarded to veterans who develop a condition in connection with exposure to asbestos while on active duty.

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination

If you spent time at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air State (MCAS) New River in North Carolina between August 1953 and December 1987, you might have been exposed to contaminated water.

Those stationed at the military base or spent at least 30 cumulative days there for training and have one of the presumptive conditions identified by the VA may be entitled to disability compensation and VA health care. The presumptive conditions associated with water contamination at Camp Lejeune include:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Bladder, kidney, and liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Veterans with any of the above conditions should file a disability claim and apply for VA health care benefits.

Family members affected by contaminated drinking water can also receive benefits. They will need to file a disability claim, including documents that prove a relationship to the service member and residency on the military installation. The VA suggests including a VA Form 10-100686b, Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Treating Physician Report to assist in the claims process, although it is not required.

The VA may also reimburse medical expenses for the above presumptive conditions or one of the following:

  • Renal toxicity
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Female infertility
  • Miscarriages
  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Neurobehavioral effects

To qualify, family members need to show payment of expenses related to the illness during one of these time periods:

  • January 1, 1957, to December 31, 1987 (if you lived at Camp Lejeune during this timeframe, reimbursable expenses must have been paid on or after August 6, 2012, or up to 2 years prior to application date)
  • August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1956 (if you lived at Camp Lejeune during this timeframe, reimbursable expenses must have been paid on or after December 6, 2014, or up to 2 years prior to application date)

Agent Orange

Agent orange is a tactical herbicide used to limit vegetation during the Vietnam War. The medical community has since learned that exposure to this herbicide can cause cancer and other illnesses. Vietnam veterans would have presumptive exposure to agent orange if they served in Vietnam or on a U.S. military vessel in Vietnam or perimeter duty in Thailand between January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975.

The VA has recently added bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism to the list of presumptive conditions connected to agent orange exposure. If the VA denied your claim for one of these three conditions in the past, they will automatically reconsider the claim. You do not need to resubmit the claim.

The list of presumptive conditions includes, but is not limited to:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Respiratory cancers
  • Parkinson’s Disease

If you believe your illness results from exposure to agent orange, you should contact veterans affairs about VA disability benefits and health care related to toxic exposure.

Burn Pit Exposure

Veterans who served in Southwest Asia since August 2, 1990, or Afghanistan or Djibouti after September 11, 2001, were likely exposed to toxic fumes caused by burn pits, a common practice of destroying waste through open-air combustion.

These burn pits contained several harmful products such as toxic chemicals, paint, human waste, metals, rubber, medical waste, and munitions. Toxic chemicals in pit smoke particulate matter can affect many systems of the human body: respiratory, cardiovascular, skin, and internal organs.

In 2014, the VA established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to conduct further research into illnesses developing in veterans with burn pit exposure. Veterans are encouraged to register their exposure and any symptoms to learn more about burn pit toxic exposure. In some cases, on-site, in-depth studies are being conducted with veterans experiencing respiratory illness, shortness of breath, or constrictive bronchiolitis.

On Veterans Day 2021, President Biden announced that his administration would emphasize the need to aid burn pit illness veterans by mandating that the VA review rare respiratory cancers as an addition to the presumptive illness list. So far, there are only three presumptive illnesses for burn pit exposure: asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

The administration hopes to get much-needed medical help to burn pit exposure veterans promptly, unlike the decades-long process their Vietnam-era comrades faced with agent orange exposure.

How Does DAV Help Veterans with Toxic Exposure?

There are several benefits for veterans who experience complications from military toxic exposure. Many veterans choose to get help with the complicated process of filing a disability claim. One service organization that can help veterans with toxic exposure is Disabled American Veterans (DAV). The DAV is a nonprofit organization that fights for veterans’ rights in Washington, D.C., informs veterans and family members of benefits they are entitled to, and assists them in applying for benefits.

Local DAV service officers will assist veterans in gathering evidence, submitting claims, and representing veterans during appeals hearings. Through helping thousands of veterans each year, they’ve gained experience that can be helpful when trying to establish a service connection for VA disability toxic exposure.

The DAV can also connect veterans with other resources available based on the veteran’s exposure category. Veterans are encouraged to communicate with their local DAV representative.

VA Disability Benefits for Toxic Exposure

Veterans exposed to toxic chemicals or environmental hazards during their active-duty military service may develop illnesses because of their exposure. These veterans may be entitled to disability compensation and VA health care for conditions resulting from toxic exposure providing they meet eligibility requirements.

To qualify, the veteran must not have a dishonorable discharge. Other eligibility requirements include specific duty location timelines and diagnosis of an approved toxic illness. If a veteran has a condition associated with toxic exposure, they should submit a disability claim for review by the Veterans Affairs.

Some of the most common sources of toxic exposure are radiation, asbestos, Camp Lejeune water contamination, agent orange, and burn pit exposure.

The VA continues to research how each of these contaminants affects the health of veterans today. In addition to the VA, many service organizations and nonprofits are focused on educating and supporting veterans suffering from toxic exposure.

Several organizations exist to help veterans who may be dealing with toxic exposure illnesses. The DAV is one organization that can help veterans to submit a disability claim or appeal packet. These experienced representatives are skilled in providing appropriate evidence to support service connection, a common reason for disability claims denial. Getting help with the claims process may ensure you receive your benefits faster.

How To Prepare for Your C&P Exam

Veterans who file a disability claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may be asked to participate in a compensation and pension exam, designed to help the VA accurately rate a particular disability or combination of disabilities.

It’s important to prepare carefully for the C&P examination so that you can provide VA medical experts with the full range of information they need to be able to appropriately rate your disability and determine your resulting monthly compensation amount.

5 Tips To Prepare for Your VA C&P Exam

  1. Review Your Medical Records
  2. Confirm Contact Information
  3. Be on Time
  4. Bring a Friend or Family Member
  5. Keep a Disability Journal and Bring It With You

If you have been asked to participate in a compensation and pension examination, it’s important to be prepared. This step in the VA disability claim review process helps VA reviewers assign an accurate rating to your medical condition. While the C&P exam is nothing to be worried or anxious about, it is worth taking very seriously. Use this opportunity to make sure that your medical examiner has a full and comprehensive understanding of your service-connected disability.

Why Do I Need a C&P Exam?

It’s common for the VA to ask veterans to participate in a C&P exam so the VA disability reviewers can better understand their medical conditions. It means the VA is seriously considering a claim and wants to assign the most accurate rating possible. This is your opportunity to ensure that VA reviewers have all the information they need to make an accurate determination about your VA disability rating, which directly influences how much monthly VA disability compensation you’ll be eligible to receive.

If the medical documentation, hospital reports, test results, and other medical evidence included with your claim is inconclusive or inconsistent, the VA may want you to have a C&P exam to provide more complete information. These examinations typically carry a lot of influence when it comes to assigning your final rating, so being prepared can help ensure that your medical examiner gets the most accurate understanding possible of your full medical condition.

5 Tips To Prepare for Your VA C&P Exam

There are several key steps you should take to prepare for your C&P exam. We’ve outlined several tips below.

1. Review Your Medical Records

The more specific and comprehensive your medical evidence, the easier it will be for VA reviewers to make an accurate assessment of your claim. Before your CP exam, make sure to review your medical records and ensure that you have submitted everything to the VA.

If you have new or additional medical documentation that you want to submit, make sure to send it directly to the VA rather than bringing it to your appointment. Your C&P examiner will not be able to submit outside medical documentation on your behalf. It is your responsibility to ensure the VA has all relevant medical evidence directly from you. The VA can also help track down important medical and military documents upon request.

2. Confirm Contact Information

The VA will contact you directly at several points during the claim review process, including when to schedule your CP exam. To expedite the process, it’s smart to take the time to confirm that the VA has the most current and accurate contact information on file for you, including your address, home phone, and mobile phone numbers.

3. Be on Time

Once you have your C&P exam scheduled with the VA, make sure to confirm the time and the location so that you ensure you’re going to the right place on the date of your appointment. Give yourself plenty of driving time to account for heavy traffic, accidents, or other impediments you might encounter on your way. It’s a good idea to arrive 15 minutes early. Many times, the examiner will not complete your examination if you miss your appointment time.

4. Bring a Friend or Family Member

Many veterans find it helpful to bring a supportive friend or family member with them to their CP exam. VA examiners will allow this, but you may need to get permission in advance. In some cases, a medical professional may appreciate the added perspective of hearing from a spouse, family member, or close friend about how your disability affects your quality of life. Outside observers can often provide details and observations you wouldn’t necessarily report – or even notice – yourself.

5. Keep a Disability Journal and Bring It With You

Keep in mind that your medical examination will likely be short, and it will give your examiner a minute snapshot of how your disability affects your day-to-day life. Being able to provide notes about your disability experience can help provide additional detail and may even help you answer some of the examiner’s questions.

Within your journal, catalog all symptoms of the disability for which you have filed a claim, along with how often and how severely they appear. You can also invite other members of your household to keep similar journals with their own observations about how your disability affects your life.

FAQs About the Comp and Pen Exam

You may still have questions about what to expect from your CP examination – we’ve collected some of the most common C&P exam questions and their answers for you below.

How do I schedule my C&P exam?

You don’t have to initiate your CP examination. The VA will contact you to set up your appointment. The medical team at your local VA medical center or a local physician’s office partners with the VA will contact you in one of two ways. They will either send a letter by mail with the date and time of your scheduled examination or they will call you to find a time that works with your schedule.

To make the process easier, confirm that the VA regional office and the VA medical center nearest you both have your up-to-date contact information to make sure you get your exam notice in time.

What if I Can’t Make the Appointment at the Time Scheduled for Me?

If an appointment is scheduled on your behalf and you can’t make it, let the VA know as soon as possible. You can likely reschedule your appointment, but it just may push back your exam date and potentially delay a decision about your VA claim.

To reschedule your appointment, call 800-827-1000 or visit your nearest VA regional office and speak with a representative about your scheduling conflict. Please note that any attempt to reschedule should be made at least 48 hours in advance of your scheduled time.

What Should I Bring With Me to My Exam?

It’s a good idea to bring a friend or family member, and your disability journal that documents your symptoms. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to bring anything else with you to your C&P examination. If you have additional or new medical evidence or documentation, submit those directly to the VA as an addition to your VA claim before your medical appointment.

It’s important to remember that the medical professional who completes your C&P exam cannot submit additional medical documentation on your behalf. The physician will only be able to submit the documentation of your actual exam.

Who Conducts the C&P Exam?

Your exam will be conducted either by a VA-employed physician or a private physician contracted with the VA. In some cases, you may request for your own physician to complete the exam and submit the appropriate paperwork to the VA.

Disabled veterans have the right to choose the sex of the medical provider in cases of gynecological, breast, anal/rectal, and mental health exams. This request should be made during the scheduling process. For any VA claim related to a mental or physical health condition resulting from Military Sexual Trauma, the law permits that a veteran can choose the sex of the C&P examiner.

What Happens During a C&P Exam?

What happens during your exam will depend largely on your medical condition and the information the VA needs to make a decision regarding your VA claim. During a C&P exam, any of the following could happen:

First, the physician will likely review your claim file with you and may ask you questions based on the medical records presented as part of your VA claim. This line of questioning may include questions from the Disability Benefits Questionnaire for each service-connected condition you’re claiming. Answer these questions as honestly and accurately as possible – try not to exaggerate your symptoms or pain, but don’t downplay them either. You want the examiner to walk away with the clearest determination possible about your medical condition.

The physician may carry out a basic physical exam, and in some cases, you may be asked to get additional tests, including X-rays or blood work.

Feel free to ask the examiner any questions you have throughout the exam, though it’s important to remember that the physician won’t be able to give you any information about the VA disability claims process or the status of your own VA claim. The physician’s role is simply to present medical documentation, not to make a recommendation or decision about your case.

Every C&P exam is unique. Typically, the examiner spends time before your appointment to review your medical records and will likely review them again in detail after your appointment. On average, you can expect the exam to last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

What Happens If I Miss My C&P Exam?

If you are not able to make your appointment, contact the VA immediately and let them know why you missed your appointment time. A VA representative can help you figure out what to do next. The VA will work with you to reschedule your exam if you had good cause to miss your appointment. Examples of good cause include an illness or the death of an immediate family member.

It is vitally important you attend your C&P exam. Missing an appointment, especially without good cause, can result in the VA either delaying its decision about your VA claim or deciding your claim based solely on the evidence you have already submitted. This can negatively impact your VA rating and disability benefits.

What Can I Expect After My C&P Exam?

Once your exam is complete, the VA will assign your VA claim a disability rating. You will receive a letter that explains your VA rating and how it determines your VA disability compensation amount. You can generally expect to hear from the VA within three to four months, though complex cases may take additional time.

Preparing for Your C&P Exam

The C&P exam is an important part of the VA claim process. This is an opportunity for you to share with a medical professional the full scope of your service-connected disability and how it affects your quality of life.

With the right preparation, you can ensure that your examiner walks away with a firm understanding of your situation that helps lead to an accurate and appropriate VA rating. While preparing for your exam takes time and effort, it’s worth it once you are awarded the VA disability benefits you deserve.

Get Disability Benefits Fast with a Pre-Discharge Claim

Active-duty military service members may wish to file a pre-discharge claim to speed up the process of receiving VA disability compensation benefits. VA disability benefits are available to any past service members of the armed forces who have an illness or injury that affects their mind or body, and in some cases, this benefit may be passed to a surviving spouse as well. VA benefits are also available to veterans who have served in the National Guard or Reserves, with certain exceptions.

4 Eligibility Requirements for a VA Pre-Discharge Claim:

  • Know Your Separation Date
  • File Your Disability Claim Between 90-180 Days Before Separation
  • Be Available for Medical Examinations After Filing
  • Have a Copy of Your Service Treatment Record

There are some basic requirements you must meet to qualify for the VA pre-discharge claim and eventually receive compensation, but they are all predicated on being assigned a disability rating from the VA. This rating is a percentage from 0% to 100% that indicates your level of need based on the severity of your disability, which affects the dollar amount of your monthly payments. Because this process can be lengthy and complex, the VA has designed programs like VA-pre-discharge claims to facilitate smoother transitions.

What Is a VA Pre-Discharge Claim?

A pre-discharge claim is a term that’s often used interchangeably with the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD), although BDD is actually the name of the program that manages these claims. The BDD program is run through the Department of Veterans Affairs and is intended to help veterans obtain authorization for any disability compensation before their actual date of discharge.

The BDD and other benefits for veterans are designed to help those who have served our country after successfully completing active duty service. By applying before the end of your military service, the VA has more time to schedule any necessary interviews, appointments, or medical evaluations that will need to be done before you’re approved. By doing this, veterans often find there is little to no lag time between their date of discharge and receiving confirmation of their disability claim. Many veterans can begin receiving payments on the same day they are discharged, which dramatically reduces the stress and uncertainty that the transition to non-military life can bring.

Please note that these claims must be made between 90 and 180 days before discharge to be eligible for BDD. If you are outside of this window, you can still pursue disability benefits but they will not be through the BDD program.

4 Eligibility Requirements of the BDD Program:

The BDD program helps provide essential VA health benefits for men and women as they transition to civilian life. The eligibility requirements for applying for this discharge program are fairly straightforward, but since the application window is fairly narrow, it’s essential you stay organized and on top of dates and deadlines.

There are a number of exceptions that you need to be aware of that may restrict you from using the BDD. For all applicants, here are the four basic requirements you’ll need to meet:

1. Know Your Separation Date

Although this is one of the easiest of the four requirements, if you don’t have a set discharge date, you cannot file a pre-discharge claim. If your date of separation is not yet known or if it has changed, this will affect your application.

2. File Your Disability Claim Between 90-180 Days Before Separation

Since you only have a 90-day window to file your pre-discharge claim, it’s best to start as close to the 180-day mark as you can. 90 days may sound like a lot of time, but you will likely be busy with many other tasks as you prepare to transition to civilian life. If you miss this window, you will have to go through other (usually more involved) channels to seek your VA disability compensation.

By filing as early as possible, but still within the eligibility window, you can ensure there is enough time to request documents, troubleshoot complications, or undergo any disability evaluations that may be ordered for your file. Additionally, you may want to start gathering documentation before the 180 days so you can submit a complete VA claim as soon as possible.

3. Be Available for Medical Examinations After Filing

All applicants must present sufficient medical documentation in order to receive a VA disability rating. Since you will likely be examined in a VA facility, be sure to schedule enough time for medical appointments after you submit your BDD claim.

Depending on where you are currently stationed, you should be available to visit a VA facility for 45 days after you submit your BDD claim. This can be especially important for those service members who are stationed overseas, as there are only two non-U.S. bases where these examinations can take place: Landstuhl, Germany, and Camp Humphreys, Korea. If you are not at one of the overseas bases, you might not qualify for a pre-discharge disability claim.

4. Have a Copy of Your Service Treatment Record

You should take the time before you file your claim to gather all relevant medical documentation related to your disability. Without this, the VA is unable to deem the disability as service-connected and won’t be able to assign you a disability rating.

By locating these documents ahead of time, you can be sure that if any problems do take place after you submit your claim that there will be time to rectify them and this time won’t be spent hunting down past medical or service treatment records. This can be especially relevant if you’ve served for many years and the injury that resulted in your disability was several years prior.

Benefits of a VA Pre-Discharge Claim:

With a pre-discharge claim, there are a number of VA disability benefits available to veterans. Veterans have easier access to military documents, since waiting till after separation increases the risk that papers can get lost or records will be harder to find. Documentation is much easier to track down while on active duty since the injury is more recent and it’s easier to follow up and address any complications.

For those who’ve sustained injuries resulting in a disability, the most significant benefit of lining this up ahead of time is that you’ll start receiving your disability payments immediately upon separation. There won’t be a lag time from when you’re discharged to when you begin civilian life.

Another benefit of the BDD program is that you can get all your medical evaluations completed before you leave. Unfortunately, many veterans exiting the military often don’t undergo a proper medical examination for a disability claim while they’re still serving. Scheduling doctor appointments and gathering medical evidence becomes more difficult once you leave service. In some cases, this can lead to months or years of delays getting their payments. Since many vets don’t know this will happen, you should take it upon yourself to apply for the BDD program if you know they have a disability and are still on active duty.

Who Is Not Eligible for the BDD Program?

There are many ways a service member is not eligible to apply to the BDD program. This is true even if they have a valid service-connected disability. The first thing to do is make sure you meet the four main criteria. One of the most common causes for ineligibility is that a service member is currently stationed overseas and won’t be able to attend a VA-approved examination.

Those who are terminally ill, have an illness that prevents them from performing their daily duties, are pregnant, hospitalized, or in a military treatment center may not seek a VA disability claim through this discharge program. Additionally, there are certain disabilities, such as the loss of a limb, that preclude you from using the BDD program.

Please note that these factors don’t mean that you won’t qualify for disability compensation, it just means that you will have to apply at another time or through a different program. The conditions would all require special handling and cannot go through the regular channels of the BDD program.

How to File a Pre-Discharge Disability Claim:

For most people, you can submit your application and all your supporting documents through your account. It’s important to have all documentation ready ahead of time, though what exactly you need can vary depending on your circumstances.

Gather all health care and military records that relate to your disability, including your current service treatment record, mental records, or dental records if applicable. You also need to provide basic personal information like your Social Security number, birth certificates, or a marriage certificate, as well as direct deposit information and a completed DD Form 214.

If you want to apply by mail or fax, complete VA Form 21-526EZ along with any other relevant paperwork and fax it to 844-531-7818 if you’re inside the U.S., or 248-524-4260 if you’re outside the U.S.

You can also mail it to the following address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

If you have less than 90 days left in your service, you cannot use the BDD program and can instead file either a fully developed claim or standard claim as you would if you had already been discharged.

Get Compensated Faster With a Pre-Discharge Claim

The VA is committed to working for the country’s veterans to help with all aspects of their well-being. The VA currently oversees multiple veteran benefits from securing a VA loan to buy a home, pension programs, job training, counseling, education benefits, and disability services. If you are on active service but know your discharge date, you should explore your options of submitting a pre-discharge claim before your date of separation if you think you may qualify for a VA disability rating.

As your service period comes to an end, take the time to organize your medical and service records, and submit your application as close to 180 out from your date of separation as possible. The claims process will go faster since you are still active in the military, and any medical files the VA needs to confirm your eligibility will be easier to access. VA compensation like this can ensure the needs of disabled veterans are taken care of as soon as they are discharged.

Understanding Your VA Disability Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manages the VA disability benefits program. This program pays disability compensation to military service veterans with a service-connected disability with a VA disability rating. VA disability benefits are designed to help veterans with a disability pay for things they need, like healthcare, housing, and clothing.

9 Types of VA Disability Claims

  1. Original Claim
  2. Pre-Discharge Claim
  3. New Claim
  4. Secondary Claim
  5. Reopened Claim
  6. Increased Claim
  7. Permanently and Totally Disabled Claim
  8. Special Claim
  9. Fully Developed Claim

Monthly financial assistance in the form of VA disability compensation can be incredibly helpful for veterans with a disability. Sometimes, these veterans are unable to return to the workforce or earn a sustainable wage. Veterans’ disability benefits can assist with medical and everyday bills. These tax-free benefits can also help family members of disabled veterans, whether or not the veteran is still living.

The VA requires military veterans to meet several qualifications before receiving monthly compensation via disability pay. Additionally, veterans must work through the claims process carefully to ensure that they provide all necessary information for a detailed, well-executed claim.

What Is VA Disability Compensation?

Veterans disability benefits provide monthly compensation for veterans who have a disability that’s connected to their time in the military. Often, disabled veterans cannot work due to their disabilities. These benefits for veterans can help them pay for everyday costs, like housing and food, or medical costs, like supplies and appointments.

Do I have to pay taxes on my VA disability payments?

A disability benefit for veterans is tax-free, meaning that the disabled veteran will not need to pay taxes from their VA disability pay. The compensation benefits vary depending on the veteran’s disability rating and their household size. Veterans with dependent children and a spouse may qualify for more monthly compensation than single veterans.

The VA gives each disability a rating based on its severity if it is determined to be a service-connected disability. These ratings range from 0%-100%, with higher ratings yielding more VA compensation for a disability.

Current VA disability rates range between $152.64 per month to $3,332.06 for a single veteran with no spouse or dependents. Veterans with a spouse or dependents may qualify for more than $3,700 a month in veteran’s disability benefits.

Some veterans may also receive more money if they are unemployable due to their disability or have a severe disability or loss of a limb or an organ. Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is reserved for veterans with specific disabilities, adding an extra benefit to regular VA disability payments.

How To Qualify for VA Disability Benefits

There are a few basic requirements that a disabled veteran must meet to be eligible for veterans disability compensation. First and foremost, a veteran must have served on active duty service, active duty training, or inactive duty training. The VA also requires the veteran to be currently experiencing a mental or physical illness or injury. Finally, veterans must have a disability that relates to their time in the service.

This injury or illness could have happened before the service, resulting in a worsened condition from serving. Or, it could be something that happened during the veteran’s service or showed up after leaving the service. If the latter, the condition still needs to be connected to the veteran’s service in some way, such as lung problems that could have been caused by Agent Orange exposure.

Some common disabilities that qualify for VA benefits include:

  • Hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Depression
  • Chronic back pain
  • Loss of a limb or organ
  • Cancer from chemical exposure
  • Sexual assault or harassment
  • Skin conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Only veterans with an honorable discharge may qualify for VA disability benefits. The veteran’s dishonorable discharge or other-than-honorable discharge will make a disability claim ineligible.

A veteran must complete and file a disability claim with the VA if they believe they’re eligible for VA benefits. The VA will review and process the claim and ask for additional evidence, if needed, to support the claim before making a final decision.

How To Apply for VA Disability Benefits

Applying for VA disability benefits is a detailed process for veterans. Each veteran applicant must have evidence to prove that their injury or illness exists and affects them daily. They also must be able to prove that the disability is connected to their service to receive VA compensation.

Veterans can begin by filing a claim online. They can also file by mail or in person at a VA regional office. A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can also help veterans fill out an application and gather the evidence they need to support their claim.

The VA requires as much information as possible to support a disability claim. The VA first reviews a veteran’s DD214 separation papers to determine the circumstances surrounding their discharge. This may also shed light on the veteran’s disability status.

The veteran can also submit any medical evidence from doctors and specialists, including test results, examination notes, and hospital records. Veterans can also submit their own written statements and statements from others that could support their claims, such as a former boss or a family member who helps the veteran daily with tasks.

Suppose the VA believes that it needs more information to determine the severity of your disability. In that case, it will order the veteran to complete a claims exam, also known as the C&P exam. This exam provides the VA with additional evidence that can assist with setting a disability rating. The VA uses this disability rating to determine individual unemployability, if applicable, and the disability payment amount the veteran qualifies for.

9 Types of VA Disability Claims

VA disability benefits are not one-size-fits-all benefits. The VA provides multiple claims routes for veterans to file depending on their current situation.

1. Original Claim

An original claim is the first claim you’ll file with the VA for VA disability benefits. The VA allows service members to file a disability claim up to 180 days before leaving the service. If you have less than 90 days of service left, your claim will not be processed until after you leave the service.

Veterans can also submit an original claim after they leave the service. This post-service claim is available to veterans whose disability may not have appeared until after they were discharged.

Veterans are allowed to file new or supplemental claims if they believe that new evidence could increase their chances of receiving disability benefits. However, an original claim is used as the basis for further VA disability claims, should the veteran file any. The evidence and disability rating assigned during the original claim may also be used in the future to determine eligibility with any new claim filings.

2. Pre-Discharge Claim

If a service member develops an injury, illness, or disability during their service, they may be allowed to file a pre-discharge claim. This simply means that they’ll begin the filing process before they discharge from the service.

Service members can file as early as 180 days before leaving the service. To do this, they can file through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program. Only eligible service members may do so if they’re on full-time active duty service, have a known separation date, and have copies of medical treatment they’ve received. Going through the BDD process can speed up the claims process, allowing you to potentially receive benefits soon after discharge from the military.

If you’re not eligible for early filing with the BDD program, you can still file for up to 90 days prior to discharge from the service. This process is the same as a standard claims process after leaving the service, but it gets the bulk of the paperwork completed before discharge. Once discharged, the VA will begin processing the veteran’s claim.

3. New Claim

Veterans file a new claim when they have new evidence to give to the VA regarding their disability. Typically, veterans file these claims if they want to have their disability rating changed to receive more financial assistance or qualify for special disability compensation. The changes that occur from new claims can also assist veterans in getting pensions or qualifying for Individual Unemployability status.

A veteran might file a new claim if they have received a diagnosis for a new disability since filing their original claim. However, the VA will not consider any old medical evidence related to a veteran’s claim when they file the new claim. The VA’s decision will solely be based on the evidence presented in the new claim.

4. Secondary Claim

Secondary claims provide evidence to the VA involving a disability that has been caused by or worsened by another disability with a service connection. For instance, a veteran might file a secondary VA disability claim for sciatic nerve damage caused by a spinal injury they received while on active duty.

Secondary claims can boost a veteran’s VA disability compensation by increasing their disability rating. However, the two conditions must relate to each other somehow, so the veteran needs to provide enough medical evidence that shows their relationship.

Most importantly, veterans must establish that the secondary disability is severe enough to impact their daily life. This can usually be accomplished via doctor’s visits and test results, but the VA may also require additional exams for more evidence.

5. Reopened Claim (Supplemental Claim)

When the VA denies an original, new, or other types of disability claims, the veteran may appeal the decision. However, they must appeal within one year of the denial. Some veterans may not have enough additional evidence during that time to appeal the decision and miss the appeals window.

When that happens, they can file a reopened claim, also known as a supplemental claim. These claims reopen the denied claim when a veteran has new evidence that could assist the VA in changing its decision. VA Form 20-0995 allows veterans to reopen their previous claim if they have “New and Relevant Evidence” to show.

If the veteran does not physically have the evidence, such as x-rays or test results, in their possession, they can request the VA to get it for them.

6. Increased Claim

Over time, a veteran may experience worsening symptoms related to a disability for which they receive VA disability benefits. The veteran can file an increased claim to ask the VA to increase their disability rating based on their symptoms and further medical evidence proving a worsened condition.

Like other claims, a veteran should accompany an increased claim with plenty of evidence to prove that their condition has gotten worse. For instance, a diabetes claim may increase if the veteran has switched to being insulin-dependent rather than controlling the condition with medication.

If the VA determines that the veteran’s condition has worsened, it may decide to increase their disability rating and, subsequently, their monthly benefit amount.

7. Permanently and Totally Disabled Claim

Although veterans don’t technically file a claim for the VA to receive Permanently and Totally (P&T) disabled status, they can request to have their case reviewed for this status.

A P&T designation denotes that a veteran has a 100% disability rating for a disability that the VA determines will be permanent rather than temporary. With this rating, veterans will not receive a reduction in their disability rating or monthly payment amount.

Veterans can request this status with enough medical evidence. Often, they do this by writing to their VA regional office to request a change and provide medical evidence. However, they can also file a new claim if they have substantial new medical evidence that could switch them to P&T. In this evidence, your physician should indicate that your condition is not expected to improve.

8. Special Claim

A special claim can assist veterans with getting additional disability compensation for special needs relating to their disability. For example, a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange and had a child with congenital disabilities potentially resulting from that exposure could become eligible for VA disability benefits.

Other examples of special claims situations include hospital stays, accidents occurring during VA medical treatment, and needing adaptive equipment relating to a service-connected disability.

Veterans may also file a special claim if they are unable to work because of their disability and would like the VA to consider increasing their disability payments. Some special claims lead to short-term payments, while others provide long-term compensation.

9. Fully Developed Claim

A Fully Developed Claim (FDC) allows veterans to apply for VA disability benefits and seek approval faster than regular claims. With these claims, a veteran sends in all medical evidence, written statements, and other information at the time of filing. They also declare at that time that they have no further evidence to submit and that they’ve furnished all the information they can to process the claim.

Because the VA doesn’t need to wait for more information or set up additional exams for the veteran, the process can move more quickly than the traditional approval or denial process.

Sometimes, the VA decides that it needs more information to process the claim. When this happens, it may switch the claim to a standard (original) claim to go through the regular process.

How To Appeal a Denial from the VA

The VA disability benefits claims process typically takes around 144 days to reach a decision once a veteran applies. However, veterans can speed up the process by presenting as much factual medical evidence as possible to the VA when they file a claim. The more information the VA has, the easier it will be to make a decision without requesting additional exams that could push back a decision date.

A VA disability attorney can help veterans gather the evidence they need to submit a complete and detailed claim. These attorneys specialize in getting the right information for veterans to prove their disability, severity, and service connection.

Even with plenty of submitted evidence, there’s a chance that the VA denies a claim. In fact, more claims get denied initially than approved.

When this happens, you can file an appeal. After a denial, you can request a decision review by filing a supplemental claim. These claims require new evidence that could move the VA’s decision in your favor.

Veterans can also request a higher-level review in which a senior-level official reviews the claim. This is a good option if you do not have new evidence to submit.

Another option is a board appeal, through which a Veterans Law Judge reviews your claim. These appeals can take one year or longer to complete.

A VA disability attorney can assist you through the appeals process to ensure that you give the VA the correct information to complete the review. A medical evidence developer can also help you compile medical evidence to improve your chances of getting approved for VA disability compensation.  

VA Disability Benefits for Family Members

VA benefits for family members can pay compensation to the families of active-duty service members and disabled veterans. These benefits come from a VA program called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) that helps support the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a veteran who died while on duty or from a service-connected disability.

A surviving spouse is eligible for these monthly benefits if they were still married to the veteran at the time of their death and, if separated, were not at fault for the separation. Surviving spouses must have also been married to the veteran for at least one year or had a child with the veteran.

Dependent children who survived the veteran may qualify if they’re under the age of 18 or 23 if still in school and are not yet married. A veteran’s parents can also receive DIC benefits if their income falls within the eligibility guidelines.

DIC benefits for a deceased veteran family pay the surviving spouse, children, or parents a tax-free monthly benefit. Surviving spouse and children rates differ from surviving parent rates. The current rate for surviving spouses is $1,357.56, but other situations can increase monthly payments. Eligible children, for instance, add $336.32 to the spouse’s payment.

Surviving parent rates decrease with higher incomes. The highest payment is currently $672 a month for one parent for $487 for both parents.

The VA requires different forms to apply for DIC benefits depending on whether you apply as a surviving spouse, child, or parent.

Ultimate Guide to VA Disability Benefits for Veterans and Their Families

VA disability benefits give disabled veterans monthly compensation to offset their financial needs. Disability compensation from the VA can help disabled veterans pay for their everyday costs, like housing, food, and utilities. They can also use this benefit to pay for health care and other necessities. For veterans who are unable to work due to their service-connected disability, VA compensation can be an essential financial aid.

A veteran must file a disability claim to become eligible for VA disability pay. Depending on the type of claim and the disability, these claims may take several months to complete. However, an eligible veteran may receive back pay for any compensation they were eligible for during the determination process.

Families of veterans who died as a result of their disability or during active duty service can also receive compensation from the VA through the DIC program. This benefit assists surviving spouses, children, and parents with a monthly payment.

Veterans can file a disability claim online, by mail, or through their VA regional office. To assist in filing a claim for VA compensation, consider reaching out to a VA disability attorney or a veterans service officer.

2022 VA Disability Rates

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs makes a concerted effort to ensure that disabled veterans are rated accurately for their disabilities and receive associated tax-free financial compensation. The VA also wants to make sure that the disability pay does not lose its value over time due to inflation.

As a result, each year, the VA will evaluate its compensation rates and adjust them if necessary.

The new rates take effect on December 1, 2021. Keep reading to find out more about how to calculate the new compensation rate you should expect, depending on your specific circumstances.

If your disability rating is 10% or 20%, you will not receive a higher benefit payment for having a spouse, dependent children, or dependent parents. The 2022 flat VA disability pay for a 10% disability is $152.64, and the pay rate for a 20% disability is $301.74.

Monthly Payments Based on 10%-20% Rating

Disability Rating Monthly payment
10% $152.64
20% $301.74

Monthly Payments Based on Disability Rating

Dependent status 30% disability rating 40% disability rating
Veteran alone (no dependents) $467.39 $673.28
With spouse (no parents or children) $522.39 $747.28
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $566.39 $806.28
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $610.39 $865.28
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $511.39 $732.28
With 2 parents (no spouse or children) $555.39 $791.28
Dependent status 50% disability rating 60% disability rating
Veteran alone (no dependents) $958.44 $1,214.03
With spouse (no parents or children) $1,050.44 $1,325.03
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $1,124.44 $1,414.03
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $1,198.44 $1,503.03
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $1,032.44 $1,303.03
With 2 parents (no spouse or children) $1,106.44 $1,392.03

Added Amounts

Dependent status 30% disability rating 40% disability rating
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $51.00 $68.00
Dependent status 50% disability rating 60% disability rating
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $86.00 $102.00

Basic Rates for Monthly Payments

Dependent status 70% disability rating 80% disability rating
Veteran alone (no dependents) $1,529.95 $1,778.43
With spouse (no parents or children) $1,659.95 $1,926.43
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $1,763.95 $2,045.43
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $1,867.95 $2,164.43
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $1,633.95 $1,897.43
With 2 parents (no spouse or children) $1,737.95 $2,016.43
Dependent status 90% disability rating 100% disability rating
Veteran alone (no dependents) $1,998.52 $3,332.06
With spouse (no parents or children) $2,165.52 $3,517.84
With spouse and 1 parent (no children) $2,299.52 $3,666.94
With spouse and 2 parents (no children) $2,433.52 $3,816.04
With 1 parent (no spouse or children) $2,132.52 $3,481.16
With 2 parents (no spouse or children) $2,266.52 $3,630.26

Added Amounts

Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $119.00 $136.00
Dependent status 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $153.00 $170.38

Basic Rates for Monthly Payments

Dependent status 30% disability rating 40% disability rating
Veteran with 1 child only (no spouse or parents) $504.39 $722.28
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $563.39 $801.28
With 1 child, spouse, and 1 parent $607.39 $860.28
With 1 child, spouse, and 2 parents $651.39 $919.28
With 1 child and 1 parent (no spouse) $548.39 $781.28
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $592.39 $840.28
Dependent status 50% disability rating 60% disability rating
Veteran with 1 child only (no spouse or parents) $1,020.44 $1,288.03
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $1,118.44 $1,407.03
With 1 child, spouse, and 1 parent $1,192.44 $1,496.03
With 1 child, spouse, and 2 parents $1,266.44 $1,585.03
With 1 child and 1 parent (no spouse) $1,094.44 $1,377.03
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $1,168.44 $1,466.03

Added Amounts

Dependent status 30% disability rating 40% disability rating
Each additional child under age 18 $27.00 $36.00
Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program $89.00 $119.00
Spouse receving Aid and Attendance $51.00 $68.00
Dependent status 50% disability rating 60% disability rating
Each additional child under age 18 $46.00 $55.00
Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program $149.00 $178.00
Spouse receving Aid and Attendance $86.00 $102.00

Basic rates for monthly payments

Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Veteran with child only (no spouse or parents) $1,615.95 $1,877.43
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $1,754.95 $2,035.43
With 1 child, spouse and 1 parent $1,858.95 $2,154.43
With 1 child, spouse and 2 parents $1,962.95 $2,273.43
With 1 child and 1 parent $1,719.95 $1,996.43
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $1,823.95 $2,115.43
Dependent status 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Veteran with child only (no spouse or parents) $2,109.52 $3,456.30
With 1 child and spouse (no parents) $2,287.52 $3,653.89
With 1 child, spouse and 1 parent $2,421.52 $3,802.99
With 1 child, spouse and 2 parents $2,555.52 $3,952.09
With 1 child and 1 parent $2,243.52 $3,605.40
With 1 child and 2 parents (no spouse) $2,377.52 $3,754.50
Dependent status 70% disability rating (in U.S. $) 80% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Each additional child under age 18 $64.00 $73.00
Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program $208.00 $238.00
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $119.00 $136.00
Dependent status 90% disability rating (in U.S. $) 100% disability rating (in U.S. $)
Each additional child under age 18 $83.00 $92.31
Each additional child over age 18 in a qualifying school program $268.00 $298.18
Spouse receiving Aid and Attendance $153.00 $170.38

VA Disability: How Much Will My Payment Be?

Fortunately it’s not very difficult to calculate your expected VA disability pay based on the rate tables presented here. The total amount of compensation is based on a combination of the veteran’s disability rating, marital status, and members of the household.

To calculate your disability payment, you will first need to find your basic rate based on your disability rating and the makeup of your household. Then, look at the Added Amounts table to determine whether you are eligible for additional VA disability pay for dependent children or because your spouse receives Aid and Attendance benefits.

For example, if you are a single veteran who is 90% disabled according to the federal VA, your monthly VA benefit payment will be $1,998.52. That’s the simple base pay rate for your disability if you live in your household alone. But if you also have a spouse, that pay rate changes to $2,165.52, while your monthly VA benefit would be $2,132.52 if you were single and responsible for a dependent parent.

If you are a disabled veteran rated at 40% disabled by the VA, and you have a spouse and a dependent child, you can expect your monthly VA disability pay to be $801.28. Add a second child, and that benefit amount changes to $837.28 – as the table shows, that’s an additional $36.00 for the second dependent child and any additional dependent children under age 18.

In a third scenario, if you are a disabled veteran rated at 70%, plus you have a spouse who receives Aid and Attendance benefits and a dependent child under 18, you can expect a total monthly benefit of $1,873.95. That’s the base pay rate of $1,754.95 for you, your spouse, your child, plus an additional $119.00 for your spouse receiving Aid and Attendance benefits.

What Does It Mean To Be 100% Disabled?

The 100% disability rating is what the VA uses to indicate that a veteran is considered totally disabled. In other words, the veteran is eligible for the highest level of disability compensation offered by the VA. As you might expect, the eligibility requirements for meeting this high threshold are stringent.

VA disability ratings are typically assigned at the regional level by rating officers known as Decision Review or High-Level Review officers, or by board members of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. To rate a veteran’s disability, reviewers use the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities – or VASRD.  That schedule stipulates that each disability reviewed will be assigned a specific diagnostic code and rated in increments of 10%, starting at 0%.

The VA first will consider the severity of a veteran’s injury or existing medical condition. To be considered 100% disabled, a veteran typically must show that the current medical condition is so severe and pervasive that it renders the veteran completely unable to work.

Please note that it’s possible to receive a 100% rating in a few different ways. For example, the veteran could be rendered 100% disabled as the result of one accident, injury, or medical condition. The veteran could also reach a 100% rating through the combined ratings of several service-connected disabilities. Either route will result in the same designation and the same monthly compensation amount.

It’s also important to note that the federal VA uses a special formula when calculating combined ratings.

Using the Combined Ratings Table, the highest rating of the most severe disability is read in the left column, and the rating of the second disability is found along the top row. The number in the space where the column and row converge is the combined rating of the two disabilities. 

If a veteran has more than two disabilities, the process simply repeats. Take the new combined rating and use the Combined Ratings Table to find the combined rating of the third disability. Repeat this process until all disabilities are accounted for and the combined rating is determined.

Ratings are always rounded to the nearest 90% – for example, 84% rounds down to 80%, but 85% rounds up to 90%. If a veteran’s combined rating for several disabilities nets out at 85%, the VA will compensate that veteran for having a 90% rating.

While 100% is the highest possible rating a veteran can receive from the VA, there are some special circumstances under which veterans may receive special compensation above the 100% compensation threshold. These circumstances may include Aid and Attendance benefits, which are awarded when the veteran needs the regular aid and attendance of a caregiver to carry out basic day-to-day tasks like bathing, dressing, preparing food, etc.

A veteran also may be awarded special compensation if they have lost the use of one or more limbs. For example, if a veteran must use a wheelchair or walker because they are unable to walk unaided, that veteran may be entitled to monthly compensation above the amount stipulated for a 100% disability.

In most cases, VA disability ratings are not considered permanent and sometimes may change if a veteran’s medical condition worsens or improves. However, in some cases, the VA may rate some disabilities as 100% and permanent, meaning that the veteran no longer must attend regular physical exams and the veteran’s monthly compensation will never decrease.

100% Temporarily Disabled

Veterans can also receive a rating of 100% temporarily disabled, which usually happens in cases of temporary hospitalization or convalescence. It can also occur in cases of prestabilization, which is when a veteran is discharged from active duty military service with a serious medical condition that has yet to stabilize. In these cases, veterans will receive VA compensation consistent with a 100% VA disability rating until their condition changes.

In addition, veterans may receive a 100% disability rating if discharged for a service-related diagnosis of cancer. This designation typically remains in place for six months after a completed successful treatment regimen.

What Does It Mean To Be 0% Disabled?

If the VA awards a veteran a 0% VA disability rating, that means the VA has determined that the current medical condition or disability brings few lifestyle limitations that do not warrant disability compensation.

A 0% rating is considered a non-compensable VA rating. This means the veteran will not receive a monthly disability compensation amount but may be eligible for other benefits including VA health benefits, dental care, vision care, life insurance, and travel pay reimbursement.

While a 0% disability rating may literally sound like nothing, it actually carries substantial merit. By assigning a 0% rating, the VA is acknowledging that it is a service-connected disability – it’s just not severe enough for compensation. If the condition worsens in the future, the service connection is already established. This can make the process of filing a claim for an increased rating much easier down the road.

Veterans who receive a 0% VA disability rating are entitled to several benefits. For example, the veteran may receive treatment in VA health care facilities at no cost, since only non-service connected conditions require a copay. In addition, veterans with 0% disability ratings still receive higher priority for VA health care eligibility.

If, over time, the nature and/or severity of a medical condition changes, a veteran always has the option to file a disability claim for an upgraded rating. The VA may increase the rating if changes to the condition are severe enough. In the event of an unfavorable decision, the veteran can file an appeal.


Additional benefits may be available if the veteran has two or more disabilities that are all rated at 0%. If a veteran can convince the VA that these disabilities make it difficult to work, the VA may elect to assign a total VA disability rating of 10%. This usually happens when the veteran has multiple 0% ratings for disabilities and no other rated disabilities. The veteran must be able to show that work is difficult because of the military service-connected disabilities in question.

The most important thing to remember about a 0% VA disability rating is not to lose heart – the VA has acknowledged that your disability is service-connected. You can provide updated medical evidence and request a rating increase if your medical condition has worsened over time.

What Is the Cost of Living Adjustment?

The COLA – or the Cost of Living Adjustment – is the periodic review and adjustment that ensures veterans’ disability benefits are not diminished by the effects of inflation. The VA is required by law to match the percentage of cost-of-living adjustments that are periodically made to Social Security benefits. These adjustments help to make sure that the purchasing power of disability benefits for veterans keeps up with inflation.

For 2022, VA disability compensation rates reflect a 5.9% cost-of-living increase based on the Social Security Administration’s 2022 COLA. The U.S. Congress passed legislation in early October of 2021 to increase veterans’ disability compensation in correlation with the Social Security COLA, as required by law.

VA Disability Rates for 2022

Programs like VA education benefits, VA health care, and VA disability compensation represent a vital benefit and sense of financial security for many U.S. veterans. If you are currently receiving VA disability benefits, it’s important to understand how compensation rates have changed in 2022.  Be sure you continue to receive the correct amount of VA compensation you have earned through your years of active-duty military service. Stay up-to-date on the latest VA disability compensation rates and how they affect your monthly VA compensation. Calculate your 2022 VA disability payments today.