Veterans disability benefits are an invaluable part of helping service members return to civilian life while adjusting to life with service-related disabilities.
As a result, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) handles multiple programs for veterans with such disabilities. This aid includes basic financial assistance, life insurance policies, home adaptation assistance and employment support.
Eligibility for VA benefits is based on several requirements, including the type and level of disability. Injuries and diseases obtained during active or inactive duty, as well as related conditions that occur after discharge, can make a veteran eligible for benefits.
In order to apply for any programs, veterans must submit to an evaluation and receive a disability rating. Moreover, a different application is required for each program. Veterans can learn about the different services available to help with their disabilities below.
The most common assistance offered to disabled veterans is compensation. The VA offers tax-free disability compensation each month to veterans, for injuries and diseases attained during military service or training. These benefits also extend to eligible disabilities that arise after service. In order to receive compensation, the veteran must undergo examination by a certified VA doctor and receive a disability rating. This rating determines the level of compensation and is also used to apply for other VA assistance programs and benefits.
Additional veterans benefits may be offered to qualifying applicants. For example, special monthly compensation (SMC) is paid to veterans in need of additional aid due to special circumstances. In many cases, this aid is offered to veterans who have lost use of a leg or hand, or otherwise need extra assistance. SMC is generally used to cover the costs of a nurse or attendant, as needed. The amount of SMC collected is based on the level of attendance the veteran or family requires. Veterans with dependents can also receive additional VA payments.
The VA offers benefits to those who qualify based on special claims as well. Special claims allow veterans with lower VA disability rates to temporarily receive 100 percent disability compensation, or an allowance for specific needs. Examples of situations that warrant special claims include the following:
In addition to compensation, the VA also runs several programs to help veterans with disabilities gain employment after service. The Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) program supports re-acclimation to the workforce for service members and veterans. This initiative provides resources such as job training, resume building and skills development. Veterans can access valuable career counseling services and even get support for starting a small business. Eligibility is based on a disability rating of 10 percent or higher, and generally lasts for 12 years after service ends or after a disability rating is received.
VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) is another veterans assistance program, helps veterans enroll in post-secondary education. Through the VSOC program, rehabilitation counselors work with veterans while they attend college courses. These counselors organize disability accommodations on campus, assist with accessing GI benefits and provide general support.
Independent Living assistance is available when a veteran’s disability temporarily renders him or her unable to work or attend school. The aim of the program is to provide additional support to veterans who want to pursue employment goals. Assistance is generally available for a maximum of 24 months, and is personalized on a case-by-case basis.
Accessibility often becomes an issue for veterans who return home with disabilities. In response to this, the federal government created programs to help veterans and their families make housing adjustments. For example, obtaining a VA loan allows veterans to purchase a new home that meets their needs. This type of loan is obtained from a private lender, but is partially guaranteed by the VA to ensure a low interest rate.
Grants for adapted housing are also available through Veterans Affairs. The Special Housing Adaptation (SAH) grant helps veterans make modifications to their home to support their disability. An SAH grant is most commonly used to fund the installation of devices like:
Veterans can also use a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant to build a new home with the necessary accommodations. Similarly, the Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology Grant (SAHAT) gives veterans access to some the latest developments in technology for their homes. Additional veterans assistance programs for housing are often available at the state level as well.
Medical benefits are available to disabled veterans who want additional protection for their families. The government offers several life insurance options to service members at a low cost. While some are limited to active duty, two VA life insurance policies in particular are geared towards veterans with disabilities. The Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI) policy is available to those who were given any disability rating within the last two years. Veterans who are rendered 100 percent disabled are eligible for free S-DVI coverage in addition to other life insurance.
Veterans receiving VA benefits under the SAH grant program are also eligible for the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) policy. The VMLI offers protection of up to $200,000, which decreases gradually with the mortgage balance. Applicants must apply before they are 70 years of age and have a title and mortgage on the home to qualify.
To qualify for any disability benefits, veterans are required to meet certain conditions, and each program has its own specifications for enrollment. A veteran must receive discharge under honorable or non-dishonorable circumstances to qualify for assistance benefits. It is also necessary that the veteran meets the minimum VA disability rate outlined by the specific program. In order to do so, a VA physician must complete an evaluation and assign a disability rating between zero and 100 percent. Once this is done, applicants must submit an application to the VA for each desired program.
Once applicants obtain or are in the process of obtaining a disability rating, the application process is simple. The easiest way to apply for these programs is online through the Veterans Affairs benefits portal. However, veterans can also submit applications by mail, fax or in person at a VA regional office. The applications for each VA benefits program are available for download on the VA website. Applicants must provide certain information on the applications, including but not limited to the following: