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Service Connected Compensation Benefits Part 1

Much like social security disability benefits, Compensation benefits are considered to be “earned”, meaning that the amount of assets or other income that the veteran has does not have any effect on eligibility for compensation benefits.   The fundamental need for a successful compensation claim is the development of some injury, and the linking of that injury to an event that occurred during the veteran’s active duty service.   If a veteran is on active duty, then they are considered to be on active duty 24 hours a day during that period, even if the injury occurs while not “at work.”   If the veteran injured his knee during a pickup basketball game with his friends, that injury is service connected.[1]   For many veterans, their injuries may not significantly present themselves for many years after service has ended.   This greatly increases the difficulty for the veteran to have a successful claim because they have the burden to establish that the injury occurred during active duty.  For instance, if the veteran who injured his knee during the basketball game never sought treatment for the injury at that time, but later had complications from the untreated knee injury, he would have to prove that the injury occurred during the basketball game, which would require substantiation of the injury from others (who the veteran may not remember their names, or even if he/she does, haven’t contacted those people for 10+ years, and even if they were in contact, will the others remember?).    For veteran’s claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which commonly is unreported initially, particular for WWII, Korea, and Vietnam veterans), they have to be able to identify a “stressor”, or the specific event that caused the traumatic stress.   For someone who is already suffering from these symptoms, recalling specific dates and places,  may be very difficult.    Linking injuries back to active duty service was for many decades a very challenging issue for Vietnam veterans who were claiming exposure to Agent Orange because they had to prove when and where they encountered Agent Orange.   This will be discussed in more detail later, but thousands of claims are now being revisited because of an initial inability to effectively link injuries back to a specific event during active service.

Once the injury is linked to an active duty event, the next hurdle is figuring out how disabling the injury is at this point in time.   This portion is referred to as the rating decision, and is a percentage from 0-100% disabling.   The more disabled the veteran is, the higher amounts of monthly compensation they will receive.   For 2019, the amount of compensation is as follows:[2]

Percentage Single Veteran Married Veteran
10% $140 $140
20% $277 $277
30% $429 $480
40% $618 $686
50% $879 $964
60% $1,114 $1,216
70% $1,404 $1,523
80% $1,632 $1,987
90% $1,749 $1,895
100% $3,057 $3,228

[1] 38 CFR 3.303