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Who qualifies as a disabled veteran?

Some veterans who become disabled can receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. What are the criteria?

ANAHEIM HILLS, CA - November 30: The U.S. Army Southern California Recruiting Battalion presents the colors during a flag raising ceremony at a proposed cemetery site in Anaheim Hills, CA on Wednesday, November 30, 2022. The site is at Gypsum Canyon Road and the 91 freeway. (Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty ImagesGetty

For veterans injured during combat, or in civilian life, to the point that they become permanently disabled, benefits may be available.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs provides financial compensation or may be able to increase access to much-needed healthcare. The VA will make payments to veterans and their dependents who qualify based on the criteria described below.

Who is eligible to receive benefits through the VA?

There are two sets of requirements that must be met to receive benefits through the VA.

The first is that the patient must have a “current illness or injury (known as a condition) that affects your mind or body,” and the second is that they have to have “served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.”

If both of the above requirements are met, one of the following characteristics must also be “true:”

  • Inservice Disability Claim: a service member became ill or got injured while serving, and their claim relates to this illness or injury;
  • Preservice Disability Claim: a service member had an illness or injury before joining that was made worse during service;
  • Post-Service Disability Claim: a service member that developed an illness or injury after serving that is “related to your active-duty service.”

What types of conditions qualify?

Not all illnesses and types of injuries are considered a condition that would make a veteran eligible for benefits. The list is quite short, considering the diverse mental and physical issues service members deal with in the US.

To see if you qualify, you can use this tool developed by the VA, which will ask you a series of questions to determine eligibility.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Chronic back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
  • Severe hearing loss
  • Scar tissue
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Ulcers
  • Cancers caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other dangers

Mental Ilnesses for which support pay be available: 

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Source: Department of Veterans Affaris 

What conditions were added under the PACT Act?

Coverage for those exposed to toxic burn pits overseas was only recently added after years of veterans expressing concern that their cancer or other breathing issue was related to their service. The PACT Act, passed by Congress earlier this fall, expands coverage to veterans exposed to burn pits and Agent Orange and the list of conditions related to exposure to these and “other toxic substances.” While, for many conditions, veterans must “prove that your service caused your condition,” that is not the case for the conditions listed under the PACT Act.

Instead, veterans presenting with these newly added conditions “automatically assume[d],” to have been caused by one’s service. The list of conditions includes many types of cancer, including brain, kidney, pancreatic and other illnesses like chronic bronchitis, Pulmonary fibrosis, and around a dozen others.

If you think you may qualify for disability benefits, you can apply online.