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Eligibility and Benefits Compensation Criteria

Eligibility and Benefits Compensation Criteria

To be eligible for disability compensation benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA):

  1. You must be a veteran of the United States military.
  2. You must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
  3. You must have a disability that is service-connected.

1. You must be a veteran of the United States Military

The Veterans Administration supports American veterans and their families by providing a wide range of programs and services. Disability compensation is given only to deserving veterans who are disabled by injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated by active military service. It is also paid to veterans who become disabled from negligent VA health care or injury resulting from the pursuit of training under vocational rehabilitation.

2. You must have been honorably discharged from military service

A veteran must have served under conditions characterized as “other than dishonorable” to be eligible for VA benefits.  A serious departure from the conduct performance expected of all military members brings discredit upon the service and would, therefore, disqualify that person from receiving benefits from the VA.

3. You must have a disability that is service-connected

Service connection generally means that a chronic disability arose coincidental with military service. It is important to establish that your injury or illness is service-connected to qualify for disability compensation. The following categories identify service-connected disability:

  1. Direct – The onset of disability is directly related to military service. Example: Complications from a gunshot wound to the left thigh.
  2. Secondary – A current disability caused by or aggravated by another service-connected disability. Example: Right knee problems from compensating for an altered gait because of the left-thigh gunshot wound.
  3. Aggravated – A chronic disability diagnosed prior to military service is aggravated beyond normal progression during military service. Example: A right-knee disability from high school football was aggravated by a parachute jump.
  4. Presumptive – A chronic disability that is related to some exposure during military service. Example: Diabetes mellitus type II related to exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
  5. Paired Organ – A veteran has loss of use of one extremity or organ (i.e. kidney) due to service- connected disability and later develops loss of use of the other extremity organ.
  6. VA Medical Negligence – A disability that occurred while a veteran was undergoing VA health care.
  7. Injury Resulting from VA Vocational Training – Injury that occurred while pursuing a vocational training plan with the VA.

Wartime Service-Connected Disabilities

There are service-connected disabilities that relate to specific war periods.
World War II:  Exposure to radiation was common due to the extensive experimentation and nuclear testing of the Atomic Bomb. Diseases such as Leukemia, Lymphomas, Multiple Myeloma and Cancers could later manifest in veterans who were exposed to radiation at that time.

Korean War:  Veterans who fought in the Korean War may have experienced cold-weather injuries and, later on, residual effects of frostbite.

Vietnam:  Exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide used to kill off dense plant life caused multiple conditions in veterans of that war. Twelve specific illnesses have been identified as service-connected disabilities.

Persian Gulf War and OEF/OIF:  Veterans have experienced chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed or unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses such as joint pain, fatigue, mental problems and headaches of unknown etiology.

Compensation is Based on Degree of Disability

Your compensation is based on a rating system that determines the extent, or degree, of disability.

  • The range of disability starts at 0 percent up to 100 percent disabled.
  • Each disability found to be service-connected is assigned a percentage rating based on its specific level of impairment.
  • If there is more than one disability, the percentages are combined to determine the total rating.

The amount of compensation is based on this combined rating percentage and is adjusted annually.

Here is an example of the monthly benefits a veteran with no dependents may receive based on level of disability (source: 2009 VA Compensation Pay Chart):

10% = $123          60% =$974

20% = $243          70% = $1,228

30% = $376          80% = $1,427

40% =$541           90% = $1,604

50% = $770          100% = $2,673

Conditions Identified as Service-Connected

For a comprehensive list of war-related health conditions that the Veterans Administration has identified as service-connected, please refer to the “Wartime Veterans” tab or the “Your Condition” tab located on the homepage of this Web site.

Apply for Benefits with an Alpha Advocate – Vets Helping Vets

If you do not receive a fully favorable decision from the VA, or you disagree with the percentage given to your disability, we can help you appeal for more.

It can take months, in many cases, years, for the VA to grant benefits. If you think you have a service-connected disability, or need help to prove that you do, the Alpha team is ready to help you.

Contact us to get started on your claim.

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.


60 comments to “Eligibility and Benefits Compensation Criteria”

  • christopher norwood, October 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    would like to know process for getting medicl records from the VA for all service connected injuries and illnesses.

  • Allen Gumpenberger - Alpha Veterans Disability Advocate, October 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Your service medical records would be kept in your claims folder, which is housed at the VA regional office. You need only to submit a statement, as required in the privacy act, to request that a copy of these records be sent to you. If you are having trouble gaining a copy of your records, your situation may vary from the norm and would require a little creative investigating. You can visit your local VA regional office to make a request for your records. If you feel that you are getting the run around, you might need to engage the services of a veterans advocate to assist you.

  • eddie b, December 23, 2010 at 7:38 am

    i just got the rating of 100% disabled….ok, i get the money and the medical but what other benefits am i entitled too?

    can i go back to college? any things available for mortgage if i buy a home? things like that?

  • Allen Gumpenberger, December 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    You can get Long term health benefits like nursing home care, Vocational Rehabilitation to include an independent living program, home loan guarantee certificates, and may other benefits.

    I recommend that you spend some time on your own to learn more about VA programs by reading Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents, a booklet published annually by the VA. This booklet is available online at: http://www1.va.gov/OPA/publications/benefits_book.asp. You may also have some local and state benefits. I encourage you to visit your state’s VA website to learn what may be offered locally.

  • Linda Hammer, January 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

    My husband has a severe hearing loss and has constant back pain. He was a medic during vietnam. He was exposed to loud noises and heavy lifting.

    The VA is helping with hearing aids.

    He applied for VA disability benefits and was denied. Should he reapply?


  • Alpha, January 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

    If your husband’s hearing loss can be established as caused by his military service, he should get compensated. An Alpha advocate can certainly help your husband. If interested in reapplying please use the online form on this page to contact us or call 877.611.7724.

  • Darryl Westbrooks, February 3, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I was discharged from US Army with a P-3 profile on my left knee resulting from duty as a Paratrooper ( Airborne). This P# was placed on me at Walter Reed Hospital. My Knees ( both of them now ) are in bad shape. I also had ankle surgery at the VA Hospital in Memphis, TN. having screws placed in right ankle. I now have a broken screw ( since Jan, 2005) in my right ankle. Will these injuries make me eligeable for per cent based disability ?

  • Alpha, February 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    It certainly sounds like you would be eligible for VA compensation benefits. And we can certainly help you with your claim. If interested, call or submit your information through the online form on this page and an advocate will contact you.

  • john l. williams, February 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    i am a ex paratrooper i;ve had two kee surgeries on my left knee.i have file a v.a. claim on my knees shoulder etc. the v.a. ex-rays also showed an l2-in my back dislocated. will i be able to get v.a. benefits?

  • Alpha, February 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

    It sounds like you are eligible for VA benefits. The challenge with these types of cases is proving that the current disability is related to the in-service trauma of paratrooping.

  • wiprguy, February 27, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I was recently awarded full VA disability for a service-related injury, and declared unemployable. I made a claim for SSD at about the same time, and was denied at the first stage. I have filed an appeal, and also forwarded the disability award letter amd details to SSA. Does my VA award determination help my SSD claim?

  • Alpha, February 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm


    Social Security follows very different eligiblity criteria for disability benefits than the VA. Your VA disability award will have no bearing on your SSD case. Also, the SSA approval process is very difficult. If you’re handling your case on your own, you may want to consider getting the help of our sister company, Freedom Disability. They are a Social Security disabilty advocacy group that helps people win SSD claims. Also, please see our video about VA and SSD benefits.

  • Jim, March 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I am a Viet Nam Vet. I am already rated at the 80% level…70% PTSD, 20% diabetes, 10% right neuropathy, 10% left neuropathy and a K award for ED. I have had a claim for Kidney Disease for over a year. I went for my test and I was expecting a decision to put me over 100% total disability. Now, In January, I came down with Leukemia. My VA rep filed the claim for Leukemia for me and said that would be an additional 100% single rating. But he also said that since they had not made a decision on my kidney disease that the VA would lump both illnesses together and that they would be dated as of this past January. He said that it was a new ruling that any subsequent claims would be lumped with the latest date. That hardly seems fair. Also, I was told that I would get Aid and Attendance at the S rating, but I see where there are higher ratings such as L or R. Do you know what SMC award is usually given for my condition? Thanks for your imput.

  • Allen, Veterans Disability Advocate, March 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    From the information you gave me, it sounds like your VA rep is on the right track, assuming that the decisions are favorable.

    The Special Monthly Compensation rates above the statutory housebound “S” for 100 plus 60 are generally reserved for veterans who suffer service-connected loss or use of two or more extremeties, or suffered blindness or complete bilateral deafness. There is the Aid and Attendance rate of “L”, which you might consider given the severity of your conditions.

    Considering your overall health situation, we recommend that you talk with your rep about a strategy to get you the highest level of compensation possible and to include any potential for SMC awards as quickly as possible. You should also see if your rep can expedite your case once all evidence is gathered. This is what we would want to do for you.

    If you think you could use our help, please contact us.

  • louis gulkis, April 19, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I am at 30 percent service connented. I also have non combat ptsd and anxiety depression high blood pressure can not work due these things and stress. I have 3 s.s.a claims ongoing and appeal at the va I need help very much.can we talk. I am at the end of my rope. Thank you and bless you for understanding. Signed louis gulkis.

  • Alpha, April 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

    We will try to contact you. Or, you can call us at 877.611.7724. We’d like to help if we can.

  • John R. Doti, April 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I am a 63 year old Vietnam veteran. I was recently awarded a 10% disability for IHD and a 10% disability for CHLORACNE. January and March 2011 respectively.
    Back in June of 1984 I put in a claim for chloracne and was denied. Then in January of 1985 I re-opened the claim for chloracne again, and was denied again. At that time, in either claim, I was never affored a C&P exam, no one in the VA ever looked at me.
    I have just retrieved records from a dermatoligist I saw just one month from being discharged from Vietman. He reported that I had cystic acne of the face, neck,back, and chest. THe VA in the denials of 1984 & 1985 said there were no records showing acne. Even though it’s been 41 years from discharge, at that physical at Fort Lewis, Washington, I remember telling the doctor of my concern of all the pus filled pimples I had. I think he said it was tropical acne and that it would go away. I still had it for years! In 1984 & 1985 I was reading about the effects of Agent Orange and what it could do. Thats why I filed then. Oh, by the way I also found the copy of the VA form 21-4142 signed by me on May 25, 1984( authorization for release of information) to the dematoligist that records were sent to VA.
    Was I wrongfully denied back 27 years ago, and do you think I am entitled to back compensation?
    John R. Doti

  • Alpha, April 25, 2011 at 9:01 am

    With the fact you provided it seems like you were wrongfully denied. The fact that your condition manifested within a year is key.

  • Ana, May 27, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I served in the military and had two cyst removed from my breast while serving active duty. I had pain constantly following that surgery. I was told by the medical staff that it was the regrowth of tissue this was in 1997. The pain has been ongoing and it still happens. I filed for compensation in 2000 but was denied. I still have pain only in that one breast I had the cyst removed. I assumed over the years there was nothing I could do but take pain killers. The cyst were benign and I wish I would never have gotten the surgery. Is it possible after all this time to reapply and get compensation.

  • Alpha, May 27, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Yes, it is possible to reapply. You need to prepare a written statement requesting compenation for the status “post cyst removal with residual pain” and send it to your local VA regional office. The written statement can be a simple letter. No official form is required.

  • Charlie Ants, June 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    My father served in the military. When he passed away he was receiving disability benefits which transferred to my mother. My mother remarried for several years and kept my father’s last name. She is now divorced and continues to receive my father’s disability benefits. My question is once she remarried, was she entitled to my father’s benefits?

  • Alpha, June 15, 2011 at 9:39 am

    If your mother did not remarry before she turned 57 years old, she would be entitled to DIC benefits. The Surving Spouses section of this Web site provides more information.

  • Stacey, June 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

    My father just recently passed away from cancer. He had served in the Korean War. He was also diagnosed with crohns disease almost 50 years ago and suffered almost his entire life then was diagnosed with prostate cancer 8 years ago. He never received any disability from the military for his crohns or even thought about doing so which upset us quit a bit. Although, when he was diagnosed with the cancer he did use the VA hospital and received many wonderful treatments and service from there. He also was buried at the National cemetary.
    Is my mother able to file any paper work for some benefits at this time if my father never did or, is it too late since my dad did nothing about his crohns disease?
    Also, would she be able to collect benefits if she is getting a small portion of his social security?
    Thank you for your help!

  • Alpha, June 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Sorry for your loss. It’s unfortunate that your dad never filed for Chrohn’s disease. In order to eligible for dependency indemnity compensation (DIC), your mother would need supporting evidence. For entitlement to DIC, the veteran’s death must be related to his military service. From what you say, it appears that his cancer is not related to military service, but you imply that it could have been. To be service-connected the onset had to occur while your father was in the military. But also, it would have to be established that it contributed to his death.

    Your mom may also be eligible for the death pension if she has little or no income. Her Social Security benefit would affect the amount of this pension benefit, but not DIC, which is an additional benefit. She can apply for both benefits directly with the VA by calling 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting the nearest VA regional office.

  • Glenn, June 27, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I had intense fear of dangerous loud noise from fighter jet engines. At close proximity at peak levels the noise exceeded the ability of the required protection devices. I had nightmares and headaches from the exposure. I dreamed I lost my hearing. I dreaded how this behavior would be presented to others,so I didn’t disclose it. I isolated myself on the job so to avoid this loud noise. I recieved unfavorable report because of my declining duty performance. I still suffered from the anxiety and depression from the experience. Can I apply for compensation?

  • Alpha, June 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    A veteran has the right to claim any disabiity that he or she feels is related to some event or had its onset while on active duty. So, yes, you can apply for compensation. Contact us if you’d like help.

  • Robert Baas (Soarky), June 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    While I served in the Navy onboard the Kitty Hawk during the first Gulf War. We were there for operation Southern Watch during WESPAC ’92-’93. After my discharge in 1994, I was diagnosed with hyperthyrionism in Oct.1994, by a civilan doctor then I went to the VA for treatment. Then in Dec. 2006 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, by a VA doctor. In 2008 I was released from job as an electrician, indirectly related to my PD. since then I applied anf received SSDI and have applied for VA Disability Comp., I believe I was denied once and since then I have re-applied for Disability Comp. Do you think I have a chance to receive comp. benefits?

  • Alpha, July 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Given you PD was diagnosed 2 yrs after discharge, it appears unlikely that service connection would be warranted for this condition. However, if a review of your medical records during military service finds sufficient information for a medical opinion that the PD could have originated while on active duty, you have potential in getting this condition service connected.

  • Manuel, July 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. My last duty station was in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I served in the Infantry with the 6 Marines from 1978 until 1979. I have chronic hepatitis C and dermatophytosis of groin and perianal area. I also have tinnitus. Also have moderate PTSD symptoms and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I would like to know if I am entitled to veteran disability benefits.

  • Alpha, July 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Please call in to talk to an Alpha advocate at 877.611.7724. Your symptoms could be found connected to military service but we need to find out more to properly guide you as to whether you are entitled to benefits.

  • Linda, July 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I have several questions. (Q1) The VA does not have the temporary active duty time (6/6/88 – 4/2/89) I served in the Naval Reserve in their records. How do I go about getting this time documented and, how do I know if this time will count for disability compensation? (Q2) I filed a claim for gastroentoritis and I provided an exit physical, for the dates noted above, stating that I have stomach problems. VA denied my claim. I sent them a NOD but included it on the from with my Form 9, which included other claim issues. VA did not review the Form 9 until 1-1/2 years later and said they did not accept that NOD because it was not one of the issues that was on appeal. Now, I learned that I have to request that my appeal for the Gastroenteritis be reopened and provide new an material evidence. (Q3) Is there any other options available to pursue this claim? (Q4) One last question, I read your page and it stated “Injury resulting from VA Vocational Training” as a category to identify service-connected disability. Can you elaborate more on this category as I got my degree through voc rehab.


  • Brandon Parker, September 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    i was separated from the army in 2001 with a ch 13 discharge, i was diagnosed with bipolar and depression while in service. i had no prior diagnosis of either illness. does this qualify as service related?

  • Alpha, September 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    It’s possible that your condition could qualify you for bernefits if its onset occurred while on active duty. Even if your condition existed prior to service, though undiagnosed, you could get benefits if it was determined that your military experiences aggravated the condition. If you want to explore this further with an Alpha advocate, please call us at 877-611-7724.

  • Cindy Hatcher, September 20, 2011 at 11:29 am

    my husband just received 100% disability for agent orange related ischemic heart disease. how will his USN retirement check be impacted? He will receive $2600.00 per month is disability compensation. Also how will this impct his social security?

  • Alpha, September 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Your husband’s VA compensation does not impact other income sources.

  • miriam williamsyour country, September 26, 2011 at 11:31 am

    im a veteran trying to get service connected with no results. they keep saying that there is nothing showing my service connected availability.i think is unfair to serve your country to be treated this way

  • Alpha, September 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Perhaps you should call in to talk to an Alpha advocate. Our job is to help veterans get the compensation they deserve. Perhaps we can help you.

  • andy, September 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    question..i met a guy at the va hospital. he said he is 100% connected but didn’t serve in vietnam . said he was vietnam era. is this possiblt a non-combat soldier can recieve benfits that are awarded to combat veterans in country??????

  • Alpha, September 27, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Yes, rules have changed for Vietnam era veterans and it has been a long battle for many of them to prove the Agent Orange presumptive connection to their illnesses. The veteran you met may have served in Thailand during the Vietnam War, or he may have been a Blue Water Vietnam veteran. Please read our articles concerning Vietnam era veterans. “Agent Orange Use on Thailand Bases Supports Veterans Disability Claims” and “VA Rules that Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Must Prove Agent Orange Exposure.”

  • Steve, January 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    What percentage is sleep abnea and gull bladder removal?

  • Alpha, January 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm


    Sleep Apnea can be evaluated from 0% to 50%. A 50% evaluation is warranted for Sleep Apnea where a CPAP is required. Gull Bladder removal evaluation is based upon the residual effects and impairment of the removal. The scar can be evaluated separately, when it is painful and tender upon palpation.

  • jack, January 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I have filed for the second time for agent orange nam 1967 i have diebetes
    neuropathy tinnitus, hi blood pressure, and all that stuff. va is saying they are paying claim starting in 60 days have u heard that or is that faults hopes again Im totally disable and have been for 10 year from being able to work whats u think,

  • Alpha, January 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm


    We recommend you calling Alpha at 1-877-611-7724 and speaking to one of our advocates. We will do our best to get the most you are entitled.

  • Adam, January 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    I have Crohn’s Disease and have been told I may be eligible for compensation. My first flare up occurred while I was in the Navy. I lost a lot of weight and was in severe pain. I went to medical and they said that it was most likely heart burn and gave me some antacids and sent me on my way. I knew it wasn’t heartburn because I had experienced it before. After a few weeks the flair up subsided and I thought nothing of it. I separated in 2001 and had no additional issues with it. That is until 2004 when I had another flair up, and went through a serious weight loss. I went to the doctor and after several tests they diagnosed me with Crohn’s disease and I had to have surgury to remove the diseased portion of my small bowel. Currently I get care from the VA hospital and have had a couple of additional surgeries. I was wondering since my first symptoms were experienced while I was serving if this would be considered service related or not. Thanks for your time.

  • Alpha, January 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm


    Great question…the short answer to your question is “yes” if the symptoms experienced during military service are determined to be the early manifestations of the disease. It has to be based on more than mere conjecture. While I’m certain you feel it was the onset, it has to be concluded based upon accepted medical principles and credible medical opinions that in hindsight, the symptoms experienced while on active duty were as least as likely as not the onset of Crohn’s disease. If you’ve been denied within the last year, you should call and arrange an appointment with one of our advocates.

  • Bob, January 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I am 57 year old veteran, currently unable to work due to peripheral neuropathy resulting from a car accident after I got out of the military. The VA investigated my condition around 2004 following my complaints of chronic pain, but never developed any treatment plan for me. As my condition deteriorated I ended up having to yield to outside (not VA) pain management, which I was on for 5 years before returning to the VA for treatment because I could no longer afford it. As my life is now dominated by constant, never-ending pain, I feel I need to apply for social security disablility. As my medical history for my condition is spread across several years and different VA doctors, and as I feel that I met a constant resistance from the VA for any medical help, I am concerned that I will not get the cooperation or the documentation that I need to pursue a successful claim with the SSA. Is there anyone who I can turn to for help with this? (Sorry that this is such a long question.)

  • Alpha, January 31, 2012 at 11:40 am


    I encourage you to call our sister company Freedom Disability to see if you qualify for SSDI benefits. Freedom Disability are the experts and take a compassionate approach to help potentially eligible individuals. They can be reached at 866-761-5942. Good luck.

  • Dennis, February 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I’m 26 years old and served 2 tours in Afghanistan a 15 month tour with 173rd and recently my last 12 month tour with 82nd. I was an Airborne infantry and saw combat on multiple occasions. I broke my foot twice while in the army and I have applied for PTSD, mtbi, bi-lateral hearing loss, tinnitus, head-aches and sleep disorder. All my claims have medical evidence and i’m just about to finish my last appointment. I was just curious to see what type of rating I would be looking at. I don’t want 100% because i would still like to hold a job and not be bored to death.

  • Alpha, February 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm


    Without having intimate knowledge of your case, it would be mere speculation for me to answer your question, as your disabilities are rated against a criteria governed by the symptomatology of each condition.

    Please note, a rating is only assigned if the VA finds the condition service connected. When a condition is assigned a rating, that rating is combined (not added) to any other disability with a rating for an overall combined rating.
    The most common ratings for PTSD are 30 or 50 percent, but can range from 0 to 100%. Tinnitus, if granted is rated at 10%. Hearing loss is usually 0% unless it’s profound and range up to 100%. Except for Sleep Apnea, general sleeping problems are generally considered part of the symptomatology for PTSD. Ratings for headaches range from 0% to 50% depending on how severe and frequent they are.

    Finally, just because a veteran has a 100% combined rating or higher, doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is prohibited from working. For example, a veteran who is service connected for amputation of both legs below the knee would be rated higher than 100% though he is perfectly capable of engaging and maintaining employment.

  • Darren, February 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

    My father died in the early 70’s while serving in the Army my question is was i or am i qualify to get any kind of benefits from the government and if i do how do i claim my father’s benefits owed to me. Thank you Alpha Team for your help.