What Disabilities Qualify for VA Benefits?
Learning about disabilities and what disabilities qualify for VA benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 25% of Americans are at least partially disabled under specific criteria. A significant number of these disabilities apply to veterans and are related to their time in service. If that is the case, substantial VA Benefits may be available. The financial benefits do not change the fact that the veteran has been disabled. But these benefits make it much easier for these veterans and their families to live their lives.
The VA recently overhauled the disability appeals system. Many claims for disability compensation are initially denied and only granted after a lengthy appeals process. In fact, the biggest changes to the system apply to the appeals process itself. An experienced VA disability attorney should navigate appeals due to the complexity, even under the new program.
Currently, a VA disability attorney has several options. In some cases, an attorney may select the quick review option, which normally only takes a few weeks. There are some instances where one piece of information was missing or the claims examiner clearly overlooked something, that might be enough to obtain maximum benefits. In other cases, a full appeal before an Administrative Law Judge is necessary. Other in-between options are available as well. At both initial reviews and during appeals, the same three basic disability criteria apply:
- Activity Restriction
- Participation Limitation
A claimant must satisfy all three conditions before the VA will consider them disabled. The VA adopts these criteria under its own regulations.
Usually, impairment means a total or partial loss of use. The complete loss of a body part, even something as small as a pinky toe, meets this part of the disability definition. Sometimes, a part of the body, usually a sensory organ, is so damaged that it no longer functions properly, even with medication and/or therapy.
Different government agencies that grant disability benefits look at impairment differently. For Social Security purposes, the impairment must usually be almost complete. According to the Social Security Administration, people are either disabled or they are not. VA disability is different. Usually, an examiner facilitating a compensation and pension (C&P) examination rates a veteran’s disability from 0% to 100%. Anything over 0% is compensable at increasing levels correlating to the ratings. Even a 10% rating could make a big difference to a veteran or their family trying to make ends meet.
Not every impairment is permanent, however. New drugs and medical devices are being developed constantly. If a veteran’s level of impairment could improve from one of these advances, the VA could propose to reduce their rating and thus reduce the amount of compensation they receive. If a rating reduction occurs, it is only effective moving forward — the veteran will not owe retroactive payments to the VA except in unique circumstances.
If you have an impairment — essentially, something abnormal about your body — is that enough to be considered disabled? No.
An impairment alone is not enough. The impairment must limit daily activity. We mentioned the pinky toe above. A pinky toe which is permanently deformed and useless may not limit daily activity at all if it doesn’t impact the individual’s ability to walk. Therefore, even though there is technically an impairment, the impairment is not functionally a disability because it does not have a disabling effect on the patient.
Furthermore, there must be a connection between the impairment and the activity limitation.
Typically, a VA disability lawyer must establish this connection.For example, if a veteran sustained a documented brain injury in active service, the VA would consider them impaired. If that veteran has short-term memory issues as a result of the brain injury, the VA considers the service connection as established and the first two criteria of a disability are met.
The third criterion is that the impairment prevents the patient from fully participating in daily life in a way they would have without the impairment. For example, assume a veteran developed a spine condition after being struck by a bullet. Now, the veteran has problems sitting for long periods of time. If the veteran is a truck driver, the injury involves some practical participation restrictions. If the veteran has a job that allows them to get up and walk around every couple of hours, their injury may not involve a participation restriction.
Frequently, VA disability attorneys use lay witnesses to establish this element. In other words, a doctor can testify about a veteran’s medical condition and a vocational expert can testify about a veteran’s employment prospects. Friends and family can testify about how a disability affects the veteran’s everyday life, especially in terms of participation restrictions.
Connect With Thorough Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Therefore, it does not create an attorney-client relationship.