Disabled veterans may qualify for both tax-free payments.
Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) grants a monthly, tax-free check to certain veterans with service-connected disabilities. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) ranks the severity of these disabilities from zero to 100 percent. This means some veterans can get both CRSC and 100 percent VA disability payments, allowing them to benefit from 2020 CRSC pay increases and CRSC back pay.
This article discusses the purpose of CRSC, how to apply for the program, and what to do if your application is rejected. You can also see where you stand on the 2020 CRSC pay chart, calculate your VA benefits rating using our free VA Math calculator, and decide whether CRSC payments are right for you.
In This Article About CRSC and VA Disability Pay:
- Getting It All: CRSC, Military Retirement, and VA Disability
- CRSC Back Pay
- How to Qualify for CRSC and 100% VA Disability
- 1. Apply for CRSC Compensation
- 2. Elect CRSC Over CRDP: What is the Difference?
- 3. Meet Preliminary CRSC Criteria
- Does PTSD qualify for CRSC?
- 4. Final CRSC Criteria: Qualifying Combat-Related Disability
- How to Apply for CRSC
- Since the VA Has Lawyers, You Should Have One Too
Getting It All: CRSC, Military Retirement, and VA Disability
Before CRSC, veterans would have to waive their military retirement to receive VA disability payments.
CRSC is an entitlement program that gives veterans access to their retirement income without having to offset their VA disability pay. In the past, military retirees used to forego an equal amount of retirement pay – usually awarded by the Department of Defense (DoD) – to get VA disability compensation. This was a wise choice at the time because VA benefits are not taxed and retirement benefits are.
But after years of harsh criticism and intense lobbying, Congress changed the law in 2004 to allow eligible retired veterans to receive both retirement and disability payments at the same time. At first, only veterans with disability ratings of 50 percent or more qualified. Currently, Section 1413a, Title 10 of the United States Code (USC) grants the same benefits to veterans with disability ratings of 10 to 30 percent.
CRSC Back Pay
Further, Public Law 108-136, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004, provides that qualifying veterans with combat-related injuries may receive CRSC payments exempt from federal income tax. This exemption is confirmed by Section 104(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 10 USC §1413a also makes this compensation retroactive, returning retirement money that was previously reduced by VA disability pay. The VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) are the agencies responsible for returning CRSC back pay.
That means that if you didn’t get your full retirement pay and the VA withheld a portion of your payments, you can now get backpay for the amount that was withheld.
Like DoD retirement pay, DFAS pays CRSC entitlements on the first business day of each month. To ensure timely payments, DFAS suggests updating your myPay account to reflect your current bank account information and mailing address. Alternatively, you can AskDFAS or call (800) 321-1080 for help.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
How to Qualify for CRSC and 100% VA Disability
It is important to note that CRSC is not military retirement pay. Although retired members of the military are entitled to receive it, the focus is on combat-related disability. This means eligible veterans get a monthly tax-free check that replaces the income they would have made if they could work. Thus, payments are not based on earnings, but rather on the severity of your disability.
In order to qualify, applicants must:
- Apply with the proper military department from which they retired
- Elect CRSC payments, especially if receiving Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP)
- Meet preliminary CRSC criteria (retired status or entitlement to retirement pay)
- Suffer from a qualifying combat-related condition or illness
To find out more about each step, read on.
1. Apply for CRSC Compensation
Retired members of the military, including non-DoD Uniformed Services, must apply for the CRSC program using the most current DD Form 2860, Claim for CRSC. The application should include proof that you were injured in a combat-related activity, during hazardous duty, or by a weapon of war. Step 4 below gives detailed examples of qualifying conditions.
In addition to the application, you must assemble the required evidence of service-related disability to submit the form. File the complete packet with the designated CRSC Office of your former military department.
You can apply at any time. If you have a qualifying condition for which you have not yet received payment, submit the CRSC form and provide evidence. CRSC back pay can date back to June 1, 2003, or January 1, 2008, depending on how long you served in the armed forces. If you have served in the military for fewer than 20 years, retroactive payments may only date back to 2008.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about how SMC (Special Monthly Compensation) works to help you get more money for extra expenses related to your disabling condition every month.
2. Elect CRSC Over CRDP: What is the Difference?
10 USC §1414 allows some retirees concurrent receipt of both retirement and disability pay or CRDP. As previously discussed, lobbyists have pushed to expand CRDP to eligible retirees with service-related disability ratings of less than 50 percent. Although you do not need to apply for CRDP, which allows you to receive the full amount of retired and VA disability benefits, it is taxable income. CRSC is like VA disability checks. It is not taxed.
You must therefore choose either CRSC or CRDP. You cannot receive both. DFAS will automatically pay CRDP to members with VA disability ratings of 50 percent or higher unless they elect to receive CRSC. An approved CRSC application means that CRSC payments will apply. The application (DD Form 2860) automatically allows DFAS to choose the greater of the two payment amounts.
a. CRSC Pay Chart 2021
Electing CRSC is important for severely injured veterans qualifying for special monthly compensation (SMC) and CRDP. The Army explains how CRSC is calculated and how your disability rating affects your CRSC pay here.
b. CRSC Pay Increase 2021
You can also use our free VA disability rating calculator to estimate your monthly payment amount. If the VA has not properly included one of your injuries, you can appeal the denial of benefits. A successful appeal may also entitle you to a CRSC pay increase, or more than what you currently earn if you were previously denied CRSC benefits.
Here is a video of one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers teaching you how to use our VA Disability Combined Ratings Calculator.
3. Meet Preliminary CRSC Criteria
Retirement from Uniformed Services can mean different things. Early, medical, or temporary retiree status are examples. However, to qualify for CRSC, applicants must meet each of the preliminary retirement criteria outlined below.
a. 20 years or more of military service, or otherwise entitled to retired pay
For purposes of military retirement plans, the 20-year service requirement is calculated using a retired pay “multiplier.” The DoD multiplier chart shows different retirement plans based on active or reserve duty and disability retirement programs.
For example, members retired under Public Law 102-484 or Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) may make the 20-year requirement if they are credited with a 50 percent service multiplier, or if they return to active duty long enough to achieve 20 years (usually multiplied by 2.5 percent). Documentary evidence of TERA retirement is generally sufficient to qualify as “retired” for purposes of CRSC eligibility.
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
CRSC Calculation for Chapter 61 Retirees
Title 10 USC Chapter 61 defines different categories of medical leave and retirement. Chapter 61 retirees are those who have medically retired from military service with a VA disability rating of 30 percent or above. This includes those on the Temporary Disabled Retirement List.
However, military departments are not bound by the DoD retirement pay multiplier. Instead, they will look at the supporting information submitted with the application to determine whether Chapter 61 and TERA retirees are eligible for CRSC qualifications.
b. Be in “retired status”
Members on the retired rolls or transferred to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve are in “retired status.” Those recalled for active duty are not.
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c. Entitled to retirement pay, even if reduced by VA disability payments
Members who waive military retirement pay for any reason other than receiving VA disability compensation are not eligible. For example, those who forego retirement pay to make civil service retirement plans and reservists who have not yet turned 60 are ineligible under this category.
d. Qualifying disability ratings
This rating, measured in percentages, is determined by the VA. You can use this free VA disability rating calculator to determine whether your disability ratings add up to 100 percent. 38 CFR 4.25 sets forth the VA Combined Ratings Table for those with multiple disability ratings.
Each rating is based on how much the most disabling condition affects the person’s efficiency. Thus, a person with a 50 percent disability rating is considered 50 percent efficient. But after the most disabling condition, the percentage of efficiency left by the second disability is multiplied with that of the first to come up with a total.
The VA compensation rates table provides monthly benefits for veterans with varying disability ratings of 10 to 100 percent. In some cases, it is possible to get CRSC with a disability rating of 10 percent.
Although the secretary of the relevant military department determines whether the disability rating meets preliminary CRSC criteria, the applicant does not need to qualify for DoD disability. Rather, monthly CRSC payments are based solely on VA ratings, so you only need a VA disability to be eligible.
Does PTSD qualify for CRSC?
Service-connected mental disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder qualify for a VA rating. Secondary service-connected disabilities also count for purposes of CRSC qualification.
Military departments will only move on to the final stage of determining CRSC eligibility if the applicant meets each of the four preliminary criteria above. The final CRSC criteria are described in detail below.
4. Final CRSC Criteria: Qualifying Combat-Related Disability
Veterans are only entitled to CRSC if they have sustained service-related disabilities. This requires a causal connection between the activity and the injury. Qualifying conditions with varying degrees of severity are outlined in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations provides the VASRD, an exhaustive list of medical diagnoses, along with explanations of how to use the tables.
a. Purple Heart Disability
Purple Heart Disability, for example, is one with an assigned VASRD code and attributable to injuries for which the veteran was awarded the Purple Heart. The nexus between the disability and awarded injury is proved through documentary evidence submitted with the CRSC application.
b. Other Combat-Related Disabilities
To be “combat-related,” the disability must have an assigned VASRD code and be sustained in one of the following ways:
- Direct result of armed conflict
- While engaged in hazardous service
- Performing duties under war-simulating conditions
- Through an instrumentality of war
Armed conflict includes any war, occupation, skirmish, riot, or action in which members “engage with” a hostile enemy. It also provides for prisoners of war and those trying to escape involuntary detention.
Hazardous duties include flying, diving, parachuting, demolition, and experimental stress exercises. The disability must be a direct result of performing hazardous services. Travel to and from the activity and acts related to “normal duty” status do not count.
Performing under conditions simulating war covers disabilities sustained in military training, including tactical practice, airborne operations, weapons or combat training, and obstacle courses. Regular physical training and supervised sports do not qualify under this category.
The harm caused by an instrumentality of war, such as a vehicle, vessel, or military-related device does not have to be sustained during an actual war. However, the applicant must show the connection between the hazard and the injury. Being wounded by a military weapon, struck by an armored vehicle, or suffering illness caused by military-ordered fumes, gases, or explosions, including Agent Orange, may count.
How to Apply for CRSC
Apply for CRSC using DD Form 2860, Claim for CRSC. Mail the form to the proper military branch address from which you retired. The addresses are listed on the form. In addition, submit supporting evidence of your medical condition, VA rating, and retirement status. You can get your military records, including the Retirement Form DD-214, through the VA’s milConnect website.
Including documentation such as Purple Heart citations, VASRD codes, and VA ratings is crucial to proving your injury was combat-related and thus qualifying for special compensation. Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) that can help with your claim include Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the American Legion (AL). Your best bet, of course, is to call us first. The call is free, and unlike most free services, we’ve helped thousands of veterans win their VA disability claims. We don’t charge you a dime unless we win your case, and even then it’s a one-time 20% of your backpay fee. The VA allows disability lawyers to charge up to 30%, but we want to put more money in your pocket.
A behind the scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
If your claim is denied, you have a few options:
- File a VA Disability Claim for a CRSC-qualifying condition that the VA has not included, and appeal if the VA denies your claim
- Reapply for CRSC once the VA includes the new condition in your disability rating
- Appeal the Denial and request reconsideration of the decision by using the proper CRSC form for the military branch that applies
When appealing denial of CRSC benefits, you should include a letter explaining why you disagree with the agency’s decision and all previous letters from the agency regarding your case. In addition to the denial letter, be sure to add any new evidence, such as proof of a previously unlisted disability or a different VA rating.
If your request for reconsideration is denied and you disagree with the decision, you can appeal using DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record. You can also contact a legal professional for help in appealing your case.
Since the VA Has Lawyers, You Should Have One Too
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
Yes. This article lays out the details of how it works, but the short answer is yes. If you have questions after reading this article about CRSC, call our team at (866)232-5777.
Yes, but you must enroll during a set time by the VA. You can learn more and sign up here.
You have to be retired from the armed services. Simply being discharged doesn’t count unless you are a special case. You must also have combat-related injuries. Just having a service-connected injury doesn’t count, but we can still try to help you get VA disability and maybe SMC if you are a disabled veteran.