Although, you might not describe yourself as a disabled veteran, you could qualify for VA disability benefits.
Is it possible to get VA disability benefits if your military service was during peacetime?
Are you too young to receive VA disability compensation?
Do your medical conditions qualify as VA disabilities?
The simple answer is that veterans in all of those circumstances are among the millions of U.S. veterans receiving VA disability benefits.
Service-connected veterans are a diverse group of people of various ages, races, and genders. They were raised in different eras and hold varying beliefs and worldviews. They live around the country and around the world. And they all enlisted for different reasons. In this article, we explore the demographics and characteristics of the more than 5 million veterans who have one specific thing in common – they receive VA disability compensation.
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In this article about who qualifies as a disabled veteran
- How many veterans are there?
- What if you served during peacetime?
- At what age does the VA qualify you as a disabled veteran?
- How many veterans are rated 100% by the VA?
- How many service-connected conditions does the average veteran have?
- How much money do veterans make from VA disability compensation?
- Am I eligible for VA disability benefits?
- How the VA disability lawyers at Woods and Woods can help
How many veterans are there?
Veterans of the Gulf War era account for just over 43% of surviving veterans. Nearly 30% are from the Vietnam era, about 22% served during what the VA describes as “peacetime periods,” and 4.5% are Korean War veterans. Only 1% of surviving veterans today are World War II veterans. Just 200,000 remain, while an average of 180 die each day.
What is a disabled veteran?
The 5 million veterans who have injuries, diseases, or other ailments incurred during their service, known as service-connected conditions, are broadly described as “disabled veterans.”
The VA considers veterans disabled if they:
- Developed an injury or illness, such as asthma, PTSD, or high blood pressure, due to the circumstances of military service.
- Developed a secondary condition as a result of a service-connected health condition or injury. For example, you might develop fibromyalgia as a result of your service, then develop PTSD as a result of your fibromyalgia. You would be owed compensation from the VA for both conditions.
- Had a condition prior to serving, but the circumstances of service made that condition worse or “aggravated” it.
- Had a condition that was made worse due to VA-sponsored medical treatment or training.
Additionally, your conditions cannot be a result of misconduct on your part, and you must have an other-than-dishonorable discharge.
What if you served during peacetime?
Some peacetime period veterans may question whether they can receive VA disability if they never saw combat. Service-connected conditions do not need to be combat related to qualify you for compensation.
Training and serving in the military are intensive and demanding and can put unusual strain on your body that can cause injury. You may see, hear, or experience something that has a serious impact on your mental health, or you may have been stationed near environmental hazards that can cause illness. Regardless of when or how long you served, if you developed a service-connected condition that now affects your life, the VA owes you compensation.
More than 20% of veterans receiving disability benefits from the VA served in peacetime periods.
More than 40% of veterans receiving VA disability compensation are Gulf War veterans and nearly a third are Vietnam vets. Veterans from Korea and World War II account for about 5% of veterans with service-connected conditions.
The story was much different 20 years ago, when one-third of VA disability recipients were veterans who served in Korea and one-fifth in WWII. The slideshow demonstrates the changes every 10 years between 2001 and 2021.
The next chart also displays how many veterans from each period of service received VA disability payments in 2001, 2011, and 2021.
At what age does the VA qualify you as a disabled veteran?
As a veteran, you may feel you are “not disabled enough” or “not old enough” to need or even deserve these benefits. Or you’re waiting until your condition gets worse before you apply.
First, there is no minimum age for receiving VA compensation. Veterans of all ages who served in different eras receive the benefits they earned due to the sacrifices they made for our country. While more than half of veterans receiving disability compensation from the VA are 55 years or older, more than 43% are 54 or younger, and a little over 11% are 34 or younger.
Younger veterans who feel able-bodied may think they don’t need disability benefits, but it’s useful to keep in mind that receiving VA compensation you deserve can take months to years. In some cases, it may even take more than a decade. Being proactive can make a big difference if and when the day comes that your condition worsens or keeps you from maintaining gainful employment.
In addition to ages of veterans receiving disability benefits, we can also look at disability compensation recipients by gender. The majority of veterans receiving VA disability are male, with more than 4.7 million men receiving the benefit in 2021. More than 620,000 female veterans also received compensation from the VA in that same year.
Common conditions among disabled veterans
You may have a condition you have not ever considered to be related to military service. You may become aware of your conditions shortly after discharge or, in many cases, years after service.
The VA is currently paying disability compensation to 5.4 million veterans for a total of 33 million service-connected disabilities. How is that possible? The majority of veterans are receiving benefits for multiple conditions (a point we’ll explain in detail later in this article).
So, what are the most common VA disabilities? Injuries and illnesses related to the musculoskeletal system represent 38.1% of all service-connected conditions. Hearing (12.8%), neurological (12.4%), and skin (10.7%) conditions are also quite common. Mental health conditions account for about 2 million service connections (6.9%).
Meanwhile, less than 1% of veterans receiving disability have service-connected conditions related to the mouth, lymphatic system, gynecological issues, or ailments related to an infection, but this still accounts for hundreds of thousands of conditions. These conditions include, for example, diseases of the cervix or ovaries, lymphoma, and anemia, among many others.
However, some veterans may not realize that, although they are less common, conditions like STDs, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may stem from a veteran’s service and are eligible for VA ratings.
How many veterans are rated 100% by the VA?
Service-connected conditions do not need to be totally disabling for a veteran to deserve VA compensation. While more than 1.1 million veterans have a combined rating of 100%, nearly 900,000 have a combined rating of 10%. The least common combined rating is 50% with fewer than 300,000 veterans receiving this rating.
It is important to understand that a VA service-connected disability does not necessarily have just one, straightforward definition. VA disability compensation covers all kinds of conditions, at all levels of severity, as shown below. This is simply an umbrella term for a benefit that helps veterans with any physical or mental health conditions related to their service.
On the other hand, many veterans have less than a 100% rating but are unable to hold down a job. For these veterans, an option is available called TDIU, which stands for total disability based on individual unemployability. Veterans receiving TDIU receive the same monthly payment as a 100% rating if they have one condition rated at least 60% or a combined rating of 70% with one condition rated at least 40%.
Veterans who disagree with a rating decision may choose to appeal for a higher rating on their own or with the help of an accredited VA disability lawyer.
How many service-connected conditions does the average veteran have?
Most veterans do not have just one service-connected condition, regardless of when they served. The average number of service-connected conditions is 6.2 per veteran. While World War II veterans have an average of about two service-connected conditions each. Gulf War veterans are compensated for an average 8 conditions.
When dealing with the daily struggles of your illness, injury, or other impairment, you may have simply grown used to them. You may never have considered the origin of your condition or how an “old injury” that never healed quite right has led to multiple other issues. Whatever your circumstance, if your condition was caused or aggravated by your military service, the VA owes you disability compensation.
How much money do veterans make from VA disability compensation?
In 2022, the VA paid 5.4 million veterans for a combined 33 million service-connected disabilities. The total cost to the VA: $112 billion in disability compensation.
The annual amount paid to service-connected veterans in 2022 ranged from $1,844 to $44,492. These amounts currently break down into tax-free monthly payments for single veterans between $171.23 and $3,737.85. That amount can increase if you have dependents or also receive special monthly compensation (SMC).
Ratings and monthly compensation amounts vary from one veteran to the next and are based on a formula often referred to as “VA math.” You can use our disability rating calculator to figure out what your monthly VA payments would be.
On average, veterans 34 years old or younger are receiving more than $20,500 annually from the VA. This amount is very close to veterans 55 through 74 and 75 and older. Veterans between the ages of 35 and 54 average the largest yearly annual compensation at $22,736.
Am I eligible for VA disability benefits?
Veterans considering applying for VA disability benefits may have any number of reservations about starting the process. Thoughts like “I am not a disabled veteran” may hold you back from applying, although millions of veterans of all levels of able-bodiedness and with all types of conditions receive monthly compensation checks from the VA.
You may feel “some other veteran deserves these benefits more.” Yet, more than 280,000 new veterans began receiving benefits in 2021 alone, and that number will continue to grow. It’s a need the federal government continues to budget for. In fact, the VA is one of the only government agencies which consistently receives bipartisan support from lawmakers for annual budget increases, regardless of current party majority. All veterans who incurred life-altering conditions during their service to our country deserve benefits to help account for this sacrifice to their health, livelihood, family life, and more.
Finally, this data shows that there is no one age, gender, or service period that most qualifies a veteran for disability compensation. Service-connected conditions of all levels of severity affect millions of veterans of all kinds and across all systems of the body.
How the VA disability lawyers at Woods and Woods can help
If you are a veteran who has been denied the VA disability compensation you deserve, contact our team today for a free legal consultation. We helped veterans receive more than $140 million in missing back pay last year alone. If we are able to take your case, you won’t pay unless we win, and we never touch your future monthly checks.
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