Value of Receiving a VA Disability Rating

Often we hear veterans say that they haven't enrolled in VA healthcare or filed a disability claim because they are "fine", "someone else needs it more than I do", or "I don't feel I've earned benefits because I didn't deploy/never served in combat/only did one tour."  We can't emphasize enough that you have earned your benefits – please take advantage of them!!

VA benefits are a) not a limited resource and b) transferable to someone else. If you don't use the benefits you have earned, they don't go to another veteran – instead, you're cutting off access to potential financial and medical support for you and your family, as well opportunities for self-improvement through education and employment opportunities.

With a disability rating from the VA, you may not only be eligible for monthly compensation, you can also be covered for travel expenses for rehab or medical appointments for service-connected exams, particularly if you are rated at 30% or higher. Perhaps most importantly, federal and state governments are not allowed to tax a veterans' disability compensation.

Zero Percent Impairment Rating

You may have heard that the VA has a "zero percent" rating, which basically means that they acknowledge that an injury is service-connected, but they don't feel that the injury impairs the veteran in a way that requires compensation. (for example, a minor scar). A zero percent rating is still important because it can help prioritize you for VA programs and it provides a baseline for the VA to use when considering you for a higher rating, should your injury worsen. Other benefits for a zero percent rating include:

  • Allows you to receive basic, outpatient dental treatment at the VA – if you are rated for a noncompensable service –connected dental condition or disability resulting from combat wounds or service trauma
  • Offers you the chance to apply for life insurance through the Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance Program (S-DVI)
  • Makes you eligible for many state and federal programs (for example, employment counseling, financial assistance, discounts on recreation) that require a service-connection rating
  • National Guard and Reserve members who are rated for service connection are:
    • Eligible for VA health care even if they have never had a period of qualifying federal service
    • Eligible to receive a 10 point hiring preference for employment in federal jobs, again – even if they have never had a period of qualifying federal service

Still not convinced?  Consider this:

  • Private life insurance is otherwise often out of reach for veterans on a fixed income, who are single parents, or who are self-employed.  Having an insurance policy can be an enormous benefit to your family should something happen to you.
  • 127 days is the average number of days it takes the VA to process a disability claim – longer, if your case is complicated.  Filing a claim now while you feel OK gives you the breathing room to wait, instead of enduring a long turnaround time when your knee/back/shoulder/eye injury is acute and causing you a lot of pain and discomfort.
  • Having a service-connected rating gets you past the toughest part of the VA claims process – proving the "nexus" of your injury and your military service.
    • The further you get from your military service the harder it is to prove service-connection.
    • It's by far easier to fix a low – or non-compensable rating…..or to fight for an earlier effective date…than it is to prove service-connection in the first place. 
    • Once your service connection is established, you can always apply for a ratings increase.
    • 0% + 0% = 10% - if you have two non-compensable ratings that interfere with employment, the VA is supposed to increase your rating to 10%. (That is, unless you end up receiving a higher overall rating, for example 20% or 30%)

For more details about any of this information, or to file a claim, please visit one of our Field Offices to meet with a Veterans' Service Officer.