Disabled Veteran Programs

Veterans make up a large amount of the American population. According to data provided by the United States Census Bureau, in 2017 there were approximately 18.2 million veterans in the United States. The same Census Bureau report indicated approximately four million American veterans had service-connected disabilities in 2016. Such disabilities varied in severity, but 1.3 million disabled veterans were found to be at least 70 percent disabled by injuries or illnesses connected to their periods of service.

If you are a United States military veteran and have a service-connected disability, you may have difficulty assimilating back into civilian life. Your disability may impact your ability to find work and it may influence your ability to communicate with or relate well to other citizens. Some veterans struggled to make enough money to make ends meet on their own. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) runs several programs for disabled veterans that can potentially help you if you find yourself in this situation. These programs are outlined below.

Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is a tax-free monetary compensation program administered by the VA. You qualify for VA disability compensation if you incurred an injury or illness while serving in the United States military. It is possible to qualify for VA disability compensation if you had an existing injury or illness prior to service, though the illness or injury must in some way worsen due to your military service. To qualify for a monetary disability compensation benefit in either case, your resulting injury or illness must leave you permanently disabled. The amount of compensation you receive is based on multiple factors, including:

  • Your general level of disability.
  • Whether you have a certain specific form of severe disability, such as a lost limb.
  • Number of dependents affected by loss of income relating to your disability, such as your spouse, parents or children.
  • Whether your spouse is disabled.

Another way to qualify for VA disability compensation is if you develop a chronic illness or injury after retiring from military service. The illness or injury must relate to your military service in some way. It may relate directly to your military service, such as an illness caused by prolonged exposure to a toxin while on active duty. Alternatively, the after-service illness may relate to another illness or injury that originated while you were an active military member.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is another form of monetary compensation offered by the VA, though it is not paid to you. DIC is collected by your surviving dependents when you pass away. Accepted dependents include your:

  • Spouse.
  • Children.
  • Parents.

Your dependents collect DIC benefits from the VA in several ways. They qualify for DIC funds if you pass away while still a member of the military on inactive or active training. If you pass away while serving actively, they qualify. Additionally, they collect benefits if you pass away after retiring from military service. Your death must occur due to complications from a disability incurred through your military service.

Any dependent attempting to file a DIC claim after your death must prove his or her relationship to you. If your spouse is already collecting DIC benefits on behalf of your child, the child cannot file a separate claim. Spouse and child DIC benefit claims are not income-based. Your parents cannot make a DIC claim if their income level is above an established VA limit. This limit is subject to annual change.

Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)

Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) is often called Aid and Attendance. It is a form of monetary compensation offered by the VA under special circumstances. In most cases, those circumstances require you to employ the services of a personal aid or attendant. For example, if your disability renders you unable to walk, you may require extra assistance with day to day tasks. Loss of proper use of your bowel or bladder in connection with other injuries qualifies you for SMC assistance as well.

The funds received through SMC are in addition to standard disability compensation. They help you pay for the extra care necessary to live comfortably with your disability when you otherwise cannot afford the medical assistance you require. You may apply for SMC benefits for yourself. Alternatively, your spouse or parents can file an SMC claim after you pass away. Filing an SMC claim after the fact allows your dependents to collect funds to offset costs of care already paid.

Claims Based on Special Circumstances

The VA Prestabilization Program offers immediate help to you when you first retire from military service with a disability or chronic illness. It is often referred to as VA Temporary Disability Benefits. The program provides monetary benefits for up to one year after your discharge date. The amount you receive is based on your disability rating. While receiving monetary Prestabilization Benefits, you can continue receiving medical assistance through the VA. Several other disabled veteran programs are run by the VA that are designed to help you maintain your comfort and independence after service-related disability. These provide many types of assistance for which you may not realize you qualify. For example, you may qualify for some or all of the following through the VA:

  • Replacement clothing when your clothing is damaged from prosthetic limbs or other issues relating to your disability
  • Temporary assistance while recovering from surgery
  • Adaptive equipment for your automobile or funds to help you adapt the automobile
  • Compensation for bills incurred during hospital stays related to your service-connected disability
  • Free or discount dental care or dental care monetary compensation after the fact

Other Disabled Veteran Programs Offered Through the VA

Instead of, or often in addition to, standard disability compensation, you may qualify for additional programs the VA has in place to assist disabled veterans like you. You may return home with a service-connected disability that leaves you confined to a wheelchair. If so, your home requires adaptations to make it wheelchair accessible. The VA Housing Grant Program for Disabled Veterans helps you adapt your existing home. Alternatively, program funds assist you in the purchase or construction of an adapted home. The VA offers programs like Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance and Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance to meet your insurance needs.