As of 2023, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will match the Social Security Administration’s cost of living adjustment (COLA), which will increase benefits by 8.7 percent. The VA disability monthly tax-free benefit is available to qualifying former military service members who sustained injury or illness during their service.
Even veterans with pre-existing conditions exacerbated by their military service or those with service-connected disabilities post-service may apply for the benefit. Additional benefits to some veterans may also be available due to extenuating circumstances such as the number of family dependents, injury severity, loss of limb(s), or having a disabled spouse.
Maintaining Eligibility for Benefits
It is worth noting that the VA disability compensation benefit arrangement is not permanent and is subject to review. Re-examination and re-evaluation of individual claims may determine if a disability has worsened or improved and affect the benefit amount. Unlike Social Security benefits, the VA may change its rating schedule any time. If a veteran is experiencing worsening conditions, they may opt to initiate the review themselves to ensure receiving a higher benefit in compensation for an increasingly worse disability. To get this done quickly and accurately, a VA benefits attorney or elder law attorney can help.
Disability compensation with the VA is not an automatic benefit to receive upon retirement, nor is it a guarantee a disability will qualify a veteran to be eligible. Arranging an appointment for an eligibility review is the veteran’s responsibility and needs to occur within a specified timeframe after retirement. To determine the compensation amount, the VA will look at the assigned disability rating, disability severity, and the number of dependents to the veteran. An attorney understands all the necessary requirements, will fill out the paperwork, and submit it timely for you.
How VA Disability Ratings Work
In assigning a disability rating, the VA uses a scale measuring 0-100 percent, rising in increments of 10 percent. The VA rating assignment becomes the determining factor for the disability benefit amount. An internal review by the VA to determine a veteran’s rating assignment includes their medical and health history, in combination with service treatment records, private medical records, and VA medical records that directly relate to the veteran’s disability. A combined rating system for veterans with multiple disabilities determines the benefit amount.
The Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation rates and the factors affecting monthly benefit payments can become complex to sort through, especially for those veterans with extenuating circumstances or multiple disabilities. The VA laws, processes, and forms often change, making proper claim filing challenging. Improper administration of claims can delay much-needed benefits. A veterans disability attorney or elder law attorney can best explain the options available in your situation to receive the compensation you deserve. Your attorney’s expertise will streamline your claim process.
Find Out More about the COLA Increase
The substantial COLA increase of 8.7 percent is a welcome relief to the average annual adjustment of 1.9 percent increase over the past ten years. Most government retirement and disability payments are required by law to annually increase the same COLA amount as set by the Social Security Administration. A VA disability attorney can identify if your service qualifies you for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) which became available in 2004.
Enrollment in CDRP is automatic, so there is no need to apply for the program; however, you may also be eligible for retroactive payments going back to the program’s inception. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) provides payment services for these programs. Although enrollment is automatic, it makes sense to consult with your VA benefits attorney to understand what is due to you.
Have an Attorney Determine the Best Way to Receive Your Benefits
Veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 40 percent or less who did not sustain combat-related injuries can only receive benefits subject to the offset rule. The offset rule explains that veterans can only receive their benefit amount in their retirement pension or disability check, but not both. Since retirement pay is subject to federal income tax but disability benefits are not, most veterans elect to receive the increase in their disability payment.
Staying up to date with military retirement pay and disability benefits is crucial to receive the full amount of deserved benefits. Military pay calculators, online searches, and even VA updates provide valuable information about changes in disability benefits. However, the expertise of a VA disability attorney or elder law attorney ensures you receive full benefit participation. For legal advice, please contact our Wichita office at 316-830-5603.