VA Compensation: Who is eligible?

Picture of confused people holding sheets of paper over their faces with questions marks on paper, wondering who is eligible to file a VA disability compensation claim?VA Compensation: Who is eligible?


If you believe the internet, or what the guy sitting across from you at your appointment at the VAMC said—which is what he heard from some guy who was sitting next to him at his last appointment—then the answer to the questions Who is eligible for VA compensation? and How do you get it? is No one, and You don’t.

I read comments like these every week on the VBA Facebook page. There are two thoughts I take away from these sentiments: some people commenting on Facebook would rather be cynics than attempt to help others; and some people are really, honestly hurting and need help with their VA compensation claims.

This blog is addressed to those who need help, don’t understand, or who’re trying to help others.

First, though, let’s bust those myths.

VA is still compiling FY16 data, but in FY15, VA paid more money to compensate more Veterans—with more claimed medical conditions rated at higher average percentages—than ever before. As you can see, someone’s getting paid, and that someone is (as of FY15) 4.56 million someones—and those someones are Veterans who took home $66.38 billion dollars in FY15 for their service-connected disabilities.

So, who are these people getting approved, and how do they do it?

If you read my last blog, you’ll remember that, since VA disability compensation is taxpayer money, there’s a legal process to claim that money. This means that VA disability compensation is guarded by the laws that your elected lawmakers wrote.

The laws explain who is eligible: those who have separated from active military service with any discharge except dishonorable, as well as those still serving in the Reserves/National Guard. That’s the first part. The second part is that, if you want to claim an injury or medical condition, it must have happened to you during the time you were active (including Reserves/Guard activated, Reserves/Guard drill and/or annual training). (An addition to the second part allows one to claim active military service aggravated a pre-service injury or medical condition). The third part is that, if you claim an injury or medical condition that occurred/happened to you during active service, then you need to give VA evidence of the injury or medical condition that occurred/happened during the time you were in active service.

Note: this does not mean that it had to happen while deployed, and it doesn’t mean it had to happen in uniform or during the duty day. Yes, you can file a claim if you served active duty during peacetime, or got injured in a pick-up basketball game off post after the duty day, and if the injuries you sustained affect you today, then it’s something you could claim.

Yeah, I know—I wasn’t a Sick Call Ranger, either. So, what do you do if you don’t have much in your records? My co-worker, Mark, wrote an excellent blog discussing what you can use for evidence. But I’d like to add even more detail to that list: pictures (you, your wound, your clothing and gear, your vehicle, your AAR, etc.), receipts, unit citations, award letters, prescriptions, news clippings, base hospital records, in-take and discharge logs; post-service private doctor records; and statements from your spouse, your commander, your platoon sergeant, your roommate, any witness who was there or knew you or was affected by your injury/medical conditions (“Yeah, after X happened, I remember Mikey didn’t go on patrol for a week, and I had to cover down.”).

The last thing you need is actually two things: a current medical diagnosis from a medical professional (VA or civilian), and for that doctor to give the professional opinion that after reviewing your military medical records your current diagnosis—the injury or condition you suffer from right now—is because of what happened to you in active service. Yes! Have the doc review your records.

Recap: active service period, not dishonorable; evidence that something happened to you on active service; current medical diagnosis; and medical professional agreeing the medical condition was caused by the thing that happened to you on active service.

So that explains Who is eligible for VA disability compensation and What you need to give VA to prove it. The last big remaining question is How? and I’ll cover that next time.

Disclaimer reminder: the internet, this blog and social media are not the places to share sensitive information, and I’m unable to answer complex or overly personal questions relating to your pending claim or your appeal of a completed claim. As always, IRIS is the best place (not the general VA call center) to ask these questions


Jason Davis
Jason Davis served five years in the 101st ABN, including two combat tours to Iraq. He’s currently an M.A. candidate in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration.


  1.  Emil Cuevas    February 17, 2017 at 10:45 am

    I have service related health problems that I am having addressed with the VA and private health care facilities. I was not in combat but suffered from alcoholism and mental health problems.
    I served from 1967-1970. I have nightmares and occasionally suffer from anxiety and lack of sleep because of some of the things I witnessed. Do I have a good case for receiving benefits?

    1.  Jason Davis    February 22, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Emil, welcome home. If you are being treated for those issues, then that is a good start. It’s also the most important part–ensuring you’re getting the care you need. Do you have a good case? I don’t ever wish to imply someone shouldn’t apply for the benefits they feel they need or have earned. I simply make it a point to outline how to do so. In the blog above, it lists what you will need to demonstrate to the VA. If you’re being treated, then you likely have one of the three things you’ll need. The other two are listed above.

    2.  Charles H Gonzalez    February 27, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      I am getting 40 percent disability for injuries received in the military after 20 years service. Been trying to get increase for my back do to chronic pain and receive injection in my back about every six to seven months. I was denied the last time I filed a claim .

  2.  Charles Hubbs    February 17, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Really,; seriously? A veteran who had a quack for a doctor who doesn’t know much an makes an incorrect diagnosis, that will get everyone off the hook. All they hire is incompetent doctors, that is the only kind they can afford, right? So, who suffers for 35 plus years now with a real bad back and can’t even go to a chiropractor? Me. It was a degenerative disc, not a pulled muscle.
    I am tired of telling my story tho. Who really cares? Not the VA…

  3.  Curt Bartrug    February 17, 2017 at 11:13 am

    What a crock! I provided evidence for continuing back problems from helicopter insertions in Vietnam and a witness (my former RTO) with a certified letter and went to appointment after appointment after appointment and then they wanted me to go to more.I finally told them to go to hell. Decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation dealing with the VA.

    There medical care has been good but dealing with the compensation part has been a joke.

    1.  Jason Davis    February 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Curt, you didn’t specify, but this is a good place for a general comment re: what one can claim. This comment is not necessarily directed at you.

      “Back problems” or “knee pain” or something similarly vague are not actual medical conditions. As mentioned in the blog above, one needs to file for a specific and currently diagnosed medical condition. Pain is a symptom, it is not a medical diagnosis.

      If you’re having issues with your VA healthcare, our friends at VHA will be able to answer some of your general questions:

      Or, you could just go to your local VAMC and speak to the “Patient Advocate.”

  4.  BED    February 17, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Great information. My hope is that individuals will take the time to read it because there are a lot of myths circulating about Veterans benefits that are incorrect. VA has been good to many, and my wish is that all of my fellow veterans receive the same benefits.

    1.  David Syster    February 25, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      Most likely Curt is not a doctor to diagnose his issues, so my opinion is to explain your symptoms and if his medical records have similar symptoms then he should be scheduled for a medical exam. His symptoms have to relate to an injury or medical situation from his military service.

  5.  Raymundo alvarez    February 17, 2017 at 11:34 am

    That a lot of bull because I file since 1975 and the v.a. lost my paperwork I still not getting v.a. compensation or disiabliliy check time and time still and now 67 yes old and now dieing so good luck

    1.  Jason Davis    February 22, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Reymundo, I hope you stick around to read my next blog. Hopefully for next week. There, I’ll discuss how to actually file/send in your claim. Though “paper” is still an option, it’s slower and not recommended. Our entire process is digital, worked on computers. The simplest bet, though, is to just get a VSO to assist you.

  6.  Bernard James    February 17, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Nephew medically discharged from USMC basic training after app. five weeks. Health never improved, and he passed away from condition for which was discharged and others. Would he be considered a veteran eligible for benefits?

  7.  Bernard James    February 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Nephew discharged from USMC basic training 1981 after five- six weeks for medical reason. Never improved and passed away two years ago. Is he considered a veteran eligible for benefits?

  8.  betty    February 17, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    BS my husband has been fighting this since 30+ years ago and still no results. What a load of crap and because the VA had inexperience, lifers and clerks reading and making a decision, God help all our vets. I will continue to fight for my husband as he was part of the Vietnam Era. Shame on the Dept. of VA and the Secretaries who run the VA. Donald Trump you need to realize that there’s more than healthcare that’s wrong with the VA. My dad passed away 6 yrs ago and the VA is STILL paying for his healthcare even though I sent exactly what they needed. You want to know what’s wrong……contact me. I can give you a full blown education on the issues. Still waiting for an expedited (yes I said expedited) decision for my husband. Reply, WHICH THE VA NEVER provides, is required. Don’t care how busy folks are and don’t make the new administration an excuse since Donald Trump says he loves or veterans and military

  9.  Carolie Watkins    February 17, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Vietnam Vets Agent Orange exam conditions need to be treated by VA because it takes years for disability approval. Agent Orange conditions need immediate care. IHD was a priority and NM Vet has had 2 heart surgeries and many stents and still waiting 4 years later for disability. His teeth are rotten and infected from Agent Orange and this is affecting his overall health and if gets to his heart it’s over. VA will not pull his teeth until he gets disability for his teeth. He will not live 4 more years with this infection

  10.  Leona Scott    February 17, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Propaganda that is what this is. I have been trying to get disability since 2007. Submitted two CUEs of fact. VARO signed for them but never received them!! DeNovo Review submitted and received. I think someone from cleaning crew signed that. Not a GS12 as it should be. In both SOCs I have from VARO, no CUE mentioned. My entire file was sent to Am Vets wo POA. On and on. All documented.

  11.  Howard L Ganong Jr    February 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I served in peacetime. I spent about a year in Germany. It took me a few years to claim any benefits but with a VA interview I was able to identify what helped cause my hearing problem. We were combat engineers and worked with explosives so that meant loud noises. But more specific was “tank rescue.” Tanks were stuck in the mud so that we could practice rescuing a tank from the mire. In doing that I was exposed to the loud engines of the tank, working right near the bellowing exhaust pipes. I remember the Sargent yelling orders at me following a tank rescue and I honestly could not hear him for about 25 minutes. When I told that to the VA interviewer he immediately recorded it and began appointments for me. I am glad to say that my hearing aids, provided by the VA helped me to hear family and friends once again. I am very thankful for that.
    Other issues with my health have also been treated in a professional and friendly manner.
    Thank You,
    Howard L. Ganong Jr.


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