Here, learn about veterans' service-connected disability compensation. Understand what a service-connected disability is and why it matters in terms of compensation.
What is a service-connected disability?
A service-connect disability is an injury or illness that was directly caused by military service, sustained while in the military (both on-duty and off-duty injuries may be service connected, i.e., knee injury playing basketball off duty), was aggravated by military service, or was caused by conditions that are themselves service-connected.
Why is a service-connected disability important to me?
An injury or illness that results from honorable service to our country may impact your ability to earn a future living for yourself and your family. Service-connected disability compensation provides monthly tax-free payments to disabled veterans to assist financially with the reduced employment capability or opportunities related to service-connected disabilities.
How do I know if I have a service-connected disability?
If you served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training and you have a current illness or injury that occurred, was aggravated by, or was caused by another service-connected condition, you may have a service-connected disability.
If you meet these requirements, you may file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs requesting compensation for your disability. Free application assistance may be obtained through your county Veterans Service Office, the Texas Veterans Commission, or other veterans organizations in the state.
Are all my injuries and illnesses that occurred while I was on active duty considered service-connected disabilities?
Only “current” disabilities are considered service-connected disabilities eligible for compensation. For example, if you injured your knee during physical training in the military and have since fully recovered without any complications related to the injury, that injury is not a service-connected disability.
What does “in the line of duty” mean?
Any injury or illness that occurred or was aggravated during the time you were on active duty is an injury or illness that occurred “in the line of duty.” For example, injuries you sustained in a Humvee accident while training are considered injuries in the line of duty.
However, any injury or illness that resulted from your misconduct or abuse of alcohol or drugs will not be considered “in the line of duty.” In most cases, your claim for service-connected disability will be denied if the disability was a result of your misconduct or abuse of alcohol or drugs.
How long do I need to serve on active duty before I can file a claim for service-connected disability?
There is no time limit. A service-connected disability may occur anytime while you are on active duty.
Does it matter that I did not serve on active duty during a period of war?
No. You can still file a claim for service-connected disability compensation even though you did not serve on active duty during a period of war.
Does the type and character of my discharge from the military matter?
Yes. To be eligible for most veterans' benefits and programs, you must have been discharged or released from military service under conditions other than dishonorable. You will always be eligible for veterans benefits and programs when the character of your military service is Honorable.
You may still be eligible for service-connected disability compensation if the character of your military service is listed as a Discharge Under Honorable Conditions or a General Discharge.
If your character of military service is listed as Discharge Under Other Than Honorable Conditions, Undesirable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, or Dishonorable Discharge, in most cases, you will be barred from receiving benefits.
Does the type of my discharge really matter if I can prove that I have a service-connected disability?
Yes, it does. Even if you can prove that you have a service-connected disability, you will not receive compensation for the disability if you have been discharged or released from military service under conditions other than honorable.
How much compensation will I receive for my service-connected disability?
The amount of compensation is based on the disability rating percentage. Once the Department of Veterans Affairs makes the decision that your injury or illness is a service-connected disability, your disability will be assigned a disability rating between 0% and 100%.
The Department of Veterans Affairs begins paying compensation at the 10% rating level. As of December 1, 2022, a 10% rating is equivalent to $165.92 per month, while a 100% rating is equivalent to $3,621.95.* See 2023 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates.
*Ratings depicted reflect the amounts received by single, childless veterans. Additional compensation may be received for veterans who are married as well as veterans with children or dependent parents.
Is the disability rating assigned to my service-connected disability based on my medical condition and circumstances surrounding my condition?
The Department of Veterans Affairs rating system is based on how severe your disability is and how it impacts your earning capacity. When assigning disability ratings, the VA raters review a schedule of over 800 diagnostic codes, each relating to a specific medical condition or set of conditions. Each diagnostic code contains different criteria which correspond to disability percentage ratings. For example, a veteran with symptom A may receive a 10% rating, while a veteran with symptoms A, B, and C may receive a 50% rating.
For More Information
The Department of Veterans Affairs website has useful information about service-connected disability on its VA Disability Compensation page.
For referrals to organizations that specifically help veterans, use TexasLawHelp.org's Legal Help Directory and select "Veterans & Military" in the Areas of Expertise menu.
This article explains what non-service-connected disability pension benefits are and how to apply and qualify.
Veterans Benefits video by the Texas Veterans Legal Aid Coalition.
This article explains when the VA may pay a portion of veterans' benefits to their dependents.