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Veterans Affairs: Basic Eligibility for Disability Benefit Programs

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Publication Date: November 2008

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33113

Topic: Military and defense (Veterans)


A broad range of benefits is offered to American veterans and to certain members of their families by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Among these benefits are various types of financial benefits and assistance -- which include disability compensation and pensions.

The VA administers two disability programs. These programs pay monthly cash benefits to disabled veterans. Disability compensation provides a monthly benefit if the veteran is disabled as a result of his/her military service. Disability compensation relates specifically to a disability which directly resulted from military service. A disability pension is paid to a wartime veteran if the veteran has limited income, is no longer able to work, or is age 65 or older. The pension is not related to a service-connected injury or medical condition. Award of the pension takes into consideration the material needs of the veteran -- i.e., it is a "needs-based" pension.

There is no deadline or time limit for applying for disability benefits. A veteran cannot simultaneously receive both disability compensation and a disability pension. There are certain basic criteria which must be met in order to be eligible to receive either of these benefits.

This report examines the eligibility criteria and the fundamentals of the VAadministered disability benefit programs and related issues.