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The Answers You Need

What Qualifies a Veteran for Disability?

Per the Department of Veterans Affairs, in order to qualify for a disability a veteran has to meet two basic criteria – 


  1. The veteran has to have served on active duty. How long and for what are not important. What is important is that the veteran served on active duty. Reserve status gets a little trickier, but it is important to remember that if you were called to active duty for a mission, in support of a mission, or for training (including your two weeks of reserve drilling) that counts towards active-duty time. 

2.  You have to have gotten sick or injured during your time on active duty and are able to link the sickness or injury to your service. In addition, if you had a preexisting condition which was made worse by your active-duty service this also counts. Finally, you can meet this criterion if you have a disability that manifest after your active-duty service but can be related to your service by evidence. 


There are also a number of conditions that the VA labels as “presumed disabilities” and if you have these you are also potentially eligible for disability payments. 

How long do veteran disability benefits last? Are VA disability payments for life? 

Veteran disability, once granted, generally last for the life of the veteran. The VA does however reevaluate veterans disabilities from time to time and can increase, reduce, or terminate a veterans benefits based on their findings. Learn more about how long veterans disability benefit last by clicking here

What is 100% Disability?

The Department of Veterans Affairs evaluates the severity of a veteran’s disability in terms of a “rating.” This rating takes into account the severity of the disability and how it impacts the veteran’s ability to perform everyday functions. Depending on the severity of the disability the rating goes up or down. For example, a veteran who is unable to walk might be rated 100% disabled because of the severity of the impact that the disability has on their life. On the other hand, a veteran with a hearing disorder might be rated 30% disabled. 


It is important to know that the VA combines different conditions to come up with a single disability rating but uses a complicated formula to determine the final disability rating. You can read more about the VA’s fuzzy math, here. However, every condition and connected condition is worth exploring to determine whether it is qualified as a disability and if the VA will rate it. 

​​How long do you have to be in the military to be a veteran?

The term “veteran” means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable (38 U.S.C. §101 (2)). 


In other words anyone who has served on active duty (for 180 consecutive days) in any of the military branches can qualify as a veteran. Here is an easy way to understand the criteria and length of time needed to qualify as a veteran. A service member must have:

  • 180 days of consecutive active duty (not counting training); or

  • One day in a combat zone: served on Active Duty during a period of war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge was authorized (These include Desert Storm, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, Vietnam, ETC); or 

  • Served in the National Guard or Reserve for 20 years and retired under honorable conditions.

It is important to note that in order to qualify for VA benefits, you have to have received an honorable or medical discharge. It is significantly harder, though not impossible, for veterans with a less than honorable discharge to receive benefits and takes significantly longer to get because it is necessary to first upgrade the discharge to a general discharge. 

Is chronic pain a VA disability? 

Chronic pain is a symptom of some underlying condition. It is important to identify that underlying condition and then determine if that condition was caused by injury or illness while serving on active duty. However, if certain criteria are met the VA can award disability benefits for chronic pain.


The Department of Veterans Affairs does not have a specific diagnostic code or rating criteria associate with chronic pain as a stand alone condition. In order for the veteran to receive a rating for chronic pain, the pain has to be related to symptoms that are ratable under the VA rating scheme. For example, a veteran with chronic pain can get rated if he/she has functional loss of endurance, speed, or coordination because of their pain. The VA will evaluate those impairments and can assign a rating based on the impairments related to chronic pain. 

It is best to speak with an advocate who understands the VA rating system and can help you navigate the requirements for chronic pain ratings. 

Do disabled veterans receive a stimulus check? 

According to the VA, any veteran who receives either a VA disability or a military pension will automatically receive a stimulus check, regardless of whether or not they file taxes.

Can I lose my veterans disability?

The short answer is yes, if your mental and/or physical condition improves. However, the VA has to prove that your condition has materially improved before reducing or terminating your benefits. 


There are certain categories of veterans that have what are called “Protected Benefits.” It is very hard for the VA to reduce these benefits or to terminate them unless the veteran acquired the benefits by fraud. Protected benefits fall into three categories: 


Rated for five years: If you have had a rating for five or more years, the VA cannot reduce your rating unless they can prove with medical evidence that your condition has substantially and permanently improve. 


Rated for twenty years: If you have had a rating continuously for twenty or more years, the VA cannot reduce your rating unless it finds that the rating was based on fraud. The fraud standard is incredibly high. 


100% Ratings: When the VA considers whether to reduce a 100% disability, they have to look at whether the physical/mental condition has materially improved. Again, this is a very high standard. 

Do Spouses of 100% Disabled Veterans Get Benefits?

Yes. Spouses of 100% Permanent and Total Disabled veterans are entitled to a number of benefits. These can be explored by clicking the links below: 

  1. CHAMPVA (Healthcare Coverage)

  2. Education and Training (DEA Program or Fry Scholarship)

  3. Compensation for Surviving Spouse and Dependents (DIC) 

Can a veteran with disability work? 

Yes, veterans of on disability can work. Even veterans who have a 100% disability rating can work with no restrictions so long as the veteran was not rated 100% based on “Total Disability based on individual unemployability” and not on a combined rating of conditions. 

Will the VA pay my rent?

Typically, the VA will not pay a veteran’s rent. However, the VA has a collaborative program with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide supportive services to homeless veterans in order to help them find and sustain permanent housing. You can read about this program here (this is an external link – close the new window to return here). 

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