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Compensation, Pension and Other VA Benefits

Army soldiers

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Patrick Gordon/Released

Part 2 of the Transitioning to VA series

There are so many resources available to Service members transitioning to veteran status, but for many it can be difficult to know where to start looking for help. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wealth of information and programs for compensation, pension and vocational rehabilitation of veterans. In order to provide you with the most useful information at your fingertips, the Real Warriors Campaign has worked with VA to answer some frequently asked questions on these topics.

This is the second article in a three-part series on transitioning to veteran status.  For more information on the VA, be sure to read the other articles in the series: Veterans Affairs Health Benefits Overview and Veterans Affairs in the Digital Age.

1. Am I eligible to receive VA disability compensation?

VA pays compensation benefits for disabilities that are a result of military service. You may be eligible for VA compensation benefits if: 1

  • You were injured while you were in the service
  • You are permanently and totally disabled and you believe that it is due to your military service
  • You were seriously ill while you were in the service, and you believe you have continuing problems
  • You developed a mental or physical condition that you believe may be related to your military service
  • You are undergoing a medical evaluation board (MEB) or a physical evaluation board (PEB) and have a known separation date

If you would like more information about compensation benefits, please read chapter two of VA’s “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors” book, which is specifically dedicated to service-connected disabilities and compensation.

2. Am I eligible to receive a VA pension?

You may be eligible for VA pension benefits if all of the following are true:1

  • You are permanently and totally disabled but not as a result of your military service, or are age 65 and older
  • You served on active duty during a wartime period
  • Your income is limited

For additional information on eligibility, read chapter three of VA’s “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors” book, which covers pension benefits.

3. Am I eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation?

You may be eligible for VA vocational rehabilitation benefits if:1

  • You are a veteran or a Service member awaiting a disability discharge
  • You have a VA combined service-connected disability rating of 10 percent or more
  • You believe that you are disabled due to your military service and have an application pending for service connection or are filing one with your vocational rehabilitation claim

For more information, read chapter two of VA’s “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors” book, which discusses service-connected disabilities and compensation.

4. How do I apply for compensation, pension or vocational rehabilitation?

There are many ways you can apply for benefits, including:

  • Online: Apply using the Veterans Online Application (VONAPP), which is the official online VA benefits application for Service members, veterans and their beneficiaries.1
  • By mail or fax: Download the appropriate forms and then mail or fax them to your VA regional office.
    • Download VA Form 21-526 [PDF 1.2MB] for compensation and pension benefits
    • Download VA Form 28-1900 [PDF 250KB] for vocational rehabilitation benefits.1
  • In-person: Apply at any VA regional office.
  • By phone: Call 1-800-827-1000 to apply for benefits.

5. What are the current rates for disability compensation and pension?

VA keeps a current listing of disability compensation and pension rate tables. Please keep in mind that there is no cost of living adjustment for 2010, so this year’s rates are the same as 2009.

6. Who can I contact if I need help with my application?

Your state VA office or an accredited Veterans Service Organization can help you with the application process.

You may also visit your VA regional office for assistance filling out the appropriate VA forms.2 If you have questions about these forms or the status of your claim, please call 1-800-827-1000.

7. Can I have my claim reconsidered if it was denied in the past?

If you have new evidence to support a previously denied claim, you should mail or deliver VA Form 21-4138 [PDF 400KB] to your VA regional office. This form can also be submitted electronically using VONAPP.

8. What if my disability status has changed since my last disability evaluation?

If your disability has worsened since your last evaluation, you can submit a claim for an increased evaluation. Use VA Form 21-4138 [PDF 400KB] , or write a letter and submit medical evidence to your VA regional office.3 You can also submit the form electronically using VONAPP.

9. Can I appeal a VA claims decision?

Yes! You have the right to appeal decisions made by any VA regional office, medical center or National Cemetery Administration office. You may submit a written notice of disagreement to the deciding office up to one year after the decision was made. After the written notice is received, you will be provided with a “Statement of the Case” explaining what facts, laws and regulations were used to make the decision about your claim. You must then file VA Form 9 [PDF 600KB]. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will then make a decision on behalf of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. If you are still not satisfied with the decision, you can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, an independent court not part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.4 The “How Do I Appeal” [PDF 3.75MB] pamphlet outlines the appeals process.

10. Who do I contact if I have additional questions or concerns about VA?

You can get answers to VA benefits questions by dialing 1-800-827-1000. In addition, don’t hesitate to contact any of VA’s toll-free phone numbers for answers to a variety of your questions and concerns.


1VONAPP, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
2New to VA, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
3Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.
4"Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents & Survivors 2011 Edition" [PDF 2.77 KB],  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last accessed Nov. 18, 2014.

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