VA Disability Compensation | Veterans Affairs VA Disability and Alcoholism

VA Disability Benefits, Rates & Compensation

Find out if you or your loved one are eligible for service-based disability payment due to a substance use disorder or another medical condition.


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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a state in which a person suffers from a physical or mental health issue that significantly affects at least one primary life function. According to ADA, there were 19.2 disabled American veterans in the USA in 2018, which is as much as 8% of the entire U.S. population.1

Veterans who have experienced injury or illness as a result of their service are eligible to receive disability payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In order for this benefit to be awarded, veterans must demonstrate that their condition was a direct consequence of military service and must have been diagnosed prior to the VA claim.2

Common disabilities falling under this umbrella include physical impairments such as back pain and diseases like cancer or diabetes, in addition to mental health conditions like PTSD or depression. However, there are also a host of less recognized symptoms and conditions such as excessive weight loss, exhaustion, skin problems, and menstrual disorders which may not be formally counted as disabilities but still warrant special attention and compensation if connected to a veteran’s active duty service.2

Certain unspecified diagnoses may also render an individual eligible for compensation through an Undiagnosed Illness Review Panel that serves to address situations where a diagnosis hasn’t yet been identified. The veteran is then assigned a rating that determines the level of benefits they’ll receive each month.2

Veterans who had certain conditions prior to their period of service may be eligible for disability if the condition has been aggravated by military service. The cause should be linked and supported so that a clear connection between the two can be established and it must illustrate the rate of worsening was accelerated due to service. Common examples of these conditions include flat feet and lower back pain, where there’s usually enough evidence to demonstrate an increase in severity due to military duties.2

What Are VA Disability Benefits?

The VA provides disability benefits and other related services to eligible military veterans. These benefits, which can be a monetary payment as well as medical care, are given to veterans who have injuries or illnesses connected to their time in the military.3

To qualify for this compensation, veterans must prove service-connected benefit eligibility. In addition to providing monthly financial compensation, VA disability benefits may also provide aid for educational and vocational rehabilitation together with employment opportunities. These additional services may help some of the disabled veterans rebuild their lives.3

Is Substance Abuse or Addiction Considered a VA Disability?

Substance abuse disorders (SUDs) can have detrimental effects on an individual’s quality of life, and their ability to work and function in daily life. As such, the VA recognizes SUD as a disability that may affect veterans who are eligible for VA benefits.4

The VA also acknowledges other drug or alcohol-related conditions as potential disabilities that eligible veterans can claim through their disability compensation program. Some of these conditions may include:5 

  • Cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Dizziness or vertigo.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Mood swings caused by either substance.
  • Cognitive impairments.

The VA must determine if any of these conditions were caused by a drug or alcohol addiction during active service in order to qualify, meaning a physical examination by a licensed physician is required to make a proper assessment. Therefore, those affected should seek out medical care if considering filing for VA disability based on a SUD.5  

VA Disability Requirements & Eligibility

The VA provides access to long-term disability benefits for veterans who can prove service-related medical issues. To be eligible to receive VA disability benefits, a veteran must meet multiple criteria that fall under in-service, pre-service or post-service disability claims.5

  • In-service claim: This claim requires the illness or injury to have been caused by activities during military service.
  • Pre-service claim: This claim requires the veteran to have had a pre-existing illness or injury that was made worse due to military service.
  • Post-service claim: This claim can be made if the illness or injury didn’t start showing effects until after the struggling individual left military service.

All three types of claims require substantial evidence from medical records and other forms of documentation in order to process them.5

VA benefits can include disability insurance for those who were exposed to hazardous substances or contaminants while serving in the military, as well as for illnesses that are developed after military service concludes.5

Prisoners of war (POWs) may also be eligible to receive disability benefits for illnesses acquired due to captivity. The time frame for eligibility may differ from case to case but generally falls within one year from the end of service date, with some exceptions depending on the circumstances.5

Can You Lose VA Disability Benefits Because of Substance Abuse?

It’s possible to lose VA disability benefits because of substance abuse, but only in certain situations. If a veteran has a dishonorable discharge or if willful misconduct can be proven, the disability benefits may be lost. The VA has strict rules in place for disability ratings and if an applicant does not meet these regulations or fails to meet their own criteria, then benefits may be denied or revoked.6,7

What Are the Other Ways You Can Lose VA Disability Benefits?

Losing VA disability benefits is not limited to a dishonorable discharge and willful misconduct. Other ways of losing these benefits include fraudulent activity, overpayment, receiving severance pay, or breaking the law:8

  • Fraud: False statements of any kind regarding one’s application or status as an eligible beneficiary can count as fraud. Even small exaggerations or omissions in an effort to receive more benefits can be considered fraud and result in the loss of all VA Disability payments
  • Overpayment: If a veteran receives more than they’re entitled to due to an administrative error, they’re expected to return the excess payments in what’s known as an overpayment. 
  • Severance pay: If a veteran received severance pay when they ended their term of service and is still eligible to apply for VA disability benefits, they will be required to reimburse the severance amount.
  • Breaking the law: If a veteran is convicted of a crime and sent to jail, they’ll have their benefits reduced or suspended while in prison. The VA may also cancel or suspend payments if a veteran fails to respond to an inquiry or warrant issued by the legal system. 

What Are VA Disability Rates?

Understanding VA disability rates is important for veterans who need financial support due to a related disability. The VA assesses disability ratings from 0% to 100% in increments of 10%. According to this system, the veteran’s benefits increase depending on the degree of their disability.9

In order to decide how much compensation a veteran should receive, there’s an established scale that reflects an amount associated with each percentage rating. To illustrate this point, disabled veterans with a 10% rating receive $152.64 and those with a 20% rating receive $301.74.9

What Should I Do If I Have Multiple Disability Ratings?

If you have multiple disability ratings from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, you may be eligible for additional compensation. When calculating your overall disability rating, the VA will consider the severity of each disability and calculate all ratings to establish a combined rating. This combined rating may differ from adding each disability rating separately due to a complex set of regulations set forth by the VA.10

What Is the VA Disability Rate for Substance Abuse?

As it stands, the VA does not offer disability benefits ratings specifically for substance abuse as a result of military service. However, veteran claimants can often demonstrate that their SUD was caused or exacerbated by service-related events, in which case a VA disability rating could be granted.10

The exact VA rating amount depends on a variety of factors surrounding the individual’s SUD, such as its severity and any related physical impairments. Gathering sufficient evidence to support a valid claim is key; VA examiners look at both medical and non-medical sources when assessing disability claims.10

The VA will also take into account any mitigating circumstances before awarding a disability rating and in many cases, will prefer to provide veterans access to healthcare and other supportive services rather than an increase in disability payments.10

What Is the VA Disability Rate for Other Veterans Issues?

The VA disability rate for other veterans’ issues, such as PTSD and depression, varies depending on the severity of the individual’s condition. To determine a veteran’s VA disability rating, they must first be examined by a doctor.10

After examination, the doctor will assign a combined disability rating based on multiple factors, including an evaluation of their medical diagnosis and evidence to support their claim. The higher the combined disability rating is, the higher the percentage of compensation paid out to the veteran by the Veterans Administration each month.10

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for veterans seeking these benefits to find themselves under-compensated relative to their condition and actual disability rating. It is therefore important to speak with Veterans Administration professionals before submitting your claim in order to ensure that you are receiving optimal benefits.10

How to Submit a VA Disability Claim?

Submitting a claim for VA disability compensation is not difficult, but it can be overwhelming due to the paperwork required. Fortunately, there are multiple ways for struggling veterans to get help submitting their claims.11

They can submit an online compensation claim or mail in a filled form to the Department of Veterans Affairs or they can bring a completed form to their local VA office. Veterans can work with an accredited representative if they need guidance throughout the process.11

Veterans can also consider filing a disability claim through the Social Security Administration (SSA). They offer two disability programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSI helps those with limited income and resources receive basic financial support while SSDI benefits are available to individuals who have gathered enough credits over their lifetime, as well as certain family members of those workers.11

How to Get Help for Substance Abuse Disorder as a Veteran?

Veteran-specific substance abuse treatment is widely available to veterans who are struggling with chemical dependency. Comprehensive treatment programs such as those offered through the American Addiction Centers’ network of private rehabilitation centers are designed to help veterans address their substance use disorder in a safe, supportive environment. 

AAC offers multiple ways to pay, including through VA benefits and various forms of insurance. This includes coverage through TriWest Insurance as well as through TriCare insurance. AAC’s centers provide comprehensive services throughout the recovery process, from medically supervised detox and help coping with withdrawal to dual diagnosis programs that treat both substance abuse disorder and any accompanying mental disorders

The treatment-seeking individual can verify their insurance coverage with a well-informed and trained admissions navigator who can guide them through the admission process. Struggling individuals can reach out for help through AAC’s rehabilitation helpline. The navigator can help the struggling individual find the appropriate facility for their needs, whether it’s a local detox rehab or a center specializing in treatment for veterans.

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