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What qualifies a disability for VA benefits?

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2023 | VA Benefits

The National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics reported as of 2022, the number of veterans in the U.S. was over 18.5 million. Many of these individuals have health conditions related to their time in the service.

However, qualifying for disability benefits from the Veterans Administration can be a challenging process. To receive VA disability benefits, veterans must meet specific criteria regarding their disabilities. Understanding what qualifies a disability for VA benefits helps when navigating the application process.

Service-related disability

To be eligible for VA disability benefits, the disability must relate to the military service. This means the medical condition must be a result of military service or aggravated by service, and there must be evidence of this connection.

Degree of disability

The VA employs a rating system that assigns a percentage to each disability, reflecting its severity. To qualify for benefits, the disability must meet the minimum rating threshold, typically set at 10%. This percentage helps calculate the level of compensation the veteran will receive. Higher percentages result in greater financial support.


Veterans must provide comprehensive medical records, including diagnosis, treatment history and any pertinent medical opinions or statements from healthcare professionals. The quality and completeness of the medical evidence are essential for the VA to assess the disability accurately.

Timing of disability

To be eligible for benefits, the disability must have manifested during or after military service. There are some exceptions to this rule for conditions that develop after service but link to service-related disabilities.

Presumptive disability

The VA considers some disabilities as presumptive, which means they automatically attribute them to military service. This includes conditions such as certain cancers, tropical diseases and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans with presumptive conditions have an advantage in the application process. They do not need to prove the direct link between their disability and military service.

Secondary service-connected disability

Secondary service-connected disabilities are conditions that arise as a result of another service-connected disability. For instance, if a veteran has a knee injury that causes them to change their gait, leading to back pain, the back pain may also qualify.

The VA periodically reviews disabilities to ensure that the ratings remain accurate and appropriate. If a veteran’s condition improves, their benefits may adjust accordingly. Conversely, if the condition worsens or new service-connected disabilities emerge, the veteran may receive increased benefits.