Can I Get VA Disability Benefits if Injured in Boot Camp?
What Are VA Disability Benefits?
VA disability benefits come in the form of monthly compensation paid to veterans who are suffering from service-connected conditions. A service-connected condition is one that resulted from military service, whether at boot camp or deployed, as determined by VA. Specifically, entitlement to service connection requires the following:
- A current, diagnosed condition;
- An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
- A medical nexus linking the in-service event and the current, diagnosed condition.
After granting service connection, VA will assign a disability rating based on the severity of the condition. VA will combine each of your separate disability ratings together to establish your combined disability rating. Importantly, the amount of monthly compensation you receive depends on your combined disability rating. As of 2020, the disability pay chart is as follows:
- 0 percent disability rating: $0.00 per month
- 10 percent disability rating: $142.29 per month
- 20 percent disability rating: $281.27 per month
- 30 percent disability rating: $435.69 per month
- 40 percent disability rating: $627.61 per month
- 50 percent disability rating: $893.43 per month
- 60 percent disability rating: $1,131.68 per month
- 70 percent disability rating: $1,426.17 per month
- 80 percent disability rating: $1,657.80 per month
- 90 percent disability rating: $1,862.96 per month
- 100 percent disability rating: $3,106.04 per month
Veterans who have a combined disability rating of 30 percent or higher may be eligible to receive additional compensation for qualifying dependents.
Who is Eligible to Receive VA Disability Benefits?
In order to qualify for VA disability benefits, a veteran’s injuries or illnesses must have occurred or been aggravated during active duty military service. A service member on active duty is one who is in the military full-time, meaning they are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, may live on a military base, and can be deployed at any time. Importantly, active duty includes full-time training duty, annual training duty, and attendance (while in active military service) at a school designated as a service school. Essentially, the date you start boot camp or basic training, you are on active duty and therefore subject to service connection for any disabilities incurred.
Active duty service members cannot receive VA disability benefits while on active duty as they are not yet considered veterans. However, it is important to note that they can later receive benefits for events, injuries, and/or illnesses that occurred during any of the active duty circumstances described above (including boot camp). They can file for VA disability benefits 180 to 90 days prior to separation from service, or at any point following separation from service.
Another important factor in eligibility for VA disability benefits involves the veteran’s type of separation or discharge status. There are several ways in which you can separate from service, including:
- Honorable discharge
- General discharge
- Other than honorable conditions discharge
- Bad conduct discharge
- Dishonorable discharge
To qualify for VA disability compensation, you must have received any discharge status other than dishonorable.
VA Disability Benefits for Accidents Not Related to Combat
Again, service-connected compensation is available for all active duty injuries (including those that happened in boot camp) except those that resulted from willful misconduct or while AWOL (i.e. absent without official leave). Since you are considered to be on active duty for 24 hours a day, you can be service-connected for disabilities resulting from almost any type of accident or injury that occurs during that time, including:
- While on leave;
- While traveling to or from leave; and
- While on base during off-hours
You are on active duty between the time you enlist and the time you are discharged or separated, regardless of whether you are on leave, on base, at boot camp or training, or in combat.
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