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Veterans Law

List of Benefits for Veterans 90 Percent Disabled

September 4, 2020

VA Disability Compensation Overview

According to VA, disability compensation offers a monthly, tax-free payment to (1) veterans who became sick or injured while serving in the military or (2) veterans whose service worsened an existing condition.  Veterans may qualify for VA disability benefits for physical conditions (e.g., chronic illness or injury) and mental health conditions (e.g., PTSD, depression, anxiety) that developed before, during, or after service.  To be eligible for VA disability compensation, a veteran must have:

  • Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; and
  • A disability rating for their service-connected condition; and
  • Become sick or injured while serving in the military (and can link this condition to their illness or injury); or
  • Had an illness or injury before joining service that was made worse by service (i.e., pre-service disability claim); or
  • A disability related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended your service (i.e., post-service disability claim)

It is important to note that if a veteran received a discharge status other than honorable (i.e., bad conduct or dishonorable discharge), they may not be eligible for VA disability benefits.  However, there are a number of ways in which veterans can receive a discharge upgrade.

Monthly Compensation Rates for 90 Percent Disabled Veterans

For 2020, the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) was increased by approximately 1.6 percent, resulting in a rise in benefits for veterans.  On December 1, 2019, veterans rated as 90 percent disabled without any qualifying dependents began receiving $1,862.96 in VA disability compensation.  Depending on the type of qualifying dependent(s), veterans rated as 90 percent disabled began receiving the following monthly compensation amounts:

  • Veteran and Spouse – $2,017.96 (if spouse requires aid and attendance, add $143)
  • Veteran, Spouse, and Parent – $2,142.96
  • Veteran, Spouse, and Parents – $2,267.96
  • Veteran and Parent – $1,987.96
  • Veteran and Parents – $2,112.96
  • Veteran, Spouse, and Child – $2,132.96
  • Veteran and Child – $1,966.96
  • Veteran, Spouse, Parent, and Child – $2,257.96
  • Veteran, Spouse, Parents, and Child – $2,382.96
  • Veteran, Parent, and Child – $2,091.96
  • Veteran, Parents, and Child – $2,216.96

For each additional child under the age of 18, veterans who are rated as 90 percent disabled can add $77 to their monthly compensation amount.  Moreover, for each additional schoolchild over the age of 18, veterans who are 90 percent disabled can add $250 to their monthly compensation amount.

Other Benefits for 90 Percent Disabled Veterans

In addition to monthly compensation, 90 percent disabled veterans are entitled to many other VA benefits, including the following:

Life Insurance for Veterans 90 Percent Disabled

VA provides valuable life insurance benefits to give veterans “the peace of mind that comes with knowing your [sic] family is protected.”  According to VA, their life insurance programs were developed to provide financial security for veterans’ families given the extraordinary risks involved in military service.  Common types of veterans’ life insurance include Veteran’s Group Life Insurance (VGLI) and Serve Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI).  To be eligible for the latter, veterans must have a service-connected condition.

Home Loan Guarantee

VA provides home loan guarantees to help veterans buy, repair, build, or keep a home.  In general, VA home loans are provided by private lenders (banks and mortgage companies), and are guaranteed by VA in order for a veteran or service member to get more favorable terms on their mortgage.  VA has multiple types of home loans, but the overall idea remains the same.  Veterans can enjoy lower interest rates on their loans and may be able to pay lower down payments for their homes guaranteed by VA.  For example, Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL) allow veterans to refinance their current loan under new terms, such as a mortgage payment or interest rate.  IRRRLs can also give veterans the opportunity to move their loan from an adjustable or variable interest rate to a fixed rate.

VA Health Care for 90 Percent Disabled Veterans

When veterans apply for VA health care, VA will assign them to 1 of 8 priority groups.  These priority groups are based on the following:

  • Military service history
  • VA disability rating
  • Income level
  • Whether the veteran qualifies for Medicaid; and
  • Other benefits veterans may be receiving (e.g, VA pension benefits)

Veterans rated as 90 percent disabled meet eligibility requirements for Health Care Priority Group 1.  This group includes the following benefits:

  • Preventive care
  • Inpatient (hospitalization) services
  • Ancillary services
  • Mental health care
  • Geriatrics and extended care
  • Medical equipment/prosthetic items and aids
  • Medication/supplies
  • Dental care
  • Nursing home placement
  • Medically related travel benefits
  • Eyeglasses
  • Hearing aids
  • Automotive adaptive equipment (under certain conditions)
  • Home improvement and structural alteration grants (under certain conditions)
  • Clothing allowance benefits (under certain conditions)
  • Dependents’ health care (if not eligible under TRICARE)
  • Emergency care at a non-VA facility (under certain conditions)
  • Foreign medical care (for service-connected and secondary conditions)

Clothing Allowance

As indicated above, there are certain situations in which 90 percent disabled veterans qualify for a clothing allowance.  Specifically, clothing allowance is a yearly monetary benefit afforded to veterans with a service-connected condition that requires prosthetics or orthopedic appliances or topical medications that lead to additional wear and tear on clothing.

Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grants

Home improvement and structural alteration grants are available primarily to veterans with service-connected conditions (and some with non-service-connected conditions) who require home improvements or alterations for the continuation of treatment.  Here, eligibility requires a medical determination that such improvement and alterations are necessary for effective medical treatment of the condition.

Burial Benefits

For service-related deaths, VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001, or up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 11, 2001.  If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased veteran may be reimbursed.

On the other hand, for non-service related deaths, VA will pay up to $796 toward burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2019 (if hospitalized by VA at time of death), or $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death), and a $796 plot-interment allowance (if not buried in a national cemetery).  For surviving spouses of 90 percent disabled veterans to qualify for burial benefits, the following must be true:

  • You paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral; and
  • You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran’s employer; and
  • The veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; and
    • The veteran died because of a service-related disability; or
    • The veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death; or
    • The veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce their military retirement or disability pay; or
    • The veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility; or
    • The veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care; or
    • The veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date of death; or
    • The veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

VA Pension

VA Pension, or Veterans Pension, is a tax-free monthly benefit for certain low-income, wartime veterans, including those who are rated as 90 percent disabled.  Even though it is called a pension, the benefit has no relation to the number of years served.  Rather, it is based on financial need, disability, and/or age.  90 percent disabled veterans may be eligible to receive VA pension benefits if they were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and:

  • Started on active duty before September 8, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one day during wartime; or
  • Started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions) with at least one day during wartime

AND:

  • Your “countable family income” and net worth are below a yearly limit set by law (i.e., the Maximum Annual Pension Rate)

AND at least one of these is true:

  • You are at least 65 years old;
  • You have a permanent and total (100%) disability;
  • You are a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability; or
  • You are getting Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

Concurrent Retired and Disability Pay

Veterans who are rated as 90 percent disabled may qualify for concurrent retired and disability pay (CRDP).  Importantly, CRDP restores your service pay simply by eliminating the VA waiver*.  Veterans will not receive a separate check for CRDP.  Instead, the monthly check they receive from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the administrator of military retired pay, will be increased from the docketed amount to their full retired pay.  Since it is a direct restoration of the VA waiver, CRDP essentially counts as service retired pay.  There is no application process for CRDP.  If veterans meet the eligibility requirements, DFAS will automatically eliminate the VA waiver, thereby restoring retired pay.

To be eligible for CRDP, veterans must:

  • Be receiving retired pay and VA compensation;
  • Be a 20-year (or more) retiree; and
  • Have a service-connected condition rated 50 percent or higher.

*Note: Veterans who receive both service retired pay and VA disability compensation simultaneously are required to waive part of their service retired pay.  The amount the veteran receives in VA compensation is subtracted from the amount they receive in retired pay to avoid “double-dipping.”  This subtraction constitutes the VA Waiver.

State Benefits for 90 Percent Disabled Veterans

Veterans rated at 90 percent disabled should also look into other state-offered benefits, including:

  • Educational discounts or free tuition at local universities
  • Homeowners tax exemptions
  • Veteran housing programs (i.e., assisted living, retirement villages)
  • Long-term nursing facilities
  • Property tax exemptions
  • DAV state license plates/vehicle registration
  • Free admission to state parks
  • Discounts on hunting and fishing licenses
  • Waiver of certain state fees (e.g., tolls, parking, permits, business, or driver’s licenses, etc.)

It is important to note that each state may have different qualification requirements.  To explore more state-offered benefits, veterans should visit VA’s website.

Going from 90 Percent to 100 Percent Disability

There are many reasons why appealing your 90 percent VA disability rating may be beneficial.  For example, if you are successful in appealing your 90 percent disability rating, your monthly compensation amount will increase by over $1,000.  However, despite the many benefits, there are also several barriers.  Specifically, the VA disability appeals process and timeline can be very lengthy and difficult to navigate.  Under certain circumstances, VA may increase your 90 percent VA disability rating without prompting.  In this case, it is likely that VA evaluated new evidence supporting the fact that your service-connected condition has worsened.  If you think your service-connected condition warrants a higher disability rating than the one you are currently assigned, there are two routes you can take depending on which best fits your situation: (1) file an appeal; or (2) file for an increased rating.

When trying to go from a 90 percent disability rating to a 100 percent disability rating, veterans should be mindful of the rating criteria for each service-connected condition for which they are seeking an increase.  Veterans can read through the rating criteria and determine how their symptomology lines up with what is listed.

Filing for TDIU with 90 Percent Disability Rating

Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a disability benefit that allows for veterans to be compensated at VA’s 100 percent disability rate, even if their combined schedular rating does not equal 100 percent.  TDIU is awarded in circumstances in which veterans are unable to secure or follow substantially gainful employment due to their service-connected condition(s).  VA outlines TDIU regulations under 38 CFR § 4.16, which includes subsections (a) and (b).  Each subsection describes an option by which veterans may meet the requirements for TDIU.  In order to qualify for TDIU under 38 CFR § 4.16(a), a veteran must have:

  • One service-connected condition rated at 60 percent or higher; or
  • Two or more service-connected conditions, one of which is rated at least 40 percent disabling, with a combined rating of at least 70 percent.

Those who do not meet the schedular requirements under § 4.16(a) may still be considered for TDIU under § 4.16(b).  Under this subsection, VA must refer a veteran’s case to the Director of Compensation Service for extraschedular consideration.  To apply for TDIU, VA requires that veterans complete VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.

Veterans who are rated as 90 percent disabled should consider applying for TDIU if the circumstances apply.  TDIU is one way in which such veterans can receive the highest amount of disability compensation.