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Veterans Law

What Conditions Do Not Qualify for VA Disability Benefits?

April 10, 2020

VA Disability Compensation Overview

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are determined by VA to be disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service.  These disabilities are considered to be service-connected.  According to VA, monthly disability compensation varies depending on the severity of the disability and the overall impairment in functioning.  Furthermore, veterans with combined disability ratings of at least 30 percent may be eligible for additional compensation for qualifying dependents, including:

  • Spouses
  • Minor children
  • Children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending school
  • Children who are permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability arising before age 18
  • Dependent parents

Eligibility for VA Disability Compensation

Again, to qualify for VA disability compensation, you must have a current physical or mental condition and you must meet the following requirements:

  • Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; and
  • Have a disability rating for your service-connected condition; and
  • Became sick or injured while serving in the military and can link this condition to your current condition; or
  • Had an illness or injury before you joined the military and it worsened in service; or
  • Have a disability-related to your active duty service that did not appear until after your service ended

Qualifying for VA Disability Compensation with an Other-Than-Honorable Discharge

If you received an other-than-honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge, you may not qualify for VA disability benefits.  In order to become eligible, you can apply for a discharge upgrade.  All branches of the military consider you to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if you can show your discharge was connected to any of these categories:

  • Mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Sexual assault or harassment during military service (military sexual trauma, or MST)
  • Sexual orientation (including under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy)

Even without a discharge upgrade, you may be able to access some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge review process.  When applying for VA benefits, VA will review your record to determine if your service was “honorable for VA purposes.”

Conditions That Qualify for VA Disability Compensation

VA offers disability compensation for thousands of conditions, both physical and mental.  You may be able to get VA disability benefits for conditions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Scar tissue
  • Loss of range of motion (problems moving your body)
  • Ulcers
  • Cancers caused by contact with toxic chemicals or other dangers
  • TBI
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

The VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is comprised of 15 different categories according to various bodily systems.  As such, there are thousands of conditions eligible for compensation.

Conditions that Do Not Qualify for VA Compensation

As indicated above, VA disability compensation covers a wide range of issues.  However, there are a number of conditions that do not qualify.  VA does not consider some psychiatric conditions to be related to military service due to the nature of the disorder:

  • Personality Disorders. These types of conditions are marked by lifelong behavioral patterns that often do not change. Therefore, military service cannot cause a personality disorder.
  • Substance Abuse Disorder. VA does not directly grant service connection for substance abuse disorder.  Veterans can, however, be service-connected on a secondary basis for disabilities that arise from substance abuse due to a service-connected condition.  For example, a veteran who uses alcohol to cope with symptoms of PTSD and later develops cirrhosis of the liver may be entitled to disability compensation for the liver condition as secondary to PTSD.
  • Impulse Control Disorder
  • Cognitive Delays and Developmental Disabilities

Furthermore, any conditions that do not fall within the categories listed in the previous section, may not qualify for VA disability compensation.  Nonetheless, veterans should file a claim for any condition that they believe may be caused by their time in military service and allow VA to make a decision on it.