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Veterans Law

Which Conditions Qualify for VA Disability Benefits

Robert Chisholm

December 22, 2019

Updated: November 20, 2023

man in grassy field with dog pondering medical conditions

What is VA Disability Compensation?

VA disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to veterans who got sick or injured while serving in the military and to veterans whose service made existing conditions worse.  To be eligible 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
  • Got 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 serving made it worse; or
  • Have a disability related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended your service.

Importantly, if you received an other-than-honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge, you may not be eligible 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.”

VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities

The Department of Veterans Affairs uses the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), located in Part 4 of Title 38 in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, to assign diagnostic codes and disability ratings for service-connected conditions.  Specifically, the VASRD is comprised of 15 different categories according to various bodily systems:

  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Organs of Special Sense
  • Impairment of Auditory Acuity
  • Infectious Diseases, Immune Disorders, and Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Respiratory System
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Digestive System
  • Genitourinary System
  • Gynecological Conditions and Disorders of the Breast
  • Hematologic and Lymphatic Systems
  • Skin
  • Endocrine System
  • Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Dental and Oral Conditions

Each category contains conditions that can occur within that bodily system and rating criteria for how those conditions will be evaluated for the purposes of receiving VA disability compensation.  The rating criteria will describe symptoms and/or treatment for a condition, and VA rates veterans depending on if their symptoms or treatment match, or are comparable, to what is listed.  Importantly, each VA disability rating is meant to compensate veterans for the average impairment in earning capacity caused by their service-connected condition.

What Conditions Are Included in the VASRD?

VA offers disability compensation for thousands of conditions, both physical and mental.  You may be able to get VA disability benefits for conditions such as:

  • Chronic (long-lasting) back pain resulting in a current diagnosed back disability
  • Breathing problems resulting from a current lung condition or lung disease
  • Severe 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

However, this is not an exhaustive list and veterans should file a claim for any condition that they believe may be caused by their time in military service.  According to VA’s Annual Benefits Report for Fiscal Year 2018, there are approximately 5.2 million disabled veterans with over 25 million disabilities, averaging about 5 disabilities per veteran.

What Are the Most Common Conditions for Veterans?

Once again, veterans may receive VA disability compensation for almost any condition that is caused or aggravated by their military service.  However, here are the most common disabilities among the veteran population:

  • Bilateral Hearing Loss
  • Tinnitus
  • PTSD
  • Scars
  • Limitation of Flexion of the Knee
  • Lumbar and Cervical Strains
  • Paralysis of the Sciatic Nerve
  • Limitation of Motion of the Ankle
  • Migraines
  • Degenerative Arthritis of the Spine

About the Author

Bio photo of Robert Chisholm

Robert is a Founding Partner of CCK Law. His law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and before the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a veterans lawyer Robert has been representing disabled veterans since 1990. During his extensive career, Robert has successfully represented veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Robert