The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has two categories of disability pay: disability compensation and disability pension income. Disability compensation is granted for injuries incurred or aggravated as a result of military service, while disability pension income is for wartime veterans over age 65 with limited or no income. The VA also pays benefits to the widows and children of deceased wartime veterans. The amount of disability you will receive depends on your circumstances, the disability and percentage of disability rating you receive, and on your dependents.
Disability compensation income is primarily based on the percentage of disability you receive. A 10-percent disability is only mildly disabling, while a 100-percent disability indicates an unlikelihood that you will find significant, gainful employment as a result of the disability. As of 2010, disability payments range from $123 per month with a 10-percent disability rating up to $2,673 per month for a veteran with a 100-percent disability living alone. The VA pays additional amounts to disabled veterans with children and to those who live with dependent parents. Additionally, you may qualify for transportation reimbursement if you travel for treatment and you have at least a 30-percent disability rating.
Combat-Related Special Compensation
Under some circumstances, veterans can receive veterans compensation pay in addition to their military retirement pensions. A 2008 law expanded eligibility for the program to medically retired veterans with fewer than 20 years of service. You may be eligible for the special compensation if you are medically retired and suffer from a disability as a result of hostile fire in combat, in a training accident in an exercise simulating combat such as a field exercise, or while performing hazardous duty such as air assault training or parachuting. To apply, fill out a DD Form 2860 and forward it to your military branch.
The VA limits disability pensions to wartime veterans with annual incomes below $11,830 for veterans living alone with no dependents, or $14,457 if they are housebound, as of 2009. The VA makes annual cost-of-living adjustments. Veterans with dependents can qualify for a higher income exemption. The VA disability pension generally pays veterans the difference between the income allowances described above and their actual annual income, payable in 12 equal monthly installments.
VA Death Pensions
The VA pays a small pension to widows of wartime veterans, provided they are at least 18 years old and not remarried. There are restrictions on the widow's allowable income. To qualify, veterans who were wartime veterans after 1980 must generally have served at least 24 months on active duty, or served the full period for which they were called if less than 24 months. There are certain exceptions, though, including exceptions for those who left service due to injury, wounds or illness. To qualify, a widow with no dependents would need an annual income below $7,933 (as of 2009), with medical expenses in excess of $397 not counted against the widow. A dependent brings the income limit to $10,385. The pension pays the difference between the widow's actual income and the allowable income limits.
Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally since 1998. A former staff reporter for "Mutual Funds Magazine," he has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Annuity Selling Guide," "Registered Rep." "Bankrate.com" and "Senior Market Advisor." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the University of Southern California.