Veterans who were injured while serving their country may be eligible for disability compensation from the federal VA. These benefits are tax-free.
It is highly recommended that you seek the free assistance of a certified Veteran Service Officer or contact the DC Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs at 202-724-5454 to help determine the benefits you may qualify for and walk you through the application process.
Disability compensation is a monthly, tax-free benefit paid to veterans who are at least 10 percent disabled because of injuries, diseases or conditions that were incurred or aggravated during active duty or training, or from injury, heart attack or stroke that occurred during inactive duty training. The service-connected disability can apply to physical health conditions, such as a chronic knee injury or Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Post-service disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service may also be eligible for compensation, as well as disabilities presumed to be related to military service, which are known as presumptive health conditions.
Adaptive Assistance: Automobile
For eligible disabled veteran drivers, the federal VA Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) program will cover the cost of installation of adaptive equipment deemed necessary to safely operate vehicles, and to satisfy applicable district standards of licensure. This equipment includes power steering, power brakes, power door openers, power window lifts, power seats, hand controls, left foot gas pedals, reduced effort and zero effort steering and braking, and digital driving systems. Also included is additional equipment necessary for assisting the person into and out of the vehicle, such as wheelchair lifts, UVLs (under vehicle lifts), lowered floors/raised roofs, and raised doors.
The VA will also repair, replace, or reinstall adaptive equipment deemed necessary for the operation of a vehicle acquired under this program, or a vehicle an eligible veteran may have previously or subsequently acquired.
See current automobile allowance rates here.
For more information: Federal VA: Automobile Adaptive Equipment (AAE) Program
Adaptive Assistance: Clothing
If you require the use of prosthetic or orthopedic appliances, such as a wheelchair or crutches, or a physician-prescribed skin medication as a result of a service-connected disability or injury, you may be eligible for an annual clothing allowance from the federal VA. The clothing allowance reimburses you for damage to outer garments as a result of using the devices or ointments related to your disability.
Additional clothing allowances may be provided if more than one prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, or medication described above, is used and/or affects more than one type of clothing garment.
For more information: Federal VA: Special Clothing Allowance
Adaptive Assistance: Housing
For service members and veterans with qualifying service-connected disabilities, the federal VA offers several grant programs to help with the cost of purchasing or constructing an adapted home, or modifying an existing residence with special features to accommodate a disability. These grant programs include the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant, and the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant.
Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant
Under the SHA grant program, the VA may approve a grant for the actual cost for adaptations to a veteran’s residence — either their own home or that of a family member with whom they reside — determined by the VA to be reasonably necessary to promote ease and freedom of movement throughout the house. These include, but are not limited to, the installation of covered porches, entry ramps and walkways, security devices, sliding doors, handrails, and grab bars.
The grant may also be applied to new home purchases: either toward acquiring a residence that has already been adapted with special features for the veteran’s disability, or to modifying a home which the veteran or hosting family member intends to buy.
Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant
SAH grants provide toward the cost of building, buying, or remodeling adapted homes, or paying indebtedness on homes previously acquired. Additionally, SAH grants can be used to purchase land on which specially-adapted housing is to be built.
For more information: Federal VA: SHA and SAH Grants
Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology (SAHAT) Grant Program
This federal VA program awards grants to persons or entities to encourage the development of specially-adapted assistive technologies that enhance a disabled veteran’s ability to live independently, such as voice-recognition and voice-command operations, living environment controls, and adaptive feeding equipment.
For more information: Federal VA: Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology (SAHAT) Grant Program
Supplemental Financing Loan Guaranty
Veterans who have available loan guarantee entitlement may also obtain a guaranteed loan or possibly a direct loan from the federal VA to supplement the grants to acquire a specially-adapted home.
For more information: Federal VA: Home Loans
Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA)
This federal VA program provides funding for disabled veterans to make home improvements necessary for the continuation of treatment or for disability access to the home, and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities.
Disabled veterans may be eligible for HISA when it is determined medically necessary or appropriate for the effective and economical treatment of the service-connected disability.
For more information: Federal VA: Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA)
Did you know that you can access much of your personal information and perform a variety of self-service tasks online through the federal VA’s eBenefits Web portal? Military records and information regarding such issues as healthcare, education, and pension benefits are among those accessible via a secure, personalized dashboard. There, you can also file and update claims for disability compensation, as well as access employment resources.
Note: Before you can access and use eBenefits, you must be listed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and obtain a DS Logon.
For more information: Federal VA: eBenefits Web Portal
To be eligible, you must have been released from military service under honorable conditions, meaning an honorable or general discharge. Compensation varies based on the severity of your disability. Generally, the degrees of disability are designed to compensate for a considerable loss of working time due to exacerbations or illnesses.
The federal VA rates disabilities on a 10-point scale from 0 to 100 percent (e.g., 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, etc.). You may be eligible for additional compensation if your service-connected disability is very severe or you have lost limbs, or if you have dependents or a seriously disabled spouse. (See "Special Monthly Compensation")
If the VA finds that you have more than one disability, the rates are combined based on a calculation explained here. Compensation is set based on federal law and is not subject to district or federal income tax.
For more information: Federal VA: Disability Compensation
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
The surviving dependents of veterans and service members killed or wounded in the line of duty may be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), a tax-free monetary benefit paid by the federal VA. This benefit is for survivors of service members who died while on active duty or in training, or survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-connected injury or disease.
DIC is the primary monetary benefit for eligible dependents of deceased veterans and is essentially the equivalent benefit of disability compensation for veterans. Compensation rates are set by federal law. In addition to the basic monthly rate, surviving spouses may be eligible for additional compensation if you have dependent children, or if you are housebound or in need of aid and attendance.
How to apply
The VA requires you to submit evidence in support of your claim, demonstrating that your spouse or parent was killed in the line of duty or that his or her death resulted from a service-connected condition. This evidence may include service records, medical records and other documentation.
For more information: Federal VA: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
The financially struggling parents of veterans and service members killed or wounded in the line of duty may be eligible for Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, a tax-free monetary benefit paid by the federal VA.
This benefit is similar to the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is for the surviving spouses and children of deceased veterans whose deaths were service-connected. The main difference is that, unlike regular DIC, parents’ DIC is also income-based, meaning applicants must have an income below the level set by Congress to qualify. More information about eligibility and how the income rates are calculated can be found on the federal VA's website.
The parent of any service member who died while on active duty or in training, or of any veteran whose death resulted from a service-connected injury or disease, may be eligible for this benefit. Biological, adoptive and foster parents are all eligible, foster parent being defined as a person who stood in the relationship of a parent for at least one year before the veteran or service member’s last entry into active service.
How to apply
The VA requires you to submit evidence in support of your claim, demonstrating that your child was killed in the line of duty or that his or her death resulted from a service-connected condition. This evidence may include service records, medical records and other documentation.
For more information: Federal VA: Parents' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Supplemental Financing Loan Guaranty
Veterans who have available home loan guaranty entitlement may also obtain a guaranteed loan, or possibly a direct loan, from the VA to supplement the grants to acquire a specially adapted home.
For more information: Federal VA: Home Loans
Special Monthly Compensation
The federal VA offers additional compensation, called Special Monthly Compensation, to veterans with very severe service-connected disabilities, or who have lost (or lost the use of) limbs, organs or extremities as a result of their military service. The VA may also pay higher rates of compensation if you have lost or lost the use of more than one limb, organ or extremity, or if it is combined with another service-connected disability or condition, such as blindness or deafness.
Special Monthly Compensation may also be paid to veterans, spouses, surviving spouses and parents if they are bedridden, housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person to perform the basic functions of everyday life, such as eating, dressing, bathing and going to the bathroom.
Special Monthly Compensation is set based on federal law and is not subject to state or federal income tax. More information about how Special Monthly Compensation is calculated can be found on the federal VA's website.
Veterans must meet all of the federal VA’s requirements for Disability Compensation to be eligible for Special Monthly Compensation, including having been released from military service under honorable conditions, meaning an honorable or general discharge.
Spouses, surviving spouses and parents must meet the requirements for dependency and indemnity compensation to be eligible. See Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
For more information: Federal VA: Special Monthly Compensation Fact Sheet
Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.
The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.
For more information: SSA: Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors