VA Disability Compensation

Benefits and Services

What do I get?

If you get VA Disability Compensation benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) gives you a specific disability rating for each disability you have. These ratings use percentages to show how much your service-connected disability limits your ability to work. Ratings are given in amounts of 10%, starting at 0%, then 10%, 20%, and so on, up to 100%. The amount of your benefits is based on these percentages.

The VA lists the current service-connected Disability Compensation rates. To understand these charts, read the VA’s article on How to Read Benefits Rate Tables.

Your rating if you have more than one disability

If you have more than one disability, the VA uses a formula to calculate your final combined disability rating. This final combined rating isn’t usually the same as just adding together the ratings for each individual condition. For example, one condition with a 30% rating and another with 20% rating would only give a combined rating of 40%, not 50%. Some people call this “VA math.”

Individual Unemployability (IU)

If you get VA Disability Compensation and can’t get or keep a job at all because of your disability, you might get extra payments due to Individual Unemployability (IU).

To get these extra IU payments, you must:

  • Get VA Disability Compensation
  • Have one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher, or two or more service-connected conditions with at least one rated at 40% or higher, and
  • Be unable to get or keep a job that pays as much as the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). The VA calls this “substantial gainful employment.”

Even if you have a job, you might qualify for IU. For example, you can get IU if you make less than the poverty level (called “marginal employment”) or if you have a job where, because of your disability, you don’t have to do exactly the same work or meet the same standards as someone else doing that job (called “sheltered employment”). For example, if you work for a friend or a relative who knows about your disability and makes special work rules just for you, the VA may decide that you can get IU.

Be careful if you are working as a volunteer. You could lose your IU benefits if the VA decides that the unpaid work you do shows that you are employable.

Learn more about Individual Unemployability.

How Other Benefits Affect VA Disability Compensation

Your VA compensation benefit may be lower if you’ve gotten military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments, known as Special Separation Benefits (SSB) and Voluntary Separation Incentives (VSI).

However, in some cases you can get both full military retirement pay and VA Disability Compensation. When you apply for Disability Compensation, let the VA know if you’ve gotten any of these types of payments, and they decide if you can get full Disability Compensation benefits. If you don’t tell the VA about these payments and they overpay you, you could end up owing them money. (If you disagree with their decision, you can appeal.)

Special Monthly Compensation

If you have lost (or lost the use of) an organ or limb and you get VA Disability Compensation, you might also get tax-free Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). While Disability Compensation pays you for lost wages, SMC pays for things like personal inconvenience. You may also get SMC if you can’t leave your house or bed without help, or you need regular help from another person with your daily activities.

SMC is one of the most complex VA programs. Learn more about Special Monthly Compensation.

How do I get the money?

The U.S. Treasury pays all federal benefits electronically. This means you can get your payments by direct deposit (your payments go straight into your bank account each month automatically) or through a Direct Express debit card.

For direct deposit, the U.S. Treasury Department:

If you want to have your benefits payments added to a Direct Express debit card each month:

  1. You can get your payments electronically even if you do not have a bank account.
  2. You have access to your money any time at automated teller machines (ATMs) and you can buy things anywhere that accepts MasterCard.
  3. You can access your account information by telephone and Internet, make purchases over the Internet, and get cash back at stores without paying a fee.

For more details or to sign up for a Direct Express debit card, visit the U.S. Treasury Department’s GoDirect page.

Learn more