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VA Disability for National Guard Veterans

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Since my active duty service at Andrews AFB and when I attended the Transition Assistance Program, the rules for ANG/NG service members being able to draw a VA disability while drilling have changed. Since the mid 2000's the rules have changed for traditional guardsmen being able to draw their drill check and a VA disability. Below are four myths' that have floated around the guard, and underneath are the truths about them.

Four Great Myths Concerning National Guardsmen and VA Disability Compensation:
1. A service member cannot collect VA disability compensation while in the Air National Guard.
2. A service member with VA disability compensation must be discharged. (Commonly heard with a
30% rating)
3. A potential enlistee cannot have any VA disability compensation to be eligible to enlist.
4. The VA passes disability compensation information to the military

ALL OF THESE STATEMENTS (RUMORS) ARE FALSE:

Here are the facts:
1) The Truth: You can be a traditional National Guard member and/or a federal technician and receive VA disability compensation. However, you cannot receive VA compensation for the same time period (days) that you receive military pay. For typical 'traditional' Guard members, this means 63 days of military pay (48 UTAs and 15 AT). Any Active Duty Operational Support Guard program (i.e. ADOS, ADSW, RMA, etc.) counts as active duty for military pay purposes as well. If you are an AGR or are currently mobilized, you will be receiving military pay, and must terminate VA compensation effective the day prior to your orders taking effect. If this is not accomplished you will land in overpayment and become indebted to the Federal Government, and you will be paying it back.

2/3). Although there is language in an enlistment contract regarding 30% disability, that does not apply to you because you are not enlisting! The percentage of VA service connected disability compensation does not affect your membership in the National Guard. However, you must pass your physical examination for the NG "fitness for duty exam or ability to perform your duty"; this is what will determine if you are retainable. Always record accurate medical information on your Annual Medical Certification. There is a block that asks if you are currently receiving disability compensation from Social Security, VA, Workers Comp, etc. These are government documents and to give a false statement is deemed fraudulent. Should you use poor judgment and elect to commit fraud, then understand neither the DoD (Department of Defense) or VA will be chomping at the bit to take care of you.

4) There is no passing "sharing" of personal medical information at any level between the VA and the military. The VA information must come from the service member. The only way VA medical information leaves the VA (this includes Vet Centers) is by the service member signing a release form, and then the VA can share upon the member's concurrence. It is not uncommon for a veteran to share this information. Of course, the service member must identify any medical conditions on the Annual Medical Certificate (AMC), that has nothing to do with VA disability compensation or ratings. A service member may however elect to share personal medical information between the VA and the military at their own discretion. This information is very important. It is widely believed and reported there are many reserve component service members who have not applied for their rightful and justified VA Disability Compensation. Someone may have misinformed them that it may adversely affect their military career, that they're not eligible or that they simply are not authorized to file a claim with the VA due to their membership in the National Guard. New Change: In the future on you annual WebHA there will be a question added that asks if you are receiving VA disability benefits. If you are not truthful, (double dipping), you can be punished under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or Alabama Code of Military Justice (ACMJ) for Title 32.

VA Disability Compensation
Disability compensation is a monthly tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or illnesses that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training. A disability could apply to a physical condition, such as chronic knee pain, or a mental health condition such as; combat stress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Benefit
The benefit amount is graduated according to the degree of the Veteran's disability on a scale from 10 percent to 100 percent (in increments of 10 percent). Compensation may also be paid for disabilities that are considered related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after service. Generally, the degree of disability specified is also designed to compensate for considerable loss of employment from exacerbations or illnesses.

If you have dependents, an additional allowance may be added if your combined disability rating is rated 30% or greater. There is an additional step in the claims process for dependents. A VA Form 686c must be completed to apply for this even though the very same information is already on the original claim. Your disability compensation may be offset if you receive military retirement pay, disability severance pay, or separation incentive payments.

There are VA Disability ratings equal to zero percent, which still carry a very valuable benefit to the veteran. This is because, even though the veteran won't receive compensation, he/she can (and should) seek free medical care for all of these "zero" percent rated illnesses and injuries. Why go to a civilian provider on the outside and pay when you have already earned the right to enroll in VA healthcare and have them take care of your service connected related medical conditions. Secondly, keep in mind just because a service connected disability rating begins at zero percent doesn't mean it remains there. As we age an illness or injury may more severely impact the veteran and his/her ability to function. When this happens, build a record of medical evidence by seeking treatment at VA medical facilities. Return to your accredited service officer (never file a claim alone, always use an accredited service officer) to re-open the claim with new medical evidence and have the percentage increased to the appropriate compensable rating level.

Eligibility
· Service in the Uniformed Services on active duty, OR
· Active duty for training, OR
· Inactive duty training, AND
· You were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
· You are at least 10% disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred in or aggravated during active duty or active duty for training, or inactive duty training
· Note: If you were on inactive duty for training, the disability must have resulted from injury, heart attack, or stroke.

Evidence Required
· Medical evidence of a current physical or mental disability, AND
· Evidence of a relationship between your disability and an injury, disease, or event in military service. Medical records or medical opinions are required to establish this relationship.
· In the absence of medical records, LOD's, etc. a "buddy" statement may be accomplished and this can serve as supplemental evidence. These can be accomplished on VA Form 4138, Statement in Support of Claim. Include only facts, no opinions. Example: I was with "service member" on this day, while on active duty, at this location, when I witnessed illness/injury. It is basically the: who, what, where, when, how and why of a given medical illness/injury, accident or incident, combat or otherwise. These can be as effective as medical records in the absence of medical records.

Note: Under certain circumstances, VA may conclude that certain current disabilities were caused by service, even if there is no specific evidence proving this in your particular claim. The cause of a disability is presumed for the following Veterans who have certain diseases.
Presumed Disability
· Former prisoners of war
· Veterans who have certain chronic or tropical diseases that become evident within a specific
period of time after discharge from service
· Veterans who were exposed to ionizing radiation, mustard gas, or Lewisite while in service
· Veterans who were exposed to certain herbicides, such as by serving in Vietnam
· Veterans who served in Southwest Asia during the Gulf War

Disability Example 1
During a weekend drill, an Army Reservist injures her knee while participating in a physical training class. She is eligible for compensation for residuals of the knee injury.

Disability Example 2
An individual enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1988, and served for a period of 3 years. He was honorably discharged on June 9, 1991. During his active duty, he fell from a bunk and injured his back. Based on his active service, he is entitled to service-connected benefits for the residuals of his back injury.

How to Apply
Apply online using eBenefits, OR
Work with an accredited service officer, OR
Go to a VA regional office and have a VA public contact team member assist you. You can find your regional office on our Facility Locator page at www.va.gov or contact your Transition Assistance Advisor.

I am hopeful this information answers some of your questions and has helped the veterans of the 117th Air Refueling Wing understand these veterans benefits are there for you to apply for, and are part of your defined benefits. If you have any questions regarding your veterans benefits, programs or services, please contact your Alabama Transition Assistance Advisors: Ms. Vickie Howard, Vickie.l.howard.ctr@mail.mil, Phone 334-270-2990. She will be happy to assist you and your family.
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