On behalf of William Takacs at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A.
Those who serve this country in times of war and national disasters deserve to be treated with dignity and respect when they are injured or disabled. Among the benefits to which they are entitled is disability compensation.
Federal disability compensation is described by the Department of Veterans Affairs as “a tax-free benefit paid to Veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.” A disability can be a physical condition, such as a knee condition, or a mental condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite the entitlement to these benefits, the fact is, at least in Ohio, the wait for benefits may be a long and frustrating one. Also, the amount of the payment may be relatively low.
The V.A. Department has a system in which payments for disabilities, based on ratings, have great variations between the states. As of 2008, as reported by The Plain Dealer, Ohio veterans received the second-lowest disability payment in the United States, based on the 2006 annual report by the Department.
The average yearly payment in Ohio was $8,090, compared to New Mexico, where veterans got $4,801 more, Oklahoma, where veterans got $4,185 more, and West Virginia, where veterans got $3,857 more. Ohio’s disability benefit was $112 higher than that of Indiana, who was lowest. Still, it was up from 2005, the year when Ohio was last.
In 2008, an Ohio member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs introduced the Veterans Disability Fairness Act, the provisions of which called for scrutiny of the compensation program. He was quoted by The Plain Dealer as saying, “The veterans living in Ohio sacrificed as much as veterans living elsewhere. There is no reason that a veteran here should receive less than veterans in other states.”
As of 2013, as reported by the Dayton Daily News, it took an average 278 days for Ohio to completely process a VA disability claim, compared to 262 days nationally. A VA spokesperson stated that the delays were due to the growing backlog of claims due to “increased demand, the result of 10 years of war and many veterans returning with severe, complex injuries. The VA is caring for millions of veterans and beneficiaries of all eras.”
The problem has been addressed in at least one area. As of 2010, the VA Department started to make it easier to file claims related to PTSD.
Regulations requiring searching of records, witness statements, and incident documentation were dropped. Under new rules, veterans have only to provide evidence that they were serving in a zone of war, not necessarily involving combat, and were exposed to hostile terrorist or military activity.
If you are a veteran with a disability, the good news is that you are entitled to federal benefits. Although Ohio has historically ranked low, compared to other states, as to the amount of such benefits, increased scrutiny is being paid to this issue, with the expectancy that any disparity between the states will soon be resolved. While wait times may be long in certain instances, new regulations are addressing these concerns, at least in certain areas such as PTSD.
If you apply for disability and feel that your wait time is too long, of the amount you may receive is too small, you should immediately contact an experienced veterans’ disability attorney to investigate your situation and help get you the benefits you deserve.