Is VA disability available for reservists?

Disability offered through the VA is intended to provide financial support for veterans who develop an illness or injury while serving in the military. It also covers veterans who had an injury or illness exacerbated while in the service. These benefits can be crucial for individuals struggling to recover after an injury or illness caused or worsened by military service. They can help pay for medical treatments, procedures, and equipment, help cover changes to your home or vehicle to support any losses in mobility, and can help cover lost income due to an inability to work.

American Flag

American flag patch on U.S. military combat uniform.

Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of restrictions and rules on who is eligible to receive disability benefits through the VA. These restrictions can make it quite difficult to know if you’re eligible, which can sometimes turn people off from applying in the first place. The length of your service, your duty status, and the branch you serve under can all affect the benefits you’re eligible for through the VA. Members of the National Guard and the Army Reserve, in particular, may need to meet certain active service requirements for some benefits, or otherwise, be actively serving for a relevant benefit to kick in.

If you’ve served in the military in any capacity and you developed an injury or illness or had an illness or injury worsened by your service, you should look into disability benefits offered by the VA. You may be missing out on tax-free financial assistance, even if your illness or injury only constitutes a 10% disability rating with the VA. If you need help determining your eligibility, fighting against an unfair disability determination, or just understanding the tricky VA disability system, seeking help from a Florida VA disability attorney can get you off on the right path.

VA Disability Requirements for Active Guard and Reserves

A certain amount of active service is required for any member of the National Guard or Reserves in order to claim benefits offered through the VA. Active Service in this case is defined as either Active Duty or Full-time National Guard Duty. Active Duty (Title 10) is “full-time duty, such as, but not limited to, a unit deployment during war, including travel to and from such duty.” National Guard Duty (Title 32) is “full-time duty…where you receive pay from the Federal government.”

This last stipulation is particularly important, as it limits VA benefits to National Guard service in the case of federal service only. In many other instances where the National Guard is called to assist in issues of the state, service would not be at the federal level, and benefits from the VA would likely be limited or inaccessible. In these cases, state benefits may be available and you should contact your state’s Veterans Agency office. Active Guard members will typically be eligible for VA benefits, as their service will likely be considered active under Title 10 or 32.

VA Requirements for Any Disability Claim

Ultimately, the VA has some specific qualifications that must be met in order for any veteran to acquire the benefits under the VA’s disability program. No matter which branch of the military you served under, the VA requires the same two factors to be true in order to begin the claims process for disability.

First, you must have an ongoing mental or physical illness or injury, defined as a condition, and second, you must have served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

Furthermore, at least one of the following qualifiers must also be true:

  • Your injury or illness can be linked to (or is a continuation of) an injury or illness you suffered while serving in the military
  • Your illness or injury existed before you began your service, but was exacerbated by your service in the military
  • Your condition expressed itself for the first time after your service ended but is still linked to your military service

Your recorded discharge from the military must also not be dishonorable. Whether you serve or served under the National Guard, Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, or any other military branch, you’ll need to meet the VA standards outlined above in order to be considered for disability benefits.

Traditional National Guard and Reserve Benefits

Unlike those serving in the Active Guard Reserve, traditional National Guard and Reserve members — like those who typically serve on active duty one weekend a month and two weeks a year — become eligible for certain benefits after fulfilling a service commitment.

Service commitments are usually agreements to abide by certain military requirements and show up for duty when expected for the duration of your commitment. For instance, the typical National Guard service commitment lasts 8 years, with 3 or more years of active service within that time frame.

While it may not always be the case that the full-service contract is totally fulfilled in order to receive disability benefits, your discharge must at least not be dishonorable. Your illness or injury related to your service must also have occurred or been aggravated while serving either active duty or active duty for training. For disabilities that were caused or worsened during inactive duty training, the disability must have resulted from an injury, heart attack, or stroke.

Seek Legal Help to Get Access to VA Disability Resources

Sometimes, the VA system can seem purposefully confusing and frustrating. This can confound those trying to get help for an injury or illness that was caused or worsened by their time spent in the military.

There are a lot of specific requirements that must be fulfilled and many ways your total compensation could be reduced if you don’t know how to navigate the process. By seeking help from an experienced disability attorney, you boost your chances of getting access to the maximum disability benefits you’re eligible for, meaning you will have more financial resources to work with when transitioning to civilian life.

Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd have been helping injured veterans get access to the disability benefits they need for decades and can help you as well. If you’re struggling to navigate the complicated VA benefits systems and processes, give us a call today at 866-460-1990 or contact us online to get started on a free consultation to go over your options.

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