There are several benefits that a veteran client may have earned and that his or her dependents may also be entitled from through the veteran’s service. The list below does not convey every circumstance that a veteran may be dealing with. For questions about your eligibility and how to file to claim the benefits that you have earned, please contact your nearest Veterans Benefits Office. Department Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) can explain what benefits you’ve earned and can help you claim them. Our service officers are accredited through multiple service organizations, including the American Legion, American Red Cross, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Fleet Reserve Association, Marine Corps League, and more.
Death Indemnity Compensation
Veterans and Survivors Pension
Appointing a Representative to Handle Your Claim
Federal law allows veteran service organizations to accredit individuals with the Federal VA to represent veterans throughout the claims process. Accreditation is the process in which a VA-recognized service organization presents certification of competency, authority, and credibility that is required before an individual is able to work with a veteran to assist with a claim.
West Virginia Department of Veteran Assistance (WVDVA) Veteran Service Officers (VSO) can represent veterans within the state through our WVDVA accreditation. Additionally, our service holds accreditations from several service organizations. These include the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Red Cross, Fleet Reserve Association, and Marine Corps League.
A VSO can represent a Veteran claimant and their qualified family throughout the claims process up to and including at appeals before the Veterans Board of Appeals. The services of a department VSO are absolutely free to the Veteran. The West Virginia taxpayer pays all expenses associated with representing veterans in appreciation for the selfless service that veterans provided to the United States of America and the State of West Virginia.
Discharge Requirements for Benefits
Generally, a veteran must have a discharge that is other than dishonorable to be eligible for VA benefits. Under some conditions the federal VA may extend benefits to those with bad conduct or other discharges.
Discharge Upgrades and Review of Discharge
Each military branch maintains a discharge review board with the authority to change, correct, or modify discharges or dismissals other than those from a general court-martial. The board has no authority to address medical discharges. The Veteran may apply for a discharge review by writing to the appropriate military department using a DoD Form 293.
All branches consider the Veteran to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if the Veteran can show that their discharge was connected to any of the following categories: Mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder; traumatic brain injury; sexual assault, or sexual harassment during military service - this is known as Military Sexual Trauma; due to sexual orientation, including the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
If the discharge was more than 15 years prior, the Veteran must petition the appropriate service’s Board for Correction of Military Records using DD Form 149 - Application for Correction of Military Records Under the Provisions of Title 10, U.S. Code, Section 1552.” A discharge review of the Veteran’s record is conducted. The veteran can also request a hearing before the board.
Requirements for a successful claim
For a Veteran to establish a service connection for a disability, a claim must include:
- A current diagnosis of a chronic physical or mental disability. This can be a physical condition, such as a joint injury, a disease, such as diabetes or cancer, or a mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- A documented event in service. This must include a verifiable stressor, such as an event or health condition that is documented and can be substantiated. Additionally, this can include a specific period of time in specific deployment areas.
- A link between the two. A nexus or connection between the diagnosis and an in-service event must exist. Things that can help establish that connection include -
- Continuity of treatment - medical documentation that details the treatment of the injury, disease, or illness since discharge
- A credible medical opinion is a letter from a specialist stating that the veteran’s condition was more likely than not caused or aggravated by active duty service.
- Presumptive Service Connection - Certain diseases or conditions have been granted automatic service connection. The VA considers a link between these conditions and qualifying circumstances of service to be automatic.
The VA benefits claims process can be complicated. A VSO can help with the submission of a claim. However, the final responsibility for finding supporting documentation rests with the Veteran.
Bars to Benefits
There are six statutory bars to benefits for which the VA is prohibited by law from offering benefits. If a Veteran was discharged for one of the statutory bars, that person is not eligible for VA benefits. Those bars are:
- Discharge as a Conscientious objector who refused to perform military duty or, refused to wear the uniform, or otherwise refused to comply with lawful orders of a competent military authority.
- Discharge or dismissal because of a sentence of a general court-martial
- An officer who resigned for the good of the service.
- Discharge as an alien during a time of hostility.
- Discharge under other than honorable conditions as a result of absence without official leave (AWOL) for at least 180 days.