When a Veteran’s disability is service-connected, but the VA is unable to determine an actual limitation, then the impairment rating assigned will often be a 0%, or non-compensable rating.
When the rating changes, the Veteran can – and should – file a claim for increase in compensation.
However, until that time, what benefits are available to a Veteran with a non-compensable rating?
What the VA will tell you.
If you have read the various websites discussing Veterans’ disability benefits, then you have likely seen them just cut-and-paste what appears on the VA’s official site.
You’ve probably seen this less than helpful quote at hundreds of sites when discussing the Zero Percent Impairment Rating:
” A veteran may be rated at zero percent, meaning there is evidence of a service-connected condition, but it does not impair the veteran. An example is a minor scar. This zero percent rating, though not compensable, is beneficial, since it raises the veteran’s priority in other VA programs and it may be reviewed for a higher rating if the condition worsens.”
Very few of these sites tell you anything more about the zero percent rating (compensable or non-compensable).
Very few sites tell you why you should file a claim now even when it’s likely that you’ll get a zero percent rating.
Very few sites give any examples of how a zero percent rating affects your priority in other VA Programs.
So we’ll try to give you a little more information.
4 Categories of Benefits for Veterans with non-compensable ratings.
We combed through the VA’s benefits listing, and so far have found the following additional benefits available to a veteran with a zero percent impairment rating:
Health Care Priority Group Access.
An individual with a service connected disability, but a 0% rating, is placed in a higher priority group for receiving VA Health Care.
For example, if the veteran is below certain income thresholds, the Veteran could be enrolled in Priority Group 5.
If the veteran’s income isn’t below the income threshold, the Veteran will likely be enrolled no higher than Priority Group 7.
The VA website routinely updates the income thresholds – we used to list them here, but found that the information was too frequently updated.
Check out the VA Health Care websites to find the income thresholds needed for Priority Group 5 access.
Outpatient Dental Treatment
The 0% impairment rating, may also impact your eligibility for outpatient dental treatment.
Veteran’s Life Insurance.
With a 0% impairment rating you are eligible to apply for life insurance through the Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance Program (S-DVI). (although you have only two years to apply from when VA grants a zero percent rating, see VA Pamphlet 29-9)
State Level Benefits.
There may be numerous benefits provided by your State that might be available to veterans with a zero-percent impairment rating.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you know any benefits for 0% rated Veterans, please contact me and I’ll update the list.
5 Reasons to Celebrate a 0% Rating.
5. You get the above list of benefits.
May not seem like much, but I’ve many, many Veterans who are single moms and who would love to have access to life insurance in case something happens to them while their children are young.
Private Life Insurance for most disabled Vets is just too expensive to not even be worth it.
4. It’s a toe-hold.
When the Greatest Generation stormed the beaches of Normandy, all they needed was a toe-hold on the beach. By the end of the first day, the Allies had secured 1.5 miles of occupied German “turf”.
Within a year, the Germans had surrendered.
I hate to compare the VA to the German army in World War II – there are some GREAT people at the VA – but getting your claim for VA disability compensation sometimes feels like a war.
And not a short war. The 60 Years War is pretty close sometimes.
But one small victory at a time, and you can win the “war”.
3. You’ve proved the hardest part.
The hardest part of any Service Connection claim is Pillar 2.
Pillar 2 is Service Connection – it’s so complex that there are at least 2 definitions of what it means, 3 elements you have to prove, and 5 ways you can prove it.
The essence of Service Connection is that it’s a Bridge, connecting what happened in the military to your current disability. Sometimes that bridge is pretty big – it crosses a ‘river’ of 25 years.
It was so complicated that the Field Manual unveiling all the different forms of Service Connection is one of the most popular Field Manuals on this site. For 13 months in a row. (By the way, you get that Field Manual for free with an Annual Subscription to the Veterans Law Blog.)
The further you get from military service, the harder it is to prove service-connection. The VA’s gonna hang their hat on your disability being the result of the aging process, not service connected to your time in the Army or Navy.
You can fix a low or non-compensable rating. You can fight for an earlier effective date.
But 80% of your energy battling the VA is battling over service connection.
With a non-compensable rating, you’ve won the hardest part of your VA Claim.
2. If it gets worse, you can file VA Increased Rating Claims.
Learn about the Impairment Rating tables, and how to read them.
Print out the impairment ratings for your service-connected conditions and be on the lookout for changes in your condition that fit those symptoms.
Revisit them every year, and file a claim for Increase if you experience worsening symptoms or limitations.
I’ve even recommended a couple Vets with Traumatic Brain Injuries or other memory or concentration issues to print the list of symptoms out, and take ’em to the doc with you every time you go for treatment – in case you forget what to talk to the Doc about.
1. 0 plus 0 = 10.
Gotta love VA Math.
If you have 2 non-compensable ratings that interfere with employment, the VA is supposed to bump those up to 10%.
Check out 38 C.F.R. § 3.324.