A common question asked by military service members is how their disability benefits will affect their military retirement benefits. It is a very good question since disability compensation can in fact reduce your retirement benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) actually requires military retirees to “waive” a portion of their retirement pay as an offset to compensation received through military disability. This essentially means a service member’s retirement compensation is reduced by the amount of their disability award.
You may be asking yourself, “Is there a way to get full retirement and disability benefits?” Yes, there is such a program known as the Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) program. It allows military retirees, who meet specific requirements, to receive full retirement and disability compensation at the same time.
Requirements for CRDP Eligibility
In order to be eligible for CRDP benefits, you must have (1) 20 or more years of military service and (2) a service-connected disability rated 50 percent or greater. Though, there are other avenues to qualify for the CRDP program. For example, if you are a veteran who retired as a proximate result of a disability (i.e. a Chapter 61 retirement), or retired with less than 20 years of service under Temporary Early Retirement Authority, or you served in the National Guard and Reserve for 20+ years, you could be eligible to access the CRDP program.
Another avenue is if the VA has determined you are totally disabled on the basis of individual employability (a.k.a. TDIU). In this situation, you could be eligible to receive full VA disability compensation and full retirement benefits with no offset.
Service-Connected Disability Requirement
In addition to meeting the years of service requirement, you need to have proof of a service-connected disability. Basically, this means that your disability occurred or became worse while you were serving in the military. Five ways to establish a service-connected disability includes:
- Direct Service Connection – clear and convincing evidence of an incident that occurred while you were serving that proximately caused your disability. Typically, medical records and assessments from trained physicians substantiate the connection. Some examples are fairly obvious – you lost a limb in combat or suffered a traumatic brain injury. Other examples require more extensive medical records such as debilitative post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Disability Connected to Military Service via Legal Presumption – The VA has a specific list of medical conditions and diseases that are legally presumed to be connected to military service. For example, if you were exposed to Agent Orange during your service and now have Parkinson’s disease, your disease is presumed to be connected to your service. If you now suffer from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and served in Vietnam, the disease is presumed to be connected to your military service. According to 38 CFR 3.309, chronic diseases eligible for service-connected disability include:
Atrophy, progressive muscular;
Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder
- Disability Caused by Harm from VA Medical Treatment – Under 38 U.S.C. 1151, if you are seriously harmed while hospitalized at a VA medical center, your injury, or injuries, will be considered service-connected.
- Pre-Existing Injury Made Worse via Military Service – if you had a medical condition prior to joining the military and an incident while serving aggravated your condition, it could be connected service-related. A common example is if you had low back pain prior to joining the military service and while you were deployed, an incident made your back pain much worse to the point of becoming debilitating, your service could be considered to have aggravated your condition.
- Secondary Service Connection – This is a more complex form of service-connected disability. Basically, you have a disability not directly connected to your service, but would not have developed but for another disability directly caused by your military service. For example, if you developed tuberculosis using medication that resulted in hearing loss as a side effect. Your hearing loss would be considered a secondary service connection.
Remember, in order to qualify for the CRDP program from one of the listed disabilities above, it must be determined to be 50 percent or greater of the cause of your disabled status. This is why you should speak to an experienced, competent Greenville veteran disability lawyer to determine if your disability could qualify as service-connected.
Watch Out – You Cannot Receive CRDP and Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
It is important to note that if you are eligible to receive benefits from both CRDP and CRSC, you can only receive benefits under one program.
Determining the Amount of Your CRDP Benefit
The compensation received through the CRDP program is considered to be a “restoration” of your reduced retirement benefits. Your CRDP compensation is calculated based on the degree of your disability, and the lesser of your gross retirement pay or waived retirement pay. Basically, this means that if you are retired due to a disability and your retirement pay is based on the service-connected disability percentage, the amount of money that you received from the CRDP program cannot be more than what you would have received as gross retirement pay had this number been based on your years of service, rather than disability.
CRDP Benefits May Be Retroactive
Depending on the circumstances, you could be eligible for a retroactive CRDP payment (which is typically paid out in one lump sum), along with monthly benefit payments. Though, a retroactive payment date would be restricted to the date of your retirement and when your disability became rated at 50 percent or more. Furthermore, no one can seek a retroactive payment from prior to January 2004.
Take Action – Contact a Greenville Veteran Disability Lawyer Today
If you are a retired service member and believe you may be eligible for the CRDP program, contact a dedicated Greenville Veteran Disability Lawyer, J. Robert Surface, Attorney at Law, right away to schedule a free, confidential consultation. J. Robert Surface has extensive experience fighting for disabled people. Use his insight to your advantage and get the benefits you rightly deserve for your military service.