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THE VETERANS' PRESS: Hey veterans, did you know?

| May 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Did you know — that just because the VA is paying for your hearing aids does not automatically mean that the VA has service connected your hearing loss with your military service.

At the Kootenai County and State Veterans Services Office we regularly have to educate veterans on the difference between “Disability Compensation” and “VA Healthcare.”

Disability Compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are determined by the VA to be disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. VA Disability is managed by the Veterans Benefits Administration.

VA Healthcare is an integrated health care system providing Veterans health care services similar to any other health insurance/care provider. VA Healthcare is managed by the Veterans Health Administration.

That said, many veterans are confused as to the difference between disability claims and healthcare so here are the facts. First, if the VA treats a veteran for a particular condition, that condition is NOT presumed to have been incurred or aggravated during active military service. Second, the VA Healthcare System cannot automatically service connect a veteran for a disability while being treated. The VA Healthcare System can help develop or provide evidence to support disability claims; however, it cannot directly approve disabilities for claims and/or assign disability benefits.

So, in order for the VA to service connect your disability and then provide you compensation, you MUST file a disability claim for the condition you believe to have originated from your military service. You normally would seek a VSO for assistance with preparing and filing a claim.

Lastly, as part of the disability claims process, the VA will likely require you to attend a C&P (short for Compensation & Pension) Exam. Because veterans need to see a doctor as part of their disability claim, veterans begin to blur the line between the C&P exam and VA Healthcare.

Don’t confuse C&P Exams with VA Healthcare. C&P Exams are assessments to help determine the validity of a claim. VA Health Care is treatment.

This is very important! And here’s why — VA Healthcare and Disability Compensation are two completely separate programs under the Department of Veterans Affairs. Think of how the Department of Defense is organized with each branch of service under it. The Disability Compensation Claims process and VA Healthcare are separate and distinct benefits that veterans “may” be eligible for. This confuses many veterans.

As an example, the condition that causes the most confusion are hearing claims. Because many veterans get their hearing aids from the VA Healthcare system, they assume that the VA has accepted that their hearing is service connected because the VA paid for the hearing aids. But this is not the case!

If you get anything out of this article, “DON’T ASSUME THAT BECAUSE THE VA IS TREATING YOU FOR A CERTAIN CONDITION, THEY AUTOMATICALLY ARE ACCEPTING THAT YOUR CONDITION WAS CAUSED BY YOUR TIME IN SERVICE.

If you are seeking disability compensation for a service connected illness or injury, you will need to file a disability claim. Payments are not automatic without a claim being filed and an award being rendered. Contact your local VSO office or if you live in Kootenai County call Terri at 208-446-1098 for more information or to schedule an appointment.